Career Profile: Set and Exhibit Designers
Imagine going to a museum where the exhibits were lying on the ground or seeing a play in a plain room with no background. It might not look very good. People who work in set and exhibit design help to create interesting sights for people to see.
A few years ago, an exhibit on the sinking of the Titanic went around different cities in Canada. In each place, people had to decide where to put each object, such as dishes that passengers ate from or belongings they had with them on the trip. When the exhibit moved from one place to another, designers had to decide how to display the various pieces in whatever space is available.
Museums are common places for exhibit designers, but they can also work in art galleries, trade shows, and other locations. Flexibility and creativity help people in this job to find ways to draw attention to the important part of each display. Having a good sense of history and art can help people work well in this job. Consulting the museum curators and others involved with the project will help designers understand what they want people to see and understand about the display.
A related place to find work is in set design in theatres. When people put on plays, they often want the stage to have realistic look of a house, school, or other place. Set designers find ways to make the stage look right. They need to talk with the directors of the play to see what they want and how to build it.
Set and exhibit designers can learn their work on the job, but getting official training also helps. Many employers want designers to have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the job. A set designer, for example, might want to get an education in theatre. Someone wanting to work in a museum might get a degree in archaeology or history. Designers often also need to supervise other employees or volunteers, and courses in management can help.
Being able to imagine what a set or exhibit will look like is a very useful talent for people in this field. If you can draw, you can also help other people see what you want and possibly make suggestions. Often, flexibility is important in this job when plans go wrong or when something unexpected comes up. Keeping good records is also important, since no one wants to lose a museum piece or to forget something important on a theatre set.
Most large cities have at least one or two museums and a few theatres where people in this field can find work. Even smaller villages and towns might have possibilities. In general, however, job possibilities tend to be limited. Learning another skill is a good idea, just in case fulltime work is hard to find.
Salaries for people working in set and exhibit design start at about $30,000 per year and can rise to $74,000 with experience. The work can be busy but interesting, and this career might be right for you.
My Plan.com. “Set and Exhibit Designers.” https://www.myplan.com/careers/set-and-exhibit-designers/description-27-1027.00.html.
National Theatre School of Canada. “Set and Costume Design.” https://ent-nts.ca/en/set-costume-design.
Payscale.com. “Average Mid-Career Exhibit Designer Salary in Canada.” https://www.payscale.com/research/CA/Job=Exhibit_Designer/Salary/04bac19b/Mid-Career.
Study.com. “Exhibit Designer: Career Info & Requirements.” https://study.com/articles/Exhibit_Designer_Career_Info_and_Requirements_for_Becoming_an_Exhibit_Designer.html.