Set Design is a branch of design that deals with the imagination and creation of physical spaces where the actions of a performed event take place – be it film sets, fashion runways, theatre dramas, or even stages for events. Therefore, a set designer is an individual responsible for designing and creating spaces where all the above-mentioned functions take place. Just like architects, set designers are artists who appreciate and produce spaces that relate to human beings and their perception of emotions.
Set designers are the people behind the unrealistic worlds we see in movies and the creative shows in the fashion industry. They are designers who use their creativity and produce spaces that leave bold impressions in the human mind.
Below mentioned are a few such set designers who have revolutionized the understanding of spaces in their ways.
1. Sabu Cyril
Sabu Cyril is a renowned production designer in the Indian Film industry. He has been recognized through several awards, both National and International – four times for National Film Award for Best Production Design, five times for Filmfare Award for Best Art Direction, and was nominated at 42nd Saturn Awards in California for his production design for Baahubali.
His works in movies like Enthiran and Baahubali bought him international recognition. With an elaborate portfolio of successful projects, he is currently one of the most sought-after and celebrated art directors in India.
Projects that found fame: Enthiran (Tamil) (Robot in Hindi cinema), Baahubali: The Beginning (Telugu), Baahubali: The Conclusion (Telugu), Om Shanti Om (Hindi), Thenmavin Kombath (Malayalam), Kaalapani (Malayalam), Ra. One (Hindi)
2. Gary Card
Gary Card is a multidisciplinary artist, illustrator, and set designer who doesn’t shy away from using bold colors and their combinations in his creations. He is one of the few designers who have shot to fame within just the first ten years of his career.
He is recognized as a designer through his various collaborations and high-end clients – Louis Vuitton, Kenzo, Nike, Lady Gaga, Gucci, the Sanderson Hotel, Dazed Magazine, etc.
Projects that found fame: HYSTERICAL at the Phillips Berkeley Square space, Kenzo (Autumn/ Winter 2018), Moschino (Autumn/ Winter 2017), Gucci Window Installation
3. David and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco
David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco, as their names suggest, are husband-and-wife duo who practice production designing and art direction. Their work in the film La La Land found them huge respect, numerous nominations including the Art Directors Guild Award for Excellence in Production Design for a Contemporary Film, and Critic’s Choice Movie Awards for Best Art Direction, and also won them the Academy Award for Best Production Design at the 89th Academy Awards.
Projects that found fame: La La Land (English), Reservoir Dogs (English), Kill Bill: Volume 1 & 2 (English), Pulp Fiction (English), Inglourious Bastards (English)
4. Es Devlin
Es Devlin is an Artist cum Stage Designer. Her works reflect her strong beliefs about humans, and she is acclaimed for designing large-scale performative sculptures and environments that are a play of music, light, and language.
Her work is so moving and inspirational that it became the subject of the Netflix Documentary Series – Abstract: The Art of Design. She has been honored with The London Design Medal, three Olivier Awards, A University of Kent Doctorate, and a UAL Fellowship.
Projects that found fame: Mirrormaze (London 2016), Memory Palace (London 2019), The National Theatre, Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells
5. Sharmishta Roy
Sharmishta Roy is yet another Indian film production designer and art director who has designed the sets for several famous Bollywood movies. Her father, Sudhendu Roy, was also a production designer who worked for several Hindi films.
Sharmishta Roy assisted her father and later began an independent career for herself. She has also received several awards for her work including Filmfare Award for Best Art Direction, and National Film Award for Best Production Design.
Projects that found fame: Meenaxi – A tale of three cities (Hindi), Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (Hindi), Dil Toh Paagal Hai (Hindi), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Hindi), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (Hindi), Mohabbatein (Hindi)
6. Tim Yip
Tim Yip is a Chinese Art Director who is best known for his work in the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which also won him an Oscar for Best Art Direction, and a British Academy Film Awards for Best Costume Design.
Other than being Art Director, Tim Yip is a renowned artist who has interests in costume design and also in visual and contemporary art. His work is resplendent with the amount of importance given to the smallest of details.
Projects that found fame: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Chinese), A Better Tomorrow (Chinese)
7. Stefan Beckman
Stefan Beckman is a New York-based production designer and art director for the fashion industry, who is the founder of a design studio named ‘Stefan Beckman Studio. His studio has delivered a wide range of design projects for famous fashion designers who lookout for film & photo shoots, fashion presentations, runway shows, or exhibitions.
He is known for his museum-quality exhibition sets and unrealistic creativity in bringing to life the ambiance for fashion shows.
Clients that found him fame: Adidas, Aldo, Calvin Klein, Chanel, Coca-Cola, Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tiffany & Co., Tommy Hilfiger, Vogue, Zara
8. Nitin Chandrakant Desai
Nitin Chandrakant Desai is another famous art director and production designer in the Indian film industry. He is known for his contributions to Marathi and Hindi films. He has worked under several celebrated directors in the Indian Cinema such as Ashutosh Gowarikar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Nitin Desai has also won several awards for his works – National Film Award for Best Art Direction, and Filmfare Best Art Direction Award.
Projects that found fame: Devdas (Hindi), Swades (Hindi), Traffic Signal (Hindi), Lagaan (Hindi), Eklavya: The Royal Guard (Hindi), Jodhaa Akbar (Hindi), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Hindi)
9. Alexandre de Betak
Alexandre de Betak is a celebrated set designer who has designed numerous runway shows as multi-sensory events for famous brands like Hussein Chalayan, Dior, Rodarte, and Victoria’s Secret.
He has been in the fashion industry for over 25 years and has produced and designed over 900 runway shows, installations, exhibitions, and events.
Clients that found him fame: Dior, Victoria’s Secret, Rodarte, Hussein Chalayan, Fendi
10. Alex McDowell
Alex McDowell is a British narrative designer and creative director. He began practicing production designing in the 90s and started a career that involved a lot of dedication and creativity. With the experience of having worked in the film industry, McDowell translated his knowledge into a narrative design practice known as World Building.
He has won several awards such as – San Diego Film Critics Society award in the Best Production Design category, and the Art Director Guild Award for Excellence in Production Design.
Projects that found fame: Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (English), Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (English), Watchmen (English), Man of Steel (English)
11. Rick Carter
Rick Carter is an American production designer and art director most known for his work in the movie Forrest Gump, which also earned him an Oscar nomination, and Avatar, for which he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Production Design.
Projects that found fame: Avatar (English), Jurassic Park (English), Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens (English), The Polar Express (English), Back to the Future Parts II & III (English), Munich (English), Sucker Punch (English), Forrest Gump (English), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (English)
12. Robert Stromberg
Robert Stromberg is another American special effects artist and designer who worked with Rick Carted in imagining Pandora in the movie Avatar. He is also a filmmaker who made his directorial debut with the 2014 Disney film Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie.
His contributions to films such as Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, and Oz the Great and Powerful earned him Academy Awards for Best Art Direction.
Projects that found fame: Avatar (English), Maleficent (English), Alice in Wonderland (English), Oz: The Great & Powerful (English), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (English)
13. Lee Ha Jun
Lee Ha Jun is the production designer who designed the sets for the house featured in the Oscar-winning Korean movie Parasite. Through this work, Lee portrays his ability to design sets that look like a real house based on a very basic sketch drawn by the director of the movie – Bong Joon-Ho.
He started his career in stage productions and later moved into the film industry as a production designer.
Projects that found fame: Parasite (Korean), Shadow in the Palace, Portrait of a Beauty.
14. Samir Chanda
Having looked at several set designers who continue to produce world-famous projects it would be unfair to not mention some designers who have contributed several remarkable projects to the set design industry during their short lifespan. All artists live by their art, even after death.
The works by art director and production designer Samir Chanda (1957-2011) are gems that cannot be traded. He has contributed to the traditional designs of movie sets such as Guru, and Rang De Basanti. He won the National Film Award for Best Art Direction four times.
Projects that found fame: Guru (Hindi), Dil Se, Omkara (Hindi), Rang De Basanti (Hindi), Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero (Hindi)
15. Stephenie McMillan
While talking of set designs and designers who have dedicated their entire life to this industry, it is impossible to forget the set designer behind the awe-inspiring Harry potter series – Stephenie McMillan (1942 – 2013).
Stephanie McMillan was an internationally accredited British set designer. Her relation with space design began early in her life when she worked with architects Stillman & Eastwick-Field. Thereafter she dedicated her life to set design.
Projects that found fame: The Harry Potter Series (English)