What does a production designer do?
Production designers have one of the most visually creative jobs in television. They design and create the sets inside which programmes are made. Most sets are built in studios, but are often created in other locations, such as on theatre stages or within a hired space (referred to as 'on location'). Production designers create sets for a variety of programming, from talent shows and quizzes to lifestyle series like cookery or painting, awards ceremonies and music programmes.
As the head of the art department, they work with the director, producer, lighting director, floor manager, camera supervisor and sound supervisor to ensure the set they design and oversee the building of incorporates the needs of the whole production. They work closely with the construction company and liaise with them on details, constantly problem solving during the build process. They have to consider what content needs to be made within their set and how to style and dress it, whilst also ensuring it meets the technical requirements of the other departments, is accessible, meets health and safety guidelines and is within budget.
They attend progress meetings and are present during rehearsals and at filming to advise on visual presentation, answer questions and solve problems relating to design.
Production designers are almost always freelancers.
What’s a production designer good at?
- Creativity: create a unique visual home for a programme, visualise the look of a set, be able to imagine how it will accommodate the production brief and department requirements
- Art: draw quickly and confidently by hand, do technical drawings to scale and computer-aided design, create 3D models of studio sets
- Knowledge of construction: source appropriate materials, know how a set will be built, be aware of the latest developments in production design, including technology and materials
- Knowledge of production: understand production techniques, studio environments, studio capabilities and the challenges of working on location
- Leadership: share the vision with a wider number of people such as lighting designers and camera operators, manage budgets, draw up schedules, prioritise and meet deadlines