Set design is the field of design that deals with creating and developing physical spaces where various sets of events are enacted for performances.  The background setup you might see in a movie, a dance performance, at a theatre, a music performance, or a fashion show are all examples of set designs. The job of the set designers is to create an immersive environment that helps us transition into various imaginative worlds.  They critically review the context of the performance, of all the actions and try to make the exact physical setup of it. 

The set design creates a seamless connection between the performers and the environment by creating the background context to which the viewers can relate. 

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Fidelio’s Opera set by Barkow Leibinger in Opera. _©Monica Rittershaus

Set design has become a versatile field today and is the backbone of movie sets, fashion shows, and many other exhibitions. It is a directional art field combining art, architecture, interior design, and psychology.  Many set designers are famous for their impeccable scenic designs, and today we would be seeing ten famous timeless set designers across the world.

1. Tim Yip

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Tim Yip in his costume design exhibition. _©http://www.eyeshenzhen.com/content/2019-02/27/content_21435358.htm

Tim Yip is a world-renowned artist famous for his multidisciplinary works in clothing, theatre and movie sets. The works focus on the concept of “New Orientalism,” which can be defined as the new interpretation of oriental culture and how it can inspire the future. For his exemplary works in “ Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” he won the Oscar for the “Best Art Direction,” making him the first Chinese to be awarded by the Academy. He also won the British film and Television Academy Award in 2001 for the “Best Costume Design”.

Tim Yip has held many exhibitions and has participated in many worldwide fares like New York International Asian Art fairs. His first set design was for the film A Better Tomorrow in 1986, and since then, he has been creating sets and costumes for many movies cooperating with famous film directors like Ang li, Feng Xiaogang, Chen Kaige, and many others. 

Famous Movie Projects: Red Cliff, Rogue, Temptation of a Monk, NETFLIX tv Series Marco Polo, The Banquet 

Famous Theatre Projects: Medea, The Feast of Han Xizai, The Palace of Eternal Youth, Under Siege

2. Rick Carter

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Ric Carter_©Jim Smeal/BEI/REX/Shutterstock

Many of us might not know him, but he is the real mastermind behind the world’s highest-grossing films over the past few decades. Rick Carter is an American Producer and art director who has designed the sets of various famous movies like Jurassic Park, Avatar, Back to the future, and even some new Star War films. He mainly came into the spotlight due to his works in Forrest Gump and Avatar. 

Famous Movie Projects: Back to the Future Part II and III, Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Avatar, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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Visitor Centre in Jurrasic Park movie_©https://artdepartmental.com/blog/jurassic-park-production-design/

3. Emma Roach

Emma Roach established her design studio in 2007, and since then, has been offering her contributions in set designs for fashion shows, Runways, and advertisement shoots. She creates set designs that represent the 70s and are evocative of David Lynch films. As she had studied sculpture and painting, she has an art background. 

She has bagged the position of set designer for many famous companies like Vogue, Raf Simons, Calvin Klien, Hussein Chalayan and many others.

Famous Projects: Vogue, Raf Simons, Calvin Klein, Numero, Moose, Pop

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Design by Emma Roach in Spooky. _©https://emmaroach.com/LOVE-MAGAZINE-SPOOKY

4. Adam Stockhausen

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Adam Stockhausen and the scenes of The Grand Budapest Hotel_©https://www.chicagofilmfestival.com/film/production-design-master-class-adam-stockhausen/

Adam Stockhausen is an American set and production designer renowned for his eclectic works in product designing. Wes Anderson, Steven Spielberg, and Steve McQueen hire Adam for most of their movie sets and rely entirely on his design skills, leading to the movies being blockbusters. When we discuss great movie sets, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of those movies that top this list. Adam is mainly appreciated worldwide for his work in the movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, for which he was honored by the Academy Award for Best Production Design in the film.

Famous Projects: The Grand Budapest Hotel, 12 Years a Slave, The French Dispatch, Widows

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The set design of The Grand Budapest Hotel_©https://papierhuis.com/2017/06/23/movie-madness-the-grand-budapest-hotel

5. Roy Walker

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Roy Walker in View from the Overlook: The Shining_©https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0908178/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

When we talk about movie set designs, the set design sometimes becomes as big as the stars themselves. Roy Walker is eminently known for his immersive designs, which elevated the tension on screen. He was most recognized for his set design in “The Shining” movie. The movie’s intense setup and judicious use of color schemes successfully heightened the tension among the viewers and replicated the protagonist’s state of mind. 

He was nominated for many awards and won The Oscar for “The Best Art Direction” for his work in Barry Lyndon. He has worked for many film sets like Russian Roulette, Tales that witness Madness, Oliver, Ryan’s Daughter, The Last Run, and many others. 

Famous Projects: Bary Lindon, Eyes Wide Shut, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Shining

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The overwhelming use of colours in the carpet of he Shining Movie created uneasiness among the viewers._©https://dutchmuseumgiftshop.nl/product/the-shining-overlook-hotel-serving-tray/

6. Lee Ha Jun

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Lee Ha Jun at the set_©https://www.screendaily.com/features/how-parasite-production-designer-lee-ha-jun-built-the-films-iconic-house/5146742.article

Lee Ha Jun is a Korean product designer who was the genius behind the Oscar-winning movie “Parasite” set. Many people were confused whether the mansion in the film was authentic or was just a set. The mansion set he designed was highly inspired by the modern contemporary architecture style and was developed in sets. The complete design made the scenes look pretty intense and successfully depicted the narrative of the horrific differences in society.

Famous Projects: Parasite, Okja, The Housemaid, The Thieves, The Face Reader

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The interior and look of the mansion in the movie Parasite_©https://www.surfacesreporter.com/myuploads/parasite-movie-set-design-surfaces-reporter.jpg#.YSkJn6wvbHc.link

7. Es Devlin

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Es Devlin_ ©Jasper Clarke

Es Devlin is a British Set Designer renowned for her utterly mind-blowing kinetic structural designs, meshed with light and visuals that continue to amaze viewers in theatres, stage performances, and runway shows. She has designed stage shows in collaborations with Beyonce, The Weekend, Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and many others.  

Famous Projects: Runway Shows for Louis Vuitton, Stage sets for many renowned singers like Kanye West, Jay-z, The Weekend, Miley Cyrus  

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Devlin’s Lake Stage for Bizet’s Carmen at Bergenz festival in Austria._©172028009672/courtesy of Es Devlin

8. John DeCuir

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John De Cuir and his paintings._©http://bigerboat.com/indexfx/?p=518

John De Cuir was a Hollywood Actor, and Art Designer, known for his elaborate set designs illustrated by his own watercolor paintings. His extensive work in Cleopatra was a masterpiece. Calling Cleopatra’s set work a complicated one would be a severe understatement. There were 70+ sets in the movie, and all props were handmade. He was also instructed to build the sets three times larger than their actual historical equivalents. 

His design proved to be one of the most influential set designs. He earned 11 Oscar nominations and won three of them for, The King and I, Cleopatra, and Hello, Dolly!

Famous Projects: Ghostbusters, Cleopatra, The Agony and The Ecstacy, The House on Telegraph Hills, Hello, Dolly!

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A movie Scene of Cleopatra_©https://www.frockflicks.com/cleopatra-1963/cleopatra-93-court/

9. Michael Howells

Michael Howells was an English Set designer, creative director, and production designer who worked in the fashion and film industries. He had visions more than he could ever execute and was one of the most influential and ambitious directors. He was mainly known for his works with John Galliano on his labels and Dior. He started as assistant director in The Cook, The Thief, His wife, and her lover. 

Famous Projects: Set designs for the advertisement of Dior, Vogue, Burberry

Famous Movie Projects:  Bright Young Things, Shackleton, About Time Too, and Miss Julie. 

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Michael Howells designed sets for Ballet Rambert._©Tony Nandi

10. Stephenie McMillan

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Stephenie McMillan in the wand shop of Harry Potter._©http://guru.bafta.org/stephenie-mcmillan-interview

Talking about engaging sets, it would be an injustice not to talk about Stephenie Macmillan. She was an internationally recognized British Set Decorator. It’s her intriguing design of a whole new magical world in Harry Potter that leaves us in awe. The growing Darkness as the film series progresses and the set of Hogwarts school has become an iconic symbol of the Harry Potter series. It was her dedication to the field of set design that made her works extraordinarily beautiful.

Famous Movie Projects: The whole series of Harry Potter

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Hogwarts School Set _©https://geekytourist.com/2019/04/08/where-you-should-travel-based-on-your-hogwarts-house/

References

  • Doria Nan. Tim Yip’s solo exhibition in HK [online]. (Last updated 31 March 2019). Available at: http://www.eyeshenzhen.com/content/2019-02/27/content_21435358.htm [Accessed 3 September 2021].
  • Fernando Pompeu. The 15 Best Movie Set Designs of All Time [online]. (Last updated 1 June 2017). Available at: http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2017/best-movie-set-designs/ [Accessed 3 September 2021].
  • Ryan Lambie. Iconic set design: The Shining’s Overlook Hotel[online]. (Last updated 3 November 2011). Available at: https://www.denofgeek.com/movies/iconic-set-design-the-shinings-overlook-hotel/ [Accessed 1 September 2021].
  • Ryan Lambie. Iconic set design: The Shining’s Overlook Hotel[online]. (Last updated 3 November 2011). Available at: https://www.denofgeek.com/movies/iconic-set-design-the-shinings-overlook-hotel/ [Accessed 3 September 2021].
  • Stuart Craig. Stephenie McMillan obituary [online].(Last updated 27 August 2013). Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/aug/27/stephenie-mcmillan[Accessed 2 September 2021].
  • Veronica Horwell. Michael Howells obituary [online].(Last updated 26 July 2018). Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/jul/26/michael-howells-obituary[Accessed 31 August 2021].
  • Veronica Horwell.How ‘Parasite’ production designer Lee Ha Jun built the film’s iconic house [online].(Last updated 30 january 2020). Available at: https://www.screendaily.com/features/how-parasite-production-designer-lee-ha-jun-built-the-films-iconic-house/5146742.article[Accessed 1 August 2021].
Author

Currently in her 3rd year of Architecture at IIT Roorkee, Muskan believes that architecture has the potential to shape this world and its future. Being a keen observer, she always finds connection between architecture and human psychology. Besides this, she also loves art, music, movies and connecting with others.

1 Comment

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