Some of the visual memories from our favourite movie scenes, our go-to brands, and live performances were designed and we probably didn’t even think about it.

Set designer checking pictures from her last project in her tablet.
Magdalena Lindstedt by Giulia Maretti for Beazy Pro

The role of a set designer

Set designers are creative people with really good critical thinking skills, a knack for problem-solving, and a hands-on approach both digitally and traditionally.

To be a good designer in general one must have a good sense of visual aesthetics. The key elements are Colour, Shape, Line, Texture, Balance, and Scale.

A quick search online will confuse anyone as these professionals go by many names. The roles cross paths but they are different. Set designers work in diverse areas, ranging from theatre and film, photography, and video productions to the art world, business, and events. A production designer might have set designers in their team as they are the ones in charge of the whole visual aesthetic.

Although research is fundamental to their process, knowing cultural elements and symbolism, visual arts, and architecture is a must. However they decide to go about their creative process, they must be team players. Often relying on other professionals to understand and build what they envision.

If the goal of the project is to produce photographic content, the details play a bigger role than in theatre for example. A photo allows you to look longer and be aware of everything. Unconsciously, all the pieces create a specific response. A slight mistake in the composition can be disturbing.

Set designer on set finalising the last details for the photoshoot.
Magdalena Lindstedt by Giulia Maretti

We talked with Magdalena Lindstedt, a product/set stylist, and art director based in Berlin. She shared with us her favourite set designers and, in her own words, explained the relevance of her role.

A set designer is crucial for creating the right composition of each photo as well as the balance between the objects. Without the set designer, space won’t come ‘alive’ and the products won’t stand out. While the photographer Is focused on the light and the angle, the set designer focuses on finding the perfect placement of the products as well as the props. Props are also a crucial part of each photo; making sure that the overall style and vibe are right for the product as well as the customer.

Magdalenas favorite set designers: Linnéa Salmén + Saša Antić Studio

Set designer placing a drawing on the wall for the next photoshoot.
Magdalena Lindstedt by Giulia Maretti
Not hiring a set designer to style and prepare the set to be photographed is like not hiring a chef to cook the food and wanting for the waiter to just serve the raw ingredients. The photographer would photograph something that is in a raw/not ready state. Asking the photographer to do the set design is also not possible, no one can do two jobs at the same time. At least not to a high standard.

Before and After 

Magdalena and the photographer Giulia Maretti have been working together for a while now. In the images below they capture before and after scenes, of styled locations, to illustrate the impact of their role in the perception of space and how the impression we have from an image depends on it.

Before and after of a styled room for a photoshoot, by a set designer.
Magdalena Lindstedt and Giulia Maretti

In the “After” images, subtle changes balance the composition, creating a pleasant view of each room. The patterns and textures make sense together. “Before” images of the two spaces suggest clumsiness and neglect. The styled version creates mood, guides the eye, and evokes consistency which is a better way to present your brand.

The before and after of a styled kitchen for a photoshoot, by a set designer.
Magdalena Lindstedt and Giulia Maretti

Set design takes you places

What makes you buy a product is an idea that something works in your favour. Shops that are not inviting due to lack of window styling and wrong interior design decisions are missing out on passers-by every day. The same happens with your e-commerce website. Your audience will react well to high-quality product video and photography.

If you think about going to Ikea, you recall the feeling of being in different houses with different stories. It’s all made for you to feel like that. The path you walk on, the signage, the little sets that allow you to explore different scenarios in every corner are what make the Ikea shop an experience some people thoroughly enjoy.

The set designer’s predilection is not king when interpreting a script but it will make the set unique. In The queen’s gambit, available on Netflix, the decoration choices, the locations, and the environments set the tone and immerse viewers in the story. This was done brilliantly by Uli Hanisch who won the ADG Excellence in Production Design Award in 2020.

A screenshot of The queen's gambit show on Netflix.
Sternzeit Retrostar chair - photo by Netflix

 

Sternzeit, which supplied limited edition chairs and sofas for the show, is one of the brands that trust the production of their content to the team behind Beazy Pro.

The mindful selection of colours, materials, and objects from other eras, or inspired by them, transports you to a different time and place seamlessly. To achieve the best shot possible, the set designer as well as other team members have to push back and work their magic.

Shona Heath is a pioneering set designer based in the UK, she constantly works with Tim Walker to create amazing surreal photography. Her work is very personal, with a tendency towards Art without losing the functionality of Design. As a team, they create passages to imaginary worlds and everything in the set serves a purpose in visual storytelling.

A brief or script outlines the objectives and all the Dos and don’ts of a production. Good theatre shows are experiences people remember for the rest of their lives. So, if you haven’t watched Abstract: The Art of Design | Es Devlin: Stage Design we recommend that you do.

Set design & Fashion

In Fashion and commercial photography, the goal is still to sell a product but also to be innovative and original in the way you advertise it. The observer is led by the composition and different emotions are triggered. Fashion editorials tell a story whilst showing us the ways we can use a product.

Marta Pang, a professional photographer, and art director focused on bringing her imagination to life, shared her thoughts about set design as well as two projects where she designed the set.

Set design tells the story and concept behind a shoot, Every little detail is like a spice bringing the vision to life. Without set design, it's like a dish without spices. Building these scenes from zero to the final stage, it's amazing, at the same time, to create a story with it. With the help of the sets, the mood and the concept of these shoots really stand out. That's why I chose these two.
Two models in a colourful mood set.
Like alive - Photographer & Set Design: Marta Pang / Hair & Make Up: Cristina Adrianzen / Model: Pauli Kling @modelwerk / Styling & concept: Klaudia Kolodziej
Model posing in a colourful mood set.

Marta and Magdalena have different approaches and views on set design. They work in different areas, in their preferred style, and also show us the variety of sets that can be created. As professionals, they easily adapt to the different demands of commercial and advertising projects.

When you look for a set designer remember everything mentioned above and look for versatility as well as style. Be very clear on how your brand wants to stand out or be seen.

Gothic set photoshoots.
IN LIFE IS DEATH for Stay Cold Apparel - Photographer & Set Design: Marta Pang
Gothic style set photoshoot.

Let’s not forget another major area where set design is key - the music video industry. There’s plenty to look at online but we decided to show you a compilation of Korean music videos that illustrate all that we’ve talked about in this article.

Now you know why you need a set designer. 😉If you’re not sure what to do next, we got you. You can leave all the boring tasks to our project managers who will work with the team to find the best way to achieve your goals.

At Beazy we’ve gathered set designers and other creatives, locations, and equipment to supply content for your brand. If you feel inspired create a project, share your talent on Beazy.co or just browse. We want everyone involved in the creation of good content, everywhere in the world. ✌🏼