Understanding Set Design

by Katie Hatfield


Students will demonstrate their ability to think and work as designers as they interpret and create set designs for a particular scene of a play.


Class Level



Main Concepts: 

Students will come to an understanding of close readings and concept analyses of scripts; obtain a basic, working knowledge of the elements of design; and create sketches, renderings, and models of their scenic design.


1994 National Standards: 

CONTENT STANDARD 3: Designing and producing by conceptualizing and realizing artistic interpretations for informal or formal productions.

CONTENT STANDARD 5: Researching by evaluating and synthesizing cultural and historical information to support artistic choices.



This course is intended for junior and senior level technical theatre students. These students will come to this class with a prior understanding of stage space, equipment, tools, theatre history, and production management. Each lesson is planned for a 50 minute class.


Lesson Plans


Lesson 1: Introducing the Text and Learning the Process of Script Analysis

Students will come to an understanding of the purposes of first, second, and third readings of scripts and will be introduced to script analysis techniques.


Lesson 2: Understanding the Research Process

Students will come to an understanding of the importance of historical and stylistic research in set design. They will learn what resources to use as they consider design concepts for their assigned scene. Students will learn how to incorporate research with elemental design processes.


Lesson 3: Creating a Design Concept

Students will be able to articulate their design concept through a written work. Students will be given the opportunity to meet and discuss their ideas and concepts of design for their particular scene with other members of the class. From their reading, analysis, and research, they will create a conceptual design statement for their project.


Lesson 4: Understanding Design, Composition, and Color

Students will come to an understanding of design elements, the principles of composition, and the effects of color and texture in scenic design. Students will present a picture, object, etc. that portrays the essence of their conceptual design statement.


Lesson 5: Putting Ideas Together

Considering their analysis, research, and concept statement, students will create a rough, thumbnail sketch of their proposed design.


Lesson 6: It’s all in the Details

From their thumbnail sketches, students will create a more complete, colorful rendering of their set design. They will include samples of their color palette and any fabrics, textures, or other materials that will be included in their final design.


Lesson 7: To-Scale Models

Students will demonstrate the skills necessary to create a production model that is to scale.


Lesson 8: Computer Age

Although for this unit, students will not be required to create a computer presentation of their set design, it would be interesting and applicable to invite a guest designer to share some of their computer work with the students. The objective of this lesson, then, would be for students to be exposed to and become aware of the various modes of set design.


Lesson 9: Problems? Working it Out

Students will be able to recognize problems or difficulties in the design process and use appropriate modes of communication with their peers to help solve those problems.


Lesson 10: The Presentation

Students will present their production model to the class. They will discuss their design process and concept in a clear, focused oral presentation.


Understanding Set Design Unit of Lessons.Katie Hatfield