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Using the ‘director’s vision’ to inspire you, create at least one mood board as a starting point for your designs. Watch the ‘How to create a moodboard’ video below. Remember that moodboards can use images, paints, pens, pencils, materials such as foil, cloth, ribbons etc. It doesn’t need to be neat, and textures should be explored. Add your own sketches and annotations also.

Top Tips:

  • Brainstorm what the director’s vision means to you.

  • Consider materials, textures and colour.

  • Be a magpie – your inspiration may come from the places you least expect.

  • Revisit your drawings to music – how can you translate these into your moodboard?

  • Include photographs and your own drawings.


Your set and costume designs should be considered as another character within the story, not remaining in the background as something merely aesthetic but enabling, enhancing and facilitating the story. Remember:

  • The set provides the space in which the story unfolds, the distances and hiding places where the characters make their choices.

  • The costumes reflect the characters personalities, their history, their secrets.

Remember that visual aids will help us understand psychological situations and changes in the characters’ stories. In this sense, the sets and costumes are the most important visual aids we have. Every detail of the set and costume should be there for a reason, to aid the telling of the story. Often, less can be more. Giving room to imagination is a gift to the audience and keeps them involved as the story unfolds.


It’s now time to start selecting art books or looking at online galleries (all the major UK galleries have collections online) that focus on artists who were/are working from the following periods:

  • During the period the piece was written.

  • At the time and/or place in which the piece is set.

  • A contemporary artist working today who might have parallels or give insights to the themes of the piece.

Take time to quickly sketch images which interest you. You could set a timer for 25 minutes for each of the above categories if you need help directing your time. Focus on small or specific details; the cuff of a dress, the composition of a painting, the brushwork or technique of a painting, etc. Annotate your sketches to assist your analysis later on.

The sketches should be a springboard for you to think about:

  • How to choose what to research next.

  • Initial design ideas, taking inspiration from other artists.

  • Insights into how we look at history through different lenses.

This kind of research can lead you into new territory and is particularly effective at the beginning of the research phase, or if you become stuck. The trick is to look for detail which interests you visually, without overthinking it in the moment. Some ideas will not be of direct use, but there may be a small kernel of an idea which forms as a result of your research.

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