A stage set has two purposes: one is to provide a physical environment
that supports the characters and the action, and the other is to
help clarify the moods and themes of the story for the audience.
For this reason, creating a stage set is a collaborative process
between the director and the designer, very similar to that used
by an architect and client in creating a custom house. The director,
as the client, helps define the needs of the story, as well as his
or her vision for the production, and the set designer helps define
the visual style and characteristics of the resulting environment.
The process generally follows five phases:
This is where I get thoroughly familiar with the script and do
preliminary research on the story itself, the historical period,
and other elements. I then have a meeting with the director (and
often the production team) to discuss the story, the interpretation
and presentation of it, thematic elements, specific staging requirements,
and so forth, and also to review the budget, production schedule,
and resources. The actual details of the set are generally not discussed
at this time, although a few quick sketches often help define a
Conceptual design (aka schematic design, aka 25% design)
Here I meet with the director (often during a production meeting)
to present my initial design, in the form of sketches or as a 3D
computer model. This allows us to discuss the overall look and feel
of the set in relation to the story, as well as staging requirements
and similar issues, and provides the opportunity to make revisions
as necessary. The feasibility of constructing the design is also
discussed with the technical director or builder, who often prepares
a preliminary cost projection at this point.
Design development (aka 50% design)
Once the director and technical director have provided input on
the previous phase, and we are all in agreement, I prepare a more-developed
design, this time including major colors and finishes. The design
is again reviewed with the director and technical director and any
required revisions are noted. The technical director often wants
to prepare a more detailed cost projection at this point.
Final design (aka 100% design)
Once we are all in agreement as to the design and the realities
of building it, I prepare the final design, usually as a 3D computer
model, which now includes final colors, textures, and details. This
is once more reviewed and we all sign off on it.
These are the blueprints, prepared on a CAD program,
generally as 24 x 36 drawings. This phase also includes
color elevations of the various pieces for use by the painters,
as well as any other details that may be required during construction.
During construction, painting, and installation, I am available
by phone or e-mail to answer questions. I can also visit the shop
a few times, by appointment, to review progress or answer additional
questions. Finally, I am also available for the post-mortem.