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Stage Design vs. Stage Decoration

This article sponsored by Studio Productions, Inc. They can help you put your large projection or print images directly on a Chameleon™ scrim.

In this article, Jonathan Malm talks about the difference between stage design and stage decoration—why stage design is more than just adding pretty things to your stage.

What ever happened to flowers and ficus on the church stage? If you’ve explored the site much, you’ll notice we don’t have flowery stage designs. What’s the deal with that?

It’s the difference between stage decoration and stage design. It’s a different concept.

Some stage designers may have a difficult time explaining this different concept to the interior decorators and interested parties at their church. Have you experienced this scenario? You create a cool Easter stage design and the church decorator wants to put Easter lilies all over the stage. You argue that it will affect the look you’re going for. They argue that Easter lilies are beautiful and traditional for Easter.

Neither of you can see each other’s perspective nor can you figure out where the breakdown is. They can’t seem to get what sort of atmosphere you’re creating with your stage design. And they can’t see why you wouldn’t want to put something traditional and beautiful on your stage.

It has nothing to do with tradition and beauty. It has everything to do with the concept of stage design versus stage decoration.

Stage Decorating

Decorating is about grabbing a bunch of different elements and making a room prettier. You grab a painting, a plant, an armchair, and a globe. Then you place it in an aesthetically pleasing way in the room. You might even paint an accent wall to make it especially pleasing to the eye.

You might call this putting makeup on your stage. You simply accentuate the look and make it prettier.

Decorating = Making a place look nice.

Stage Design

Design, however, isn’t about that. While decorating is putting on makeup, design is massive plastic surgery. You’re creating a whole new beast. You’re using elements and lighting to change the whole atmosphere of the room. You’re more concerned with the feel and the vibe of the room than you are with the beauty of the room.

Design = Changing the atmosphere/feel of a room.

In decorating, you’ll see an element you like and say, “Oh, what a nice armchair!” But in design, you shouldn’t pick out an individual element. Everything should act as a whole.

Ideally, your stage design is beautiful. But it’s not about that. It’s about creating an atmosphere using textures, colors, and lighting.

So if you’re having a hard time translating stage design to stage decorators—realize you’re speaking a different language. Feel free to refer to this article if you need.

Good luck designing!


Jonathan Malm is the creator of ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com. If you want to show him real love, sign up for an account at his new company, Mopho.to. $5/month for unlimited photos.


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2 responses to “Stage Design vs. Stage Decoration”

  1. Greg Jenkins says:

    My church is getting ready to remodel our sanctuary. I love many of the ideas on this website and am wanting to include in our new design a “skeleton” that we can hang things on, attach things to, etc.

    My question is basically, before I can do any sort of stage design on a Series Sermon level I need to first design my stage to accommodate those designs.

    Do you have any resources or recommendations on best practices for setting up the backdrop so that it can be transformed easily. So far my searches have brought me to truss systems, but they do seem very expensive, is there a less expensive way to build a “canvas” that I can design onto?


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