Career spotlight: Sound Designer

Creative problem-solvers and playful thinkers, Sound Designers use audio to bring projects to life.
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What does a Sound Designer do?

Sound designers utilise technology to create sound for a variety of mediums, from film and television, to video games, radio and theatre. Through the use of software, hardware synthesis and field recording, they find creative ways to recreate both real and otherworldly sounds, providing a strong foundation for the atmosphere, movement and overall effect of a project.

It’s not enough for sound designers to be experienced in audio recording and production alone. Depending on the medium they’re working in, they will need to possess a strong set of skills in the systems and tools that bring those projects to life.

We shall preface now that it’s quite common for the world of Foley artists and dubbing mixers to crossover with sound design. However, there are a lot of differences to that role, which you can find out more about in our Career Spotlight: Foley Artist / Dubbing Mixers.

 Bjørn Jacobsen (Video Game Sound Designer and dBs guest lecturer)
“As a sound designer I provide the audio content that brings the project to life in that respect. The task of the sound designer for a video game is often misunderstood as a creator of sounds only, but usually the job also requires logical thinking and understanding of systems, more importantly the understanding and ability to play with interactive systems.”
-Bjørn Jacobsen (Video Game Sound Designer and dBs guest lecturer)

The day-to-day

Most roles in the audio industry will struggle to adhere to a strict nine to five structure, but sound designers get pretty close. Whether working in-house as part of a larger team or remotely from their home studio, sound designers will typically work an 8-10 hour day.

How this time is spent can vary on a daily basis. One day could be spent researching the sounds needed for a project, the following day spent out on location capturing those sounds, the next cataloguing those in the studio/office etc.

Long hours are still common, especially when a project is nearing its final stages and there’s the push to make sure everything is perfected before the deadline. That being said, it’s quite rare to find your work hours being drastically changed by anything other than your own workflow.

Regardless of whether they work in-house or freelance, sound designers will always be working as part of a larger team. This includes, but is not limited to other sound designers, project leads, creative directors, technical directors etc.

“I work from my own studio, in my own home, which means that discipline about going to work is quite necessary. The feeling of going to work and being unavailable for chores, daily tasks and so on during this time is crucial to not working irregular hours and more hours than necessary.
“That being said, I work on a normal basis of 8-10 hours per day, from getting up at a normal time to ending my day at 6-8PM and then forgetting about work after that. The only time it becomes later than that is if I procrastinate or exhibit a lack of discipline as mentioned above.”

Bjørn Jacobsen (Video Game Sound Designer and dBs Guest Lecturer)

Why become a sound designer?

What sound designers love about their work

 Bjørn Jacobsen field recording
“As a sound designer I get to work creatively, I get to express myself through audio - I get to make tiny designed sounds which are almost like small musical compositions of sometimes fractions of seconds, the focus on the one sound rather than the ten minute piece without losing track of how the overall sound aesthetic makes me feel very creative and playful.”

- Bjørn Jacobsen (Video Game Sound Designer and dBs guest lecturer)

Where a career as a sound designer can take you

We’ve briefly touched on it already, but the range of areas that a sound designer can comfortably work in is quite broad. While the tools and systems being used will change from job to job and require you to understand them, the way in which you create sound can be translated across all roles.

As well as games, film, television, radio and theatre, sound designers can apply their skills to sound art and installations, contemporary music production, advertising and even the automobile industry.

With the growing production of electric cars, the industry has had to address the fact that at lower speeds the cars make little to no noise, causing a very real danger to pedestrians who don’t hear the cars approaching. To tackle the issue, sound designers are being brought in to create engine sounds that replicate the sounds of combustion engines. This is just one of many new emerging fields where sound design is needed.

Other considerations

As we highlighted earlier, sound designers can work as part of an in-house team or have the freedom to work on a freelance basis and from their own home. The latter can be very liberating, but doesn’t come without some caveats. Freelance work isn’t as stable as a fixed position and working from home requires a strong amount of self-discipline to stay focussed.

The same can be said for in-house positions, as most contracts will only relate to a single project rather than a permanent position, though these do exist. However, in-house positions include benefits that don’t come with freelancing such as holiday pay and sick days. Plus, should you work well in the team and impress the right people, there’s a stronger chance that you’ll be called back in for future projects.

The salary for sound designers is variable. According to, the starting salary for a sound designer sits around £18,000 a year, increasing to £23,000 with five year’s experience, and £30,000 - £41,000 for very experienced designers.

Who is this role suited to?

Sound designers tend to have distinct personalities, interests and skill sets. You may be cut out for this role if…

“The ability to think for yourself, being proactive and understanding what is yours to do and what is for others to decide is crucial. Personally I like the combination of someone else taking control overall, combined as well with me being trusted with the decision making of my own field of expertise.”

Bjørn Jacobsen (Video Game Sound Designer and dBs guest lecturer)
You are:

Creative – Sound design is an incredibly creative role and requires a person that can meet those sonic challenges with a range of ideas and approaches.

Proactive – Sound designers are an intrinsic part to a project, but are also part of a bigger team. Taking ownership of tasks and ensuring they are delivered on time is invaluable.

Curious - Experimentation is at the heart of any great sound, so being curious and excited to develop an existing sound in a new way or create something entirely new is a cornerstone of any good sound designer.

You like:

Sound – It’s kind of obvious, but a real love of sound is at the core of this role. Your mind should never be switched off to it.

Improving your knowledge – Each area of the industry that sound designers can work in will have its own sets of tools and systems, which you will need to learn in order to work effectively. Being open and willing to learn is vital to succeeding in this role.

Working independently and as part of a team – There can be a lot of autonomy and creative freedom for sound designers, but they’re always part of a bigger team, so it’s important to be able to comfortably switch between these two working style

You're good at:

Mixing and production - Being adept in both mixing and production will not only improve the speed at which you work, but also ensure that your output is of a high quality.

Communicating Being able to succinctly communicate with the rest of your team is the difference between a project that gets completed on time and one that doesn’t.

Organisation Pretty much every job going requires you to be good at organising your workload and when you’ve got people relying on you, it’s important to maximise where that time is going.

How do you become a Sound Designer?

While there is no clear-cut path into the role there are specific qualifications and skills that are crucial to finding a career as a sound designer. Being adept in your DAW of choice is a must as the nature of sound design means you will be working to very tight deadlines. It’s important to not get bogged down in the wealth of options out there. Pick a few plugins and synthesisers and really learn how they work and understand how to produce a multitude of sounds using them. Once you have your go-to tools, creating sound for any brief will become instantly easier.


Once you’ve acquired a strong foundation of skills you’ll then need to progress into education to attain either a degree or certificate/award in music production/technology as a strong understanding of recording, mixing and editing is vital to being successful in this role.

Your next steps

Tips from the top

"Keep pushing, work on anything sound related you can find, be curious, try to also let it go and do something completely non-sound once in a while, that can take your mind off it… Above all else, please understand that working in audio and games is hard and serious work and there will be lots of ‘why do I have to do this?’ moments. Learn scripting, visual scripting and other logic tools – wax on wax off, you never know when you might need it."

Bjørn Jacobsen (Video Game Sound Designer and dBs guest lecturer)

Ruth Rainy - Dubbing mixer in the studio
“Give yourself time to experiment, sometimes it can take a few tries to work out the best thing to do. If you feel inspired to try something unexpected, be prepared to work at it, but also allow yourself to let it go if it doesn’t work.”

Ruth Rainey (Sound Designer, Dubbing Mixer for We Are Audio)

Larnie Moles (Radio Imager/Sound Designer at BBC Creative)
“If there’s a production company you want to work for, network with them on LinkedIn, tell them you want to work for them before there’s even a job there. Contact people you want to work for, send them your showreel and keep them updated every couple of months. If they’re interested in you, they’ll still want you to stay in touch because eventually a position will open up.”

Larnie Moles (Radio Imager/Sound Designer at BBC Creative)

Building your skills & portfolio

The best way to build your skills in sound design is to take existing examples and build your own sonic landscape on them. Find some of your favourite trailers, scenes and adverts and redesign the sound. Learning by doing is an excellent way to progress and even though those early projects may not be the best, you can critique your work and chart your progress.


As you begin to gain more experience and find your unique approach, reach out to your community to see if you can provide your skills to other projects. These are usually a paid-in-experience affair, but they also put you in front of your potential future clients.

It’s also vital to start living and breathing sound. Thanks to smartphones, everyone has a decent field recorder in their pocket at all times - so use it! The world is full of interesting sounds that are waiting to be captured, you just need to listen out for them. Record everything and build a library of sounds so that when projects do come in, you know exactly where you want to start.

And lastly, make sure that you’re representing yourself online in a way that showcases exactly what you’re skilled at and what you can bring to a project. A showreel doesn’t let a potential client know anything about you as a person and what you would be like to work with.

“I noticed that my website didn’t really have a message… there was nothing that definitively stated ‘yes this is what I’m doing, this is what I can do for you, these are the services I can offer.’ People who know me know how passionate I am for what I do, but people who visited my site didn’t. I thought it was way too cheesy and jarring, but it turned out to be the key to getting hired.”

Máté Moldován (Game audio implementer, composer and sound designer and dBs alumnus)

How dBs can help

You will find that most of our undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses include modules on sound design and synthesis, but should you wish to really hone in on sound design, our BA (Hons) Sound Design degree is the best choice for you. Equipping you with theoretical and practical knowledge in audio creation, manipulation and implementation, you’ll grow your skills through a combination of studio and location-based recording techniques, hardware and digital synthesis, and immersive audio production.


If you’re looking to study at Level 3, both the DJ & Electronic Music Production and Access to HE: Music Production diplomas will introduce you to the core tenets of sound design and synthesis. These diplomas are provided by our education partner, Access Creative College.

Useful Resources


Designing Sound by Andy Farnell

The Sound Effects Bible: How to Create and Record Hollywood Style Sound Effects by Ric Viers

Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema by David Sonnenschein

Electronic Music & Sound Design: Theory and Practice with Max/MSP by Alessandro Cipriani, Maurizio Giri

Sound Design for the Stage by Gareth Fry

Game Sound by Karen Collins

Articles :

Top 5 Sound Design Tips from We Are Audio’s Ruth Rainey

The Creative Guide to Sound Design

Basics of synthesis and sound design - A Beginner’s Guide

The Quiet Power of Sound Design

How to get work as a sound designer


The dBs Masterclass Series – Learn from a range of industry professionals

My Road to AA Game Dev as a Sound Designer - Bjørn Jacobsen

The Future of External Vehicular Sound

The Magic of Making Sound

Waves Audio - Sound Design Techniques series

“The first thing you need to do is really tune your ears into being able to spot what makes sound. It sounds really obvious, but understanding what makes sound, what is the timbre of sound and analysing what is exactly going in those sounds so you replicate it or bring your own ideas to it. That’s the fundamental that you can then build on with other techniques.”
Ben Philcox (Producer, designer and composer and course leader for Music and Sound for Film & TV at dBs Bristol)
“Do as much as possible. Keep doing lots of projects, even if they're just a couple of seconds recreating an advert or a cutscene. The more practice you get the more you’re exploring your own style.”
Orion Phillips (Junior Sound Designer at Supermassive Games and dBs alumnus)