Design Conventions: Sets

Design Conventions: Sets

Types of Sets

  • Design conventions in sets refer to the established standards or rules associated with creating a stage setting or backdrop for a drama production.
  • Sets should represent, interpret and highlight aspects of the play’s context, themes and mood. The set design could be symbolic, realistic, or abstract.
  • Realistic sets replicate real-world locations. They require intricate detailing to make the environment feel authentic.
  • Symbolic sets use visual metaphor to communicate essential aspects of the story or themes within the script. They focus on the psychological and emotional response of the audience.
  • Abstract sets focus more on the artistic and aesthetic elements rather than a literal representation of a place.

Design Elements in Sets

  • The use of colour in sets holds symbolic meaning and can be effectively used to evoke certain emotions or establish the atmosphere.
  • Sets often incorporate various levels and zones to create dynamic spatial relationships. These help to determine the positions and movements of the characters.
  • The degree of mobility should also be considered in set designs; some sets are fixed, while others are flexible or changeable. This can affect the pacing of scenes.

Important Considerations

  • Consider the use of entrances and exits. How characters move on and off stage can influence plot development and character interactions.
  • Guided by the script, props may be included in the set. Every item chosen should serve a purpose within the story.
  • The set should work effectively with other design aspects, such as lighting, sound, and costume.
  • Many technical considerations must be taken into account in set design, including safety rules, budget restrictions, and the size and shape of the performance space.
  • Audience configuration is vital in the overall set design. Major configurations include proscenium, in the round, end-on, and traverse staging. Each brings different views and different perspectives to the audience.
  • Always consider the visibility and comfort of the audience while designing the set. Certain arrangements can make it difficult for some audience members to see or hear what’s happening on stage.
  • Remember that the set is part of the performance, not just a backdrop. It should interact with the characters and storyline, adding depth to the drama.


  • Understanding and applying conventions in set design will significantly contribute to the successful interpretation and execution of a piece of drama.