From Research/Concept to Design

Lesson 6: From Research/Concept to Design


Lesson Objective: Students will synthesize their analysis and research to create a set design model.


Materials Needed:

AV Hook Ups

Theatre Design & Production – J. Michael Gillette (this is just for teacher reference)

Set Model PPT  Lesson 6 Set Models

Paper, Colored pencils


Hook: At the start of class, have the projector and PPT set up. Ask students what phase of design are we in now?

  • Implementation—“where produce plans, drawings, models that allow the set design idea you have selected to be constructed” Gillette pg. 174
  • This is when designers flesh out their work in several phases/forms.


Have students take out their notebooks and take notes on the following info: (Take about 15-20ish minutes to go over it, answering any questions students have as you go along) Go through the PPT using the info below to explain the items on the presentation.


Thumbnail Sketches (Following info from Gillette, page 173)

“Rough drawings, usually made in pencil, that show the general composition of the set but very little detail. Generally made while the designer is developing various concepts for the set as she or he is doing conceptual research.”

  • Almost always unfinished drawings.
  • Purpose: Provide rough visualization of various scenic concepts designer is working.


What is the benefit of doing rapid drawings like this?

  • Lessens inhibitions of prod team when suggesting changes,
  • Helps designer keep from being too locked into one particular design concept too soon.


Renderings (Following info from Gillette, page 173)

“Finished color sketches of the set.”

  • Normally drawn to scale
    • WHY would this be important? (provides accurate representation of actual size, shapes, colors of set)
  • Complete (represents type, style, and location of any furniture, includes trims, curtains, any decorative touches to be used on the set)


Models (Following from Gillette, page 175)

What is the point of a set model?

  • To clearly show where everything is in relation to other stuff onstage.
  • Director/other designers/even actors clear visual of what the finished product will look like.
    • Can help them plan/better understand how to use the space
    • MOST useful when in accurate scale w/the stage space & type (proscenium, thrust, arena, etc…)


Two types

  1. Functional Model
    1. 3-D Equivalent of thumbnail sketch
    2. Usually made out of thin cardboard, sometimes designers go through several versions of these. Can be used by the director to plan blocking, show actors, etc…
  2. Production Model
    1. Complete visualization of the scenic designer’s concept. In professional world: it is built to scale, fully painted, completely decorated with all furniture, props, and set dressing to be used in the production


Designers do ground plans, front elevations, detail, full scale drawings and other paperwork.


Set Model Requirements:

Explain that their next project is to create a model for 1 scene of your play

Model can be in any 3-D form (paper structure, Lego, cake, sugar cube, whatever!)

Set Model should:

  1. Clearly show the structure of the set
  2. Include representation of all furniture, set pieces, anything you plan to have onstage as part of the set.
  3. SUPPORT YOUR CONCEPT by reflecting ideas from your viz and research presentation. (We’re talking color pallet, all that stuff)


Assign students a due date for the model. Explain that they will need to be prepared to present it on the due date.

  • NOTE: Presentation date will depend on the schedule/needs of your class. The class I taught this unit in had a pretty long gap between when the assignment was given and when they presented their final models (we had to build the set for the fall play). If this happens to you as well, make sure you remind students of the project due date and requirements along the way.


Brainstorm Activity: Thumbnail Sketches

Set a timer for 10-15 minutes. Students have this amount of time to create 3 different thumbnail sketches for their chosen scene.


When time is up, have students share what that experience was like. Was it difficult to move quickly? Did it help free you up?


Have students pick a sketch they like and spend the next 10-15 minutes expanding upon what they started. Have them us this as a guide as they work to construct their final model project at home.