Joe Tilford is an active, award-winning, free-lance professional set designer. He has received critical acclaim for his productions on stages throughout the United States including the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (where he has designed over 30 productions), Arena Stage, the Guthrie Theater, Westport Country Playhouse, the Old Globe, the Cleveland Play House, the Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, the Alliance Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Indiana Repertory Theatre, The Asolo Theatre, Syracuse Stage, and many others.

His design work has been featured in several design and gallery exhibits, including the American Professional Exhibit at the 2007 Prague Quadrennial in the Czech Republic. In 2010, Joe was honored with a solo retrospective exhibition entitled "The Designs of Joe Tilford" for the United States Institute for Theatre Technology's 50th anniversary conference. His early career included professional experience as a free-lance and contract technical director, lighting designer, production manager, and technician for organizations such as 20th Century Fox, the Cleveland Ballet, the Lexington Opera House, and Alliance Motion Pictures.

A prominent figure in American higher education, Joe has taught design at Cornell University and headed the design programs at Wright State University and Northwestern University. From 2003-2014 he served as dean of the School of Design and Production at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he is now a full professor in the Scenic Design program while still an active freelance professional designer. During his tenure as dean, and with the support of a brilliant faculty, he brought the program into widely acknowledged national prominence. During each year of his deanship, the number of honors and awards for design and technology excellence earned by his students increased.

Joe has served on the boards of the Michael Merritt Award for Achievement in Design and Collaboration, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, and the National Design Portfolio Review. He is a member of United Scenic Artists Local 829 with cards in set design and lighting design.

At the 2007 Prague Quadrennial—a juried exhibit of the world’s best theatrical design—the exhibited American designers were referred to as “some of the world’s most gifted visionaries.” Joe Tilford is one of those American designers. Over the span of his career he has become well known as a theatrical designer of remarkable vision and talent.