Renderings, Scale Models, and Light Plots, Oh My!: Four Tips for the Designer Application

4 tips for designer application 1 4 tips for designer application 2

Are you the next Donyale Werle, Kevin Adams, or Darron L. West? (If you know who all of those artists are, we’re definitely speaking the same language!) If you want to design with NTSA this summer, check out our top four tips for completing the designer application below!

1. The design statement is the most important part of your application.

What?” you might be thinking. “This is a design program, and the most important part of my application isn’t my designs?” Nope. We’re most interested in your design statement — the two-page document explaining why you made the choices that you did in your renderings. While our staff members can introduce you to new aesthetics and help refine your artistic skills, your unique insights into the script are what make up the foundation of your design work. We need to know that you’re coming in with strong analytical skills — the ability to track a character arc, to identify and interpret symbolism, to conduct historical research, etc. That’s why we care less about how you generate light plots and more about how you read a script. So make sure that your design statement isn’t an after-thought that you whip off at 2 AM. Invest the time necessary to really make that statement outstanding.

2. Feel free to use templates.

Maybe you have ideas for brilliant designs, but you don’t quite have the illustration chops to back them up yet. Don’t worry! Anyone can learn how to draw. (It’s as easy as taking a ruler and drawing a bunch of lines. We promise.) However, if you’re struggling right now, feel free to use templates for your designs. You can find croquis for costume designs at Prêt à Template. Just trace and go. You can also find blank make-up charts from MAC.

If you’re a set designer who exclusively draws renderings, that’s okay! You can submit three renderings and call it a day. But if you’d like to take a crack at constructing a model, you don’t have to immediately buy out all of the black foamcore and X-Acto knife blades at the craft store. At LaGuardia Arts interviews a few years ago, we saw a ton of students who’d constructed their first set models out of shoeboxes. You can find a tutorial on how to assemble a basic proscenium from a shoebox here. However, if you have all of the X-Acto knife skills, David Neat has an excellent guide to constructing set model elements on his blog.

3. Take a look at professional design portfolios for ideas.

If you don’t know where to start, take a look at what other professional designers have done with their portfolios. Search “lighting design portfolio” (or whatever area you’re working in) and browse through some work samples. For instance, check out these portfolios from former NTSA Set Design Mentor Bryce Cutler and NTSA Costume Design Alumna Olivia Hern. What do you notice about the photographs, renderings, and plots that they’ve chosen to share with prospective admissions officers and employers? Use these websites as a resource as you start gathering up your own materials. Look through your previous classroom assignments, production stills, sketchbooks, etc. If you worked on a show and can’t find any of your materials, email your teacher and ask if she/he has any production stills or video files. (Don’t forget to search your computer files and the email attachments in your sent folder. We’ve stumbled upon goldmines of material that we thought were lost forever just by using the search feature!) Remember: We want to see the work that you’re proudest of — the photographs, renderings, and plots that best represent what you’re capable of as a designer.

You may notice that many of our application requirements are the same as the International Thespian Society's Individual Events. We did that intentionally, so that if you presented at IEs (either this year or in the past), you automatically have whatever you need for your application.

4. If you don’t already have the necessary materials for your portfolio, consider applying for the NTSA Assistant Designer program instead.

If you take a look at the Designer application requirements (see below) and think “what does that even mean?”, you should consider applying to our Assistant Designer program instead. In the Assistant Designer program, you’ll be able to participate in undergraduate-style seminars, receive one-on-one coaching from professional designers, create renderings for our summer productions, and build your portfolio for college and beyond. Students who apply for the Assistant Designer program are usually from schools that don’t have a strong technical theatre program and/or schools that only allow students to participate in shows as performers. If you think that you might be interested in design but haven’t been able to work on a production yet, the NTSA Assistant Designer program would be a great fit for you. We’ll help you determine if you’re interested in pursuing a career in theatrical design — and, if you are, we’ll help prepare you for BFA/BA program admissions. To apply to the NTSA Assistant Designer program, you need to create a mood board on Pinterest; we've written a step-by-step guide to help you get started!

Once you've assembled your application materials, CLICK HERE to submit them to NTSA!

Requirements for the Designer Application

Set Design: Three photographs of an original, three-dimensional scale set model from a published play OR perspective renderings showing a set and its relationship to the theatrical space.

Costume Design: Three full-color character renderings from a published play (either three different characters or a single character through several changes).

Lighting Design: One light plot including channel (dimmer) color, type of instrument, any special equipment, and an indication of the set and masking AND Description of light cues organized by scene, including the purpose (outcome) of the cue and the timing of the cue (i.e. cue breakdown).

Sound Design: Five minutes of audio files representative of the sound design for a published play.

Props and Puppetry Design: Three photographs or renderings of props or puppets from a published play.

Make-Up and Hair Design: Three full-color make-up charts from a published play (either three different characters or a single character through several changes).

Projection Design: One minute of video files representative of the projection design for a published play.

Posted on Nov 04, 2017 in Auditions  

Share this post

Back to Posts