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Scenic Design - Level 1

In this level, you will have the opportunity to explore the scenic design process. The final challenge will be to create a sketch for a set design for a scene of your choosing.

On your journey to tackle the Final Challenge and complete the Level, you will need to earn 1 Power Up and gain 3 Experience Points along the way.



In this level, you will:

  • Power Up by exploring the process of some scenic designers
  • Gain Experience by reading and analyzing your script like a designer
  • Gain Experience by brainstorming and planning out your ideas
  • Gain Experience by making some thumbnail sketches for different ideas
  • Take on the Final Challenge by creating a sketched rendering of your set design concept

This Level Up Challenge is based on a unit designed and developed by student Thespians.

POWER UP: Explore the Set Design Process


For this challenge, you will be designing a set for a single scene from a musical/play. Before you get started, read the following article and watch the video to learn more about a set designer's process from start to finish. The process will vary from designer to designer, but most designers go through a process of reading the script, researching, and planning before they get into designing.

TO POWER UP: Read the article "Read, Render, Realize" by Christopher Dills on dramatics.org. Then, watch this video (source: This Is Broadway) to hear from set designer David Korins, who designed the sets for Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton. Pay particular attention to each designer's process and the steps they take to design a set.

GAIN EXPERIENCE: Read and Analyze the Script


The first step in the process is to read the show, analyze the script, and conduct any research necessary so that the designer can make informed decisions on their design.

Before you begin your scenic design, you will need to select a scene to base your set design around, and make sure you have read it a few times. As Christopher Dills says in "Read, Render, Realize", read it once for enjoyment, and then read the script for sensory and physical needs, and make sure to take notes and annotate your script.


You may want to consider selecting a scene from a Shakespeare play of your choice since the scripts are available online. Visit this site (source: OpenSourceShakespeare) to find a complete collection of Shakespeare’s works (scripts included). Alternatively, you could find a different public domain play/scene to use.

TO GAIN EXPERIENCE: Select a scene from a show that you would like to create a set design for. Once you have a copy of the script, read your scene a few times, and make notes and highlight the script as is recommended in Step 1 of "Read, Render, Realize" by Christopher Dills on dramatics.org.

GAIN EXPERIENCE: Brainstorm Ideas


After reading through your script and analyzing the scene, you will want to start brainstorming some ideas and doing some planning.

Think about what you might want your scene to look like, what you want in it, what colors should be present, etc. Read "How to Talk Design" written by Sean O'Skea on dramatics.org to help you think about what questions you may want to ask yourself. This article focuses on questions that a scenic designer should ask their director during the planning process, but for the purposes of this challenge you are playing the role of director and designer for your set design.

TO GAIN EXPERIENCE:  Create a list of some of your initial ideas for your planning/brainstorming. This list of ideas will be a reference sheet for the next step.

GAIN EXPERIENCE: Make some Thumbnail Sketches


In the first power up, you read the article "Read, Render, Realize" by Christopher Dills and watched a video with set designer David Korins, who designed the sets for Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton. Both of these designers mention thumbnail sketches as part of their process.

By this point, you may have an idea for your set design. But designers don't go with their first idea without exploring other possibilities as well. In order to gain experience in this step, you will need to make numerous thumbnail sketches that are possible ideas for set designs for your scene.


Start by making a sketch of one idea of how you think the set could look. Remember, thumbnail sketches are small and not very detailed - they have just enough information to get your idea down on paper. Next, do this again with a different idea. Use your list of ideas from the last step to inspire you and spark new ideas.

TO GAIN EXPERIENCE:  Create at least 4 small thumbnail sketches with different ideas for how the set could be designed for this scene. The sketches do not have to be super detailed, as long as they visually convey your idea. Take a break and walk away from your sketches. After some time away, come back and re-visit them, and see what you think. Make any additions or changes you would like to make.

FINAL CHALLENGE: Create a Rendering for your Set Design


During this journey, you powered up by hearing from some professional designers and learning more about the scenic designer's process. You also gained experience by reading and analyzing the script, brainstorming some ideas, and creating thumbnail sketches. Now, using the power up and experience points you gained along the way, you are ready take on the final challenge: putting it all together and creating a set design.


TO COMPLETE THE FINAL CHALLENGE: After taking some time away from your thumbnail sketches, select your favorite idea to move forward with. Now, you will create a colored set rendering, or a more detailed drawing of your set design idea, which you could show to others (such as the director) to convey your design concept to them. While your rendering doesn't have to be perfect, it should include enough detail to convey your ideas clearly to someone else, so you may want to use color. While creating your rendering, try to keep scale in mind. Decide how big an actor would be, then try to draw all your set pieces with that size in mind. Your set design must be usable by actors!

TIP: For an example of a set rendering, check out Step 4 in "Read, Render, Realize" by Christopher Dills on dramatics.org.


Think you can handle creating a 3D model of your design concept? Prove yourself by clicking the button below and accessing SCENIC DESIGN: LEVEL 2.