The importance of set design and production in theatre

Production is an integral part of the theatre and performance industry. Set design can help to transform how a play or musical looks to an audience. Those wanting to get into the industry can attend set design courses to understand what goes into creating and designing beautiful but practical sets. 

Why is set design important?

Set design has the ability to make or break a production. With imaginative set design, the audience will remain engaged throughout the play. A theatre set serves a variety of purposes. Not only can it teach the audience about the play that they are watching, but it can reveal things about the characters on stage. 

The most successful theatre productions are those that put thought into how the stage looks. Often the first thing people see when the curtains are raised at the start of a performance, the look of the stage must intrigue the audience and give them a taste of what is to come. 

The most important part of set design is to convey to the audience where the action of the play is taking place. A scene change often occurs between acts (or during an interval) to indicate a shift in location, but may also be carried out throughout the production. 

Set design should also convey the period of the drama, communicate themes and symbols, and work in harmony with other elements of production (such as lighting and sound).

What makes a good set design?

There are many different ways to design a set. Usually, it depends on the type of production you are designing it for. Musicals or ballets with lots of different cast members may require multiple set changes or a greater range of furniture and props. Plays that focus primarily on one character may be more effective with a minimalistic set to ensure that the audience pays attention to the actor and their emotions at all times.

There have been many famous theatre set designs throughout history. From creative and quirky, to almost unimaginably real, there is a variety to get inspiration from. One of the most famously engineered set designs was in 1992 for Stephen Daldry’s An Inspector Calls

In this production, an upper-class house is lit up at the back of the stage, perched awkwardly on stilts, in stark contrast to the dimly lit street where children play among the rubble. At the end of the final act, the house collapses and crumbles onto the stage. 

The symbolism of this design is what made this play so celebrated and successful at the time. The strong visual imagery truly complements the plot of the play, but we won’t spoil it for you!  

How to become a set designer

It is the set designer’s responsibility to create the physical space in which an event is performed. As an integral part of any production, this job involves sourcing scenery, furniture, and props that are both appealing to the audience and consistent with the overall theme of the performance.

Set design is an art in itself. To be a successful set designer you must have a creative flair and the ideas to set you apart from others. There are many different elements of set design to explore, from painting to construction and design. 

Having a basic understanding of the theatre industry can also help you successfully design a set. Set designers need to take into account the entire theatre space when designing a set (not just the stage) and create a set that is appropriate to the space. Understanding staging configuration and where the audience will be situated in relation to the action is also important. 

If you are committed to becoming a set designer consider taking set design courses to enhance your skills and learn new ones. Check out iampro’s production courses to keep up to date with regular new releases. 

Other aspects of theatre production

As well as set design, there are many elements of theatre production to try your hand at. From directing to choreography, and creative writing, there are numerous options for those who want to get involved in the theatre industry but don’t fancy being on stage. 

At iampro, we offer on-demand production courses for those who wish to get started in the world of theatre production. These courses can be taken in your own time, completely remotely. We also have complimentary live courses and monthly events that can help to strengthen your knowledge of the industry and give you the opportunity to connect with others who share your interests. 
If you want to get involved in theatre production but don’t know where to start, sign up for an iampro membership for unlimited access to our online on-demand courses, live courses and monthly masterclasses.