Guide to Storytelling through Innovative Scenic Design

innovative scenic design
Set design, innovative scenic design and constructions follow the same principle rules and guidelines that have been used for the last 100 years in theater. Scenic construction designers must become masters at manipulating compositional elements for the basis of any design. Incorporating basic elements of design with advancements in technology has opened doors and liberated the scenic construction design industry.

Scenic construction designers know that there is a process to follow to achieve set designs and constructions which visually tell a story. Scenic designs must elicit the desired emotions and mood while maintaining the client’s branding and corporate culture. It is important to follow a set of procedures to set the right mood and spirit to tell your story through sensory and physical aspects.

It is important to remember that there really are no rules of design. Scenic design should follow established principles rather than hard and fast rules to allow for creativity and the unexpected. There are basically three broad steps to designing scenic constructions which create the environment necessary to support any event production concept.

Three Broad Steps to Constructions

The three main steps of design considerations for scenic constructions include developing an understanding for your client, identifying all physical and sensory needs and finally making an organized list of all required items.

Advancements in technology now allow scenic construction designers to utilize digital renderings for assistance in design and spatial planning as well as digitally printed elements which may complement hand-painted artistic constructions. The skilled scenic design artist knows how to incorporate technology with true artistic ability, to visually tell a story with the right focus, mood and spirit.

1) Understand your client – begin with an understanding of your client’s objectives and motivations while always thinking about how to visually tell the story. Read everything you can about your client’s products, their vision and corporate culture. Get to know your client, the goal of the event and the ambience desired.

Take a look at any past event productions available that successfully told their story and ask what they liked about it, what they didn’t like about it or what they want to expand or improve upon. Use this time to immerse yourself into the client’s culture and start thinking about sensory elements which complement their goals.

2) Identify physical and sensory needs – after developing a deep understanding for your client, their motivation and culture, it is time to identify physical and sensory elements. These include lighting, audio, costumes, props, imagery and colors. When designing physical and sensory aspects, most artists are aware of the basic compositional elements of scenic design.

The basic compositional elements of scenic design and construction include:

  • Line – lines define forms and dimensions, with line definition and characteristics indicating various emotions and moods. For example, bold, square and angular lines indicate dominance and power, while lighter and curvy lines indicate softness or weakness.
  • Form – the characteristics of the lines should indicate the emotional qualities of the form, which is any space enclosed within the lines. Lines and forms of scenic constructions evoke the emotional characteristics and indicate the psychological nature of the depicted object.
  • Mass – mass is considered the three-dimensional manifestation of an enclosed form. Mass can be altered by exaggerating the height, width or depth of an object to change the object’s character.
  • Value – the value of compositional elements refers to the lightness or darkness of lines, forms and masses. Values elicit an emotional reaction which has been ingrained in many cultures. For example, when you see bright white colors or light pinks, this typically produces an emotional reaction of purity and honesty. Alternatively, dark red or black colors can be used to portray evil or dishonesty.
  • Color – most scenic objects are painted to represent natural life like colors, although altering the hue of various objects can dramatically affect mood and emotion.

Scenic designers and artists should have the ability to draw easily and freely, as manipulating compositional elements is the basis for any design.

3) Make an organized list of all required items – scenic designers must take the time to make an organized list of everything required within each compositional element category. Developing a color coding scheme or a system to quickly identify repetitive metaphors, symbols, colors and imagery will help you to realize the effect that repetition may have on telling the story. While making the list, remember the organizational goals, the event production intention, corporate culture and story you wish to tell.

It is important to maintain your client’s original primary focus, branding and intention throughout the entire scenic construction design process.

Innovative Technology in Scenic Construction Design

In addition to these tried-and-true steps to scenic construction design, advancements in technology have opened doors for scenic construction artists. Computer aided design and digital animated renderings have given artists endless possibilities with set design and construction. Computer aided designs may assist artists with spatial planning and provide the ability to “see” their masterpiece in a small scale model prior to construction.

Rather than shy away from utilizing digitally printed products, designers should realize where best to use these in conjunction with hand-painted artwork and constructions. Digitally printed solutions are still no match for the human expression available with hand paintings or watercolors.

Scenic construction artists who know how to blend both technology with human expression achieve the greatest ability to properly tell a story. Artistic ability combined with innovative technology allows scenic designers to focus on the story’s emotions and mood to create an authentic ambience and desired expression.

Production Plus offers experienced scenic design and construction with the most talented artists available who understand the advantage of incorporating innovative technology. We are dreamers, creators and innovators who love to tell your spectacular story through fantastic scenic constructions, staging, exhibits and audiovisual solutions. Contact us to learn how we partner with you to tell your story and captivate your audience through innovative scenic construction design.

Contact us today to learn more about our scenic design services.