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Careers in Entertainment Design: Options and Requirements

Oct 03, 2019

Entertainment design focuses on the arrangement of displays in different industries. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

Set designers and exhibit designers are professionals in the field of entertainment design. They may work for theaters or museums, or may work on movie sets. Their responsibilities include designing props or set pieces for use in a theater production, or for filming a movie, TV show or commercial.

Essential Information

Those looking to get a career in entertainment design can work in many environments. These include museums, movie sets and theaters. Most entry-level positions in this field require students to hold a bachelor's degree. A Bachelor of Arts in Theater might be a program option for students. This program typically covers prop-building, scenery painting and script analysis. Students looking to become exhibit designers can take courses in visual design, lighting, drafting and model building. In order to be successful in this industry, students must show signs of creativity and also communicate their ideas using different media.

Career Set and Exhibit Designer
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree typically required
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% for set and exhibit designers
Median Salary (2019)** $49,000 for set and exhibit designers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ** PayScale

Career Options

Students who get a degree in entertainment design have many routes to take, whether they are interested in working in the movie or museum industry. Below are descriptions and overviews of three possible careers for entertainment design graduates.

Live Theater Set Designer

Professionals in this field design scenery, backdrops and props for live theatrical shows. They work with directors to determine the design style and theme of each production. Live theater set designers create sets that accommodate stage space. Sets also must be able to be moved easily between scenes. During set production, designers communicate their design plans to builders and other set design crew members.

Exhibit Designer

These professionals usually work for museums, trade shows, zoos and aquariums. Exhibit designers collaborate with site directors and other staff members to determine the best way to showcase each exhibit. Professionals need to design exhibits for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Sometimes this means designing highly interactive exhibits. Designers also might use various audio and visual effects to improve the overall exhibit experience.

Movie Set Designer

Workers in this field design sets for the film industry. For movies filmed at specific places, set designers often incorporate existing structures or features into the set. They also design props of all sizes, furniture and building facades. Movie set designers also might design miniature sets used for special effects filming. Additionally, set designers might design sets that will be digitally created through the use of green screens or computer generation programs.

Many people who go into entertainment design work in set and exhibit design. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that positions for set and exhibit designers will increase by 5% between 2018 and 2028, which is as fast as average across all careers. The median salary for set and exhibit designers, according to the BLS as of May 2018, was $54,270 a year.

Entertainment Design Careers Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that employers often require professional set and exhibit designers to hold bachelor's degrees related to design (www.bls.gov). Programs such as a Bachelor of Arts in Theater with a tech/design track might include courses in stagecraft, lighting design, script analysis, computer-aided design (CAD), prop building, model making, scenery painting and set construction.

Exhibit designers may prefer other design degree programs, such as studies in art or interior design. Courses in these programs might cover industrial materials and design tools, perspective, spatial planning, visual design, model building, drafting and lighting. Some museum studies degree programs also have courses related to exhibit planning and design, and students can take these courses as electives or even minor in museum studies.

Entertainment designers require a high level of creativity as well as the ability to create and communicate visual ideas using multiple mediums. The ability to solve problems quickly is another major skill required in this profession, especially since designers often work within time constraints.

The majority of designers also need computer skills to utilize CAD drafting programs, particularly for creating design blueprints and models. Lastly, designers must work well with others because this industry requires a lot of cooperation with other designers, crew members and related workers.

Entertainment design professionals need to be creative and also trained in the use of computer-aided design software. They benefit from a degree in theater because they will learn to build props and make models, which is an asset for professionals in this industry. They can also consider studying art or interior design.

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