Skip to main content
A-Z IndexCalendarsDirectoryMaps

Background Image for Header:

Home / Academics / Careers / Set and Exhibit Designers Career

Set and Exhibit Designers Career

Career Description

Design special exhibits and movie, television, and theater sets. May study scripts, confer with directors, and conduct research to determine appropriate architectural styles.

What Job Titles Set and Exhibit Designers Might Have

  • Designer
  • Exhibit Designer
  • Scenic Designer
  • Set Designer

What Set and Exhibit Designers Do

  • Prepare rough drafts and scale working drawings of sets, including floor plans, scenery, and properties to be constructed.
  • Read scripts in order to determine location, set, and design requirements.
  • Develop set designs based on evaluation of scripts, budgets, research information, and available locations.
  • Attend rehearsals and production meetings in order to obtain and share information related to sets.
  • Confer with clients and staff in order to gather information about exhibit space, proposed themes and content, timelines, budgets, materials, and/or promotion requirements.
  • Collaborate with those in charge of lighting and sound so that those production aspects can be coordinated with set designs or exhibit layouts.
  • Prepare preliminary renderings of proposed exhibits, including detailed construction, layout, and material specifications, and diagrams relating to aspects such as special effects and/or lighting.
  • Research architectural and stylistic elements appropriate to the time period to be depicted, consulting experts for information as necessary.
  • Select set props such as furniture, pictures, lamps, and rugs.
  • Inspect installed exhibits for conformance to specifications, and satisfactory operation of special effects components.
  • Assign staff to complete design ideas and prepare sketches, illustrations, and detailed drawings of sets, or graphics and animation.
  • Examine objects to be included in exhibits in order to plan where and how to display them.
  • Observe sets during rehearsals in order to ensure that set elements do not interfere with performance aspects such as cast movement and camera angles.
  • Submit plans for approval, and adapt plans to serve intended purposes, or to conform to budget or fabrication restrictions.
  • Direct and coordinate construction, erection, or decoration activities in order to ensure that sets or exhibits meet design, budget, and schedule requirements.
  • Design and build scale models of set designs, or miniature sets used in filming backgrounds or special effects.
  • Plan for location-specific issues such as space limitations, traffic flow patterns, and safety concerns.
  • Estimate set- or exhibit-related costs including materials, construction, and rental of props or locations.
  • Select and purchase lumber and hardware necessary for set construction.
  • Coordinate the removal of sets, props, and exhibits after productions or events are complete.
  • Coordinate the transportation of sets that are built off-site, and coordinate their setup at the site of use.
  • Acquire, or arrange for acquisition of, specimens or graphics required to complete exhibits.
  • Design and produce displays and materials that can be used to decorate windows, interior displays, or event locations such as streets and fairgrounds.
  • Confer with conservators in order to determine how to handle an exhibit's environmental aspects, such as lighting, temperature, and humidity, so that objects will be protected and exhibits will be enhanced.
  • Arrange for outside contractors to construct exhibit structures.
  • Incorporate security systems into exhibit layouts.
  • Provide supportive materials for exhibits and displays, such as press kits and advertising, posters, brochures, catalogues, and invitations and publicity notices.

What Set and Exhibit Designers Should Be Good At

  • Fluency of Ideas - The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
  • Originality - The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Visualization - The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Problem Sensitivity - The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Speech Recognition - The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Speech Clarity - The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Near Vision - The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Written Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Information Ordering - The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Category Flexibility - The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.

What Set and Exhibit Designers Should Be Interested In

  • Artistic - Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.
  • Realistic - Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

What Set and Exhibit Designers Need to Learn

  • Design - Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.
  • Fine Arts - Knowledge of the theory and techniques required to compose, produce, and perform works of music, dance, visual arts, drama, and sculpture.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Building and Construction - Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.
  • History and Archeology - Knowledge of historical events and their causes, indicators, and effects on civilizations and cultures.
  • Communications and Media - Knowledge of media production, communication, and dissemination techniques and methods. This includes alternative ways to inform and entertain via written, oral, and visual media.
  • Administration and Management - Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Production and Processing - Knowledge of raw materials, production processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective manufacture and distribution of goods.
  • Engineering and Technology - Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
  • Mechanical - Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Diploma iconThis career requires a graduate degree.
Median Salary: $50,990

This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.