Production Designer Job Description

Production Designers are responsible for creating and managing the visual aspects of a film, television or theatre production. They work closely with the Director and Producer to create the design style for aspects such as sets, graphics, props, lighting and costumes. They then direct and manage the team responsible for producing these visual elements, such as Set and Costume Designers. This is a senior level position, and requires usually requires extensive previous experience in the industry.

Many Production Designers work as freelancers, and must secure their own projects. Because of the specialized nature of the job, employment of Production Designers is slow but steady. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of Art Directors, a category that includes Production Designers, will grow 2 percent from 2014 to 2024.

 

Production Designer Duties and Responsibilities 

To accomplish their primary goal of creating and managing the visual aspects of an artistic production or performance, Production Designers perform many tasks. We analyzed several job listings to identify these core Production Designer duties and responsibilities.

Determine Visual Styles

Production Designers read scripts to identify what visual style is most appropriate. They meet with the Producer and Director to discuss their view and requirements. Then, they develop a conceptual style for every aspect of the production.

Provide Concept Drawings

Based on their overall concept, the Production Designer may provide sketches to communicate their concept to the Director and Art team. They produce scale drawings of sets, and draw up ideas for costumes, props and make-up. They may also provide ideas for special effects or graphics.

Research Locations

When working on a film or television project, the Production Designer must research and scout out filming locations. These could be studios, public or private spaces, and the Production Designer must assess them all for visual suitability and practicality.

Manage Art/Design Team

Early on in the production process, the Production Designer hires an art department. Depending on the size of the production, this could be just a few people or many large teams. It may include set designers and constructors, special effects teams, props, lighting and sound directors and costume designers. The Production Designer manages the art department throughout the process, instructing them on direction and vision. They attend progress meetings, rehearsals and filming, adjusting and advising on visual aspects all along the way.

 

Production Designer Skills

A creative thinker with an eye for design, a successful Production Designer has excellent visual awareness and design skills. They are self-motivated with the persistence to gain work and follow-through. Above all, Production Designers are leaders, who can manage a team and carry a design project from start to finish, meeting tight deadlines. In addition to these general skills and personality traits, employers are seeking Production Designer candidates with the following skills.

Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want Production Designers with these core skills. If you want to work as a Production Designer, focus on the following.

  • Working knowledge of the visual arts and production processes and theories
  • Sketching ability, and ability to communicate ideas through drawings and models
  • Ability to solve problems and be resourceful and adaptable
  • Ability to plan, schedule and monitor progress across of a large project
  • Advanced proficiency in Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and computer aided design programs (CADS)

Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your Production Designer toolbox and broaden your career options.

  • Theatre, scenic design, and/or architecture experience and training
  • Experience with Adobe Edge Animate/Similar timeline based HTML5 animation tools
  • Ability to work a flexible schedule

 

Production Designer Resources

We searched the Web to find the best industry resources to help you continue exploring a career as a Production Designer. From thought leaders to industry groups, this list is packed with opportunities to learn, connect and engage.

On the Web 

ArtdepartMENTAL – A blog and online community for and by Production Designers.

Production Designers Collective – Production Designers exchange professional experiences, give and receive advice and discuss current issues in the field on this forum.

On LinkedIn 

Film Job Board for Los Angeles – Find a job as a Production Designer in the heart of the film industry.

The Art Director Group – Art Directors and Production Designers connect and share recent work, inspiration, resources and opportunities.

Industry Groups 

Art Directors Guild – Provides an extensive directory of resources for film & television’s art departments that will be invaluable to a Production Designer.

The American Society of Cinematographers – Stay in the loop on news and insights for the film industry.

Production Designer Books 

Filmcraft: Production Design – Learn the fundamentals of Production design from instrumental experts in the industry.

Designing for Screen: Production and Art Direction Explained – Read up on how to approach design for film, television, video promo or commercial making, and the techniques and theories needed.

Theatrical Design and Production: An Introduction to Scene Design and Construction, Lighting, Sound, Costume, and Makeup – An guide for Production Designers interested in stage productions.

 

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