The Graphic Design Resume Guide

Articles April 29, 2008

Your graphic design resume is going to be just as important as your portfolio, if not more important than your portfolio when it comes to job hunting. This is because most people will examine your resume before they open your portfolio book, meaning your resume is going to be your first impression! You have to remember that the people you will be sending your resume to go through tons of these every day so yours has to be immaculate and memorable, or they won’t even bother looking at your portfolio.
 


 
I have talked with many art directors, designers and read an array of articles on the topic of resume design and you would be surprised at how the smallest glitch could sink your chances. Below I will go over everything you need to know regarding putting together a successful graphic design resume.
 


 

Graphic Design Resume Paper

 

People often get caught up in the design and content of their resume and forget one of the most important parts! The paper you use for your graphic design resume can tell your potential employer a lot about you. Choosing paper for a design project is an important job for most designers and if you overlook this you will have one strike against you right away. If you do choose a good paper for your resume it will get you bonus points. It will show your employer you have thought about every detail, and that you have done your research on papers.

You don’t want to use standard computer printing paper from an office supply store, so I would recommend looking at paper mills such as Neenah Paper, who offer some really great resume papers. I ended up buying two different versions of their Classic Crest line of papers for my resume.

 

Your Resume Layout

 
You are a graphic designer, so this is the chance to show what you can do in a tasteful manner. You probably don’t want to go overboard with a resume, because the information on the resume in the end is the most important part. With that being said you can still showcase your design skills, by adding visual elements, using a grid, playing with typography, color choices and so on. So don’t design your resume in Microsoft Word!

 

Graphic Design Resume Typography

 
This is another important aspect of your resume, so you need to be very careful with the fonts you choose! I would stay away from display fonts and free fonts and instead go with some classical fonts.

Probably the most important font to avoid in a design resume would be Times New Roman! Even Helvetica can be frowned upon sometimes, because it’s been branded so much as the “designers font” that some people consider it overused (at least in resumes).

Readability is very important so don’t make your type too small ( No smaller then 10-11 points ). Remember the readers need to be able to quickly and easily scan your resume. I would also suggest using serifed fonts for body text since it’s easier to read and doesn’t use very light colors.

If you HAVE to submit your resume as a Word doc, once again avoid Times New Roman at all costs!

 


 

What to Include in Your Graphic Design Resume

 
Below is a list of everything I would include in a graphic design resume in order of importance.
 
Name and Contact Info
 
You want to display your name in a very noticeable location along with all your contact information. It may be a good idea to put graphic designer somewhere in the resume as well in case someone needs to quickly figure out what type of resume yours is.
 
Personal Statement (also known as your objective or mission statement)
 
This is where you would write a brief statement about your goals, desired position and how you can benefit your potential employer. I’ve seen a lot of variations here; Some resumes have a generic objective, some have more of personal statement and some resumes don’t even have this section and instead go right to the experience section.
 
Your Experience
 
List your job experience here and make sure to include the job title, employment dates and a brief description of what you did and/or accomplished. You can also add the location of the job if you want, but I don’t think it’s as important as the other information.
 
Education
 
Below is a list of information that should be included in the education section:

  • Your Degree and Major (e.g., BFA in Graphic Design)
  • Date of Graduation (Month and Year)
  • College You Attended
  • Location of Your College (City and State)

 
Capabilities
 
This is an area where you can write things such as: extensive experience dealing with clients, experience managing multiple projects at once and so on.
 
Software Skills
 
List your software, coding and other design related skills and organize them into categories if you have a lot of different technical skills.
 
Awards
 
If you have won any awards, contests, been featured anywhere or have had any shows make sure to mention them here.
 
Organizations

 
Employers love to see that you are involved in the design community so if you belong to any design organizations then list them!
 
Interests
 
This isn’t really necessary, but if you are applying for a job and want them to know you have interests related to the job this would be a good place to mention them. I would keep this section at the very end of the resume.
 
References
 
I would not list references directly on the resume but rather state: References available upon request. Just make sure that you have the references if they do ask for them!
 


 

What NOT to Include in Your Resume

 

  • A super generic “objective” at the top of your resume
  • Obscure interests that do not relate to design
  • Potentially offensive material. I will leave this one up to you guys because I don’t want to get in the way of anyone’s beliefs or views, but be careful mentioning or including work related to politics, war, religion and so on. It’s impossible to gauge how someone will react to sensitive topics, so sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry.

 


 

Final Preparations

 

  • Have people with resume experience read over your resume to try and catch errors.
  • Check for consistency with formatting, such as do all bulleted sentences end with periods, or do some have periods and some don’t?
  • Spell check the crap out of your resume again!

 


 

Graphic Design Resume Samples

 
Below are a few sample of resumes I found online so you can get an idea of what other people are including in their resume.

Steve Leggat (www.steveleggat.com)

Sebastien Nikolaou (www.sebdesign.eu)

Ian Macnider (www.ninetofivedesign.com)

Useful Resume Writing and Design Articles

Resume-Writing Dos and Don’ts

The 7 Deadly Sins of Resume Design

Resume Style File

If any of you are willing to share your resume design please email me at admin@youthedesigner.com so we can add it to this post to help others!

 


 

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Cadence is You The Designer's senior blogger, and the most jack-of-all-trades of the staff. She's always trying out something different every day, some of which fuels her posts here on the blog. Let her know if you want us to post more about your favorite topic - she might know more than a thing or two about it!

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  • http://justcreativedesign.com Jacob Cass

    Great summary Gino, well researched. Another great article to add to this is also How to get your FIRST job.

  • http://3oneseven.com milo

    Good tips, pretty helpful,
    one thing though: you might asign links as PDF links,
    as not everybody wants AR open online documents due to security issues in the past.

  • Jon

    Good article.

    If you even felt inclined to use Times on your resume you probably shouldn’t be a designer! :)

    A good way to check spelling (aside from spell check) is to read the whole resume from the last line to the first. Basically, read it in reverse one word at a time.

  • http://www.prefadedpop.com MediaMisfit

    Those are some interesting examples! Some differences that I thought I would bring up that weren’t mentioned in the article would but the placement and order of information. This may be more of the information architecture but still important.

    I personally like Steve who listed his contact information at the end of his resume. It gives a definite end to the resume instead of leaving me to say “is that it”?

    Another fact that I like is that he just doesn’t list software. He goes a little more in depth on his experience so you don’t have to interview him to ask him questions like “how long have you been using photoshop” and such.

    The only conflict is that I’ve always been told that people should keep their design resume down to one page. I think that is hardly appropriate and while I do see the benefits I think that a bit more information without going overboard is appreciated.

  • sophie

    Great article, I will bookmark it!

  • http://www.uprinting.com David S.

    Nice article Gino! What great timing now that many designers are wrapping up school and getting ready to implement their creativity into the corporate world.

    As an employer, the one thing that always gets my attention is a clean, simple (Google-like), nicely laid out CV. They really do stand out from the stack. Too often I find people trying to cram every possible experience into their CV. Save the life story for the interview.

    The one sure way to land an interview is to submit a resume that was obviously drafted for the position being offered. Do your research (use Google, news sites, LinkedIn, etc) and list only relevant experience, organizations that may be aligned with the employer and skills that tie directly into the job. A generic resume makes an employer think you are, well… generic. And lets face it, no one wants a “generic” designer.

    Finally, definitely take Gino’s advice: “Spell check the crap out of your resume again!”… and again… and again. Nothing reflects more poorly on you than a typo, specially in a design position where attention to detail is so important.

    Overall, just see it as a sales process:
    1) You CV/resume is a snap shot which captures an employers attention.
    2) Your portfolio hooks them with your creativity (make sure it’s viewable online).
    3) And finally, the interview is where you ultimately close.

    Good luck!

  • http://ocdesignguy.com That Blogger Guy

    Great advice. It’s always useful to find articles especially in-depth ones such as this one on the do’s and don’ts of job hunting in the design world. I’ll definetly give spotlight this article on my blog as well!

    Great work.

  • http://www.steveleggat.com Steve Leggat

    Nice tips Gino!! I had a friend ask me recently for advice on creating nice punchy resumes but I couldn’t really offer much. Now I just need to send him here!
    Thanks a lot for including mine as an example – much appreciated :)

  • David

    Hi,

    Nice article. One thing I would like to point out is that in the example resumes Steve Leggat has a very nicely designed resume with great use of typography etc. however you should never go over 2 pages. Recruiters are often bombarded with hundreds of resumes for every good job they advertise and the general rule of thumb is that a Resume/CV should be constrained to 2 pages max.

    There are obviously exceptions to the rule for this and if you are an MD with 30 years experience etc. then maybe you can justify more than 2 pages.

    Does anyone disagree with this?

    Cheers

  • Gino

    Thank you all for the excellent additional comments!

    I agree to keep your resume size to one page unless you have many years of experience.

    Also I forgot to mention to keep a consistent theme/style between your resume, cover letter, tear sheet and portfolio so it feel like one big representation of yourself.

  • http://shaunanicholson.com/blog Shauna

    I have a suggestion for you. Rather than relying on your own copy-editing skills, seek out a professional (or at least skilled) copywriter to do it for you. I’ve done portfolios for many graphic designers that ROCK in design skill and start out with the generic: “My name is X. I have X years experience. I’m great. Hire me.”

    Sometimes these work out, but when you’re looking at a picture in it’s entirety, it’s lacking. For example, there are punctuation problems many people aren’t familiar with. For example, “I’ve seen a lot of variations here; Some resumes have a generic…” Sentences beginning after a semi-colon are never capitalized unless it’s a name, place, etc. It’s stupid things you’ll edit until you’re blue, but simply never notice.

    I’ve never seen a top-notch designer without text integrated into their work somehow (whether it’s an explanation or within the work itself). It’s something you really shouldn’t sacrifice.

  • greg

    MediaMisfit, it’s a lot easier to say “it’s hardly appropriate” when you’re sending resumes than when you’re reviewing them. Posting a desirable position online can bring a flood of resumes. They should be concise, well-designed, and well-written. If they’re not, you run the risk of annoying the reviewer into not bothering to read them. Most designers sending resumes don’t have the kind of experience that demands a multi-page resume. They often just don’t have the discipline or writing skills to effectively write it on one page. Or they fear not being completely comprehensive in their writing.

    What you have to understand is the actual purpose of the resume. Your resume isn’t supposed to explain your career in detail, it’s supposed to give enough information to an art director (for design firms, or equivalent elsewhere) for them to decide to ask you in for an interview and portfolio review so they can get that detail. As someone who’s reviewed thousands of resumes for jobs, I can tell you that long resumes for people without the background that demands them are a turnoff and set a bad tone from the start.

    If you need to give additional details about jobs that are specific to a position you’re applying for, that’s the kind of thing that needs to go in a cover letter. You can talk in your cover letter about how specific experience you have applies directly to the job you’re inquiring about.

  • Arzur

    Useful!

  • http://www.webdesignbycraig.com Craig

    Great article, I am just getting started as a freelance designer. Thanks for the info.

  • Dale

    Fantastic help, clear and straight to the point

  • Dale Thompson

    I can understand why people use Times New Roman though for a resume font… it’s been preached to use fonts that are easily scanned and Times is one of the fonts that people seem to believe is easily scanned by most software. Just my two cents but I know a lot of companies that prefer simple fonts (no matter how cliched or boring).

  • geraldine

    wow! thanks a lot. i am still in school but this will come in handy with finding internships i suppose.
    thanks again & God bless.

  • http://www.growthii.com Growth Initiatives Inc.

    good point

  • C. Michone

    The information provided was very helpful to the neophite designer. Thanks for the direction.

  • http://www.roqo.net Mayam

    Thank u so much .Great Help

  • http://jmc5326.aisites.com/IMD132/Final/Home.html Justin

    Interesting page.
    Does a graphic design resume really have to be entirely different than a networking or business resume? Both of mine (IT/Networking and Graphic Design) look the same except for experience and software.

    Is it really safe to make a design resume like the ones you posted above?

  • Somatie Romens

    This was a wonderful information… sadly in places like Latin America this “creative design” for resume would guarantee that you WON’T be given the job. Graphic Design resumes have to look like the one for a teacher, an accountant, a doctor. Times New Romans (or any other font that looks like it) is the rule and more than 2 pages are usually expected. Using any color other than black is also a no-no here. Latin America is very “business like” in what anything related to resume, and creativity is ONLY expected in the portfolio.

  • Thandie

    Thank You soooo so much!! This information is great.

  • http://joelongstreet.com Joe

    I’d like to know your thoughts on ‘gimmicky’ resumés? This is a bad example but, what if you’re a web designer and you make your resumé look like a website? If something like this was well executed and the idea was actually good, is a gimmick a great idea or does it suck?

  • Gino

    Joe – I would just stick with a classic well designed resume.

  • Karen Bishop

    I’ve been a graphic designer for 20 years. Just got laid off. Got to update my resume and wanted to do a little research to see what was out there. You have a great site and it’s really given me just the boost I needed to get started. You’re really doing such a good thing. Would you do one little thing for me and fix the typo under YOUR EXPERIENCE. It should probably begin with “List your”. I love what your doing so much, we can’t have a typo on your page. Hope I don’t have any in this message! Lots of love and God bless you.

  • http://WARPAINTART.WORDPRES.COM/ HAHK2

    THANKS… THAT WAS HEALTHY.. BEEN A MINIT SINCE I’VE READ ONE OF THESE HOW-TO’S OR NOT-HOW-TO’S… KEEP IT UP

  • http://joemdesign.com Joe Morris

    I felt pretty good about my CV — but now I feel even better reading up on the tips you’ve outlined in your article. Thanks. And the PDF’ed examples are all really good examples.

    I am curious what the community here thinks about how content is laid out in the experience category. The examples had two very distinctive ways of outlining the responsibilities and capabilities for each position or job. I am offering up another idea.

    I’ve chosen to list my experience per job as such:
    • Name of company, title, date of employment, geographic location.
    • Then, I state my primary responsibilities
    • Follow up with three to four bullets of what I’ve accomplished in this position. I think it’s short enough to be concise and long-enough to be interesting without boasting.

    Just a recommendation. Thoughts or opinions welcome.

  • Alexander

    Theres nothing wrong with using Word if you now how to use it to its full potential. Sure there are a lot of horrible resumes made in word, but how many pieces of garbage haven been made from an adobe product? Doesn’t make us use it any less. Keep your options open, you’ll be surprised what you can make in word when you invest some time into it.

  • Clarissa

    Steve!

    Your link was posted on my friend’s facebook wall in Vancouver! Random! Am in the web design program at the Art Institute now, almost finished. You’re stuff is fantastic! Why didn’t you teach me some things in Taipei??! ahaha. hope all’s well my friend!

    Clarissa

  • http://twitter.com/justingoldberg Justin Goldberg

    Also avoid arial and Comic Sans MS! lol

  • Karen S

    Ew, Comic Sans is one of the worst fonts… EVER. It makes me cringe whenever someone sends me an order using it. It is the primary soccer mom font choice.

  • http://nonewblack.blogspot.com katja bak

    this was super helpful in making my first resume. thankyou!

  • Matt

    Nice Work? NO! Dude, you misspelled several words, you didn’t know the difference between than and then and your examples of good resumes were crap. Sure you might have had one or two good points but thats it! I have a hard time trusting or taking serious someone who tells me to “spell check the crap” out of my resume when he couldn’t proofread his own site.

  • caccia

    This is an excellent resource for developing a resume. Thanks! **One small typo in the first line of the “Your Experience” section. :)

  • Molly

    I have to disagree with you on using serif fonts. It has been proven that Sans Serif fonts are easier to read the Serif fonts for body copy. I did how ever find the other information on your page useful. Thank you for providing it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Karen-Mitchell/100000913780945 Karen Mitchell

    “This is where you would write a brief statement about your goals, desired position and how you can benefit your potential employer.”

    This should be how your employer can benefit from you, not how you can benefit your potential employer.

    • Anne

      Both statements mean the same thing; it’s just a different style of writing.

  • Jamie

    Thank you for the guidance! Would you suggest dividing the CV up in to sub sections? Or just clearly paragraphed? Thanks once again! J