NewsSet design - the unsung hero of the silver screen

Set design – the unsung hero of the silver screen

Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

Have you ever looked at all the credits on a TV production? There are often hundreds of people credited and involved in the process of making a great show.

This goes far beyond acting and directing. There are a number of unsung heroes of the silver screen, and we definitely include set designers among these heroes.

How often do you think about the set when you’re watching a movie or a television show? The answer is probably ‘not very often’. That’s the idea in many scenarios.

If a TV show is set on an alien planet and the visuals are truly meant to be stunning, then you might take a bit of time to think about the set and how it looks. Generally though, the idea is that everything looks as natural and normal as possible.

Look at it this way – if you’re watching a sitcom where the characters go to multiple locations, all of these will probably need to be designed as a ‘set’. This means that set designers have been hard at work creating the locations. This can be a long and arduous task.

If the characters all visit a casino, for instance, this has probably been created as a set, to look exactly like a real casino. Admittedly, they are different from the e transfer deposit casinos that you can use online, but they certainly still look like the real deal. 

What a Set Designer Does

Like many of the roles involved in making films and TV shows, the set designer has an interesting job, and there is a lot more to the role than you might think.

Set designers are given the task of creating a realistic backdrop for the entire filming process. They need to think long and hard about how the viewer will see the set and how the actors will interact with it.

On top of this, set designers have to read the script and think very carefully about the mood of the production as well as the time and place in which it is set.

There are always eagle-eyed viewers out there who are ready to point out when there is an error. If your TV production is set in the 80s and you’ve included an iPad or a coffee cup in the background, someone is bound to pick up on it. On top of that, it can spoil the mystique around the production. You want people to buy into the fact that this is a real place. 

Set designers on long-running shows also have a job to keep things varying and updated. For instance, if you watch “Friends” and look at the kitchens, you’ll notice there are constantly new and different food and drinks in the kitchens.

Set designers don’t just make it up as they go along, either. There’s quite a lot of planning that goes into every single set. Often, this involves making either physical or digital models of a set before actually creating it.

Some sets need to be built from scratch, meaning a high level of building skills may also be needed within the team.

What Skills Set Designers Need

Set designers are usually creative people, and the chance to express themselves is one of the main things that draws these people to the career.

They are often good with their hands, too. This means that they can build incredible sets that look realistic, even if they have some creative tasks such as building science-fiction backdrops.

Set designers also have to be able to communicate. In this career, it’s necessary to work very closely with other departments including the director and producer. They will have an idea of what they want the set to look like and they will communicate this to the set designer, so it is important that designers are able to take these instructions onboard.

Some set designers also need to budget. Inevitably, they will need to buy things for the set, and if their role includes budgeting then they will have to choose what to buy and stay within the limits imposed.


The set designers on TV shows tend to do an incredible job of creating a realistic world for us to immerse ourselves into. These are among the small details that you may not have considered, but which go into creating an incredible overall experience. A poorly designed set could ruin the whole experience, and set designers are responsible for creating the TV shows that entertain us all so much. Truly the unsung heroes of the silver screen.

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