How to Create a Graphic Design Resume
9 July, 2018 in Resumes & Cover Letters

Anyone who works as a graph designer is in luck when they have to create a resume. There are very few fields of endeavor that allow applicants to demonstrate the skills that are relevant to their work on an actual resume in such a direct manner. It is not possible for a teacher to craft his or her resume as an assignment or homework, attorneys do not have the opportunity to defend the contents of their resume in court, and a pastry chef cannot bake a “resume cake.”

But where creating a graphic design resume is concerned, the applicant has the option – and they should take it – of treating this document as though it were a portfolio sample. The way this application document is designed has the potential to help clients and would-be employers to understand your level of creativity and style, which is not possible in standard resume format, especially those that are created in letter-style.  

Whether your graphic design resume is intended to kick-start a career in graphic design or you are a seasoned professional seeking fresh opportunities, the following tips should take you a step nearer your objective:

Writing a Graphic Design Resume

A graphic designer resume should begin with the applicant’s contact information. 

A resume for graphic design work should begin with full and accurate contact information for the applicant. This means the applicant’s name, email address, telephone number, and any URL(s) that are relevant i.e. URLs to the applicant’s website or portfolio. It may be that you want to include additional information according to your particular circumstances.

Place contact information in the uppermost part of the first resume page or at the very bottom to make it easy to locate. In the case of a two-page resume, make sure that contact information is also displayed on page two. This will enable prospective employers to contact you even if the pages of the resume become unintentionally separated.

Keep your resume short

It is likely you have achieved some excellent things so far in your career and life – at both a personal and professional level – but you do not need to list each one of these on a resume. It is best to keep it simple. Those reading it have numerous applicants’ papers to read, and your chance of making a good impression will be damaged if you submit a resume that is overly-long and too detailed.

A graphic resume can be likened to a single photo or snapshot that provides a vivid and detailed picture without superfluous detail. Consider it to be a condensed snapshot of everything you have thus far achieved in your professional career. Think of it as a synopsis that displays only the very best.

Be totally honest

The time when almost “everyone” exaggerated to some extent on their resume no longer exists since the emergence of Google. Nowadays, it is possible for clients and employers to discover all the information they need about a person prior to engaging them, so attempts at embellishment should be resisted.

For a start, if you lie and are found out, the chances of getting a desired job are likely to be nullified. However, another factor that needs to be considered is that an employer will expect to see evidence of the level of skill claimed by applicants on graphic designer resumes. In the event you are unable to deliver expected results, any job you get may come to an end quickly.

Leave out any details that are extraneous

While creative resume ideas are a plus, candidates should stick rigidly to facts on application documents – a resume needs to represent your skills and experience as a professional. Unnecessary details such as age, preferred hobbies, and any part-time jobs held during high school do not need to be included. Resumes should focus only on information that shows the candidate is the best person for a particular job.

Nevertheless, when designing a resume, you might wish to include some information that does not relate directly to the job being applied for, but helps readers understand the person you are.

Results should be highlighted

Be sure to include sufficient details when discussing previous work-related experiences and the clients you worked for. Most employers and recruiting managers want to understand what work you did in previous employments, but it is not sufficient to merely provide a list of responsibilities held. As well as showing you worked hard, you also need to draw attention to results you achieved. 

Include a cover letter and make it formal 

How important a cover letter is should not be underestimated, particularly when you are submitting job applications by email. In a lot of cases it is the cover letter that determines whether a recruiter takes time to go on and read a resume or not. This letter needs to be concise, informative, and professional.

A common mistake that a lot of applicants make when putting together application documents is creating cover letters that are little more than longer versions of their enclosed resumes. This is not the purpose of a cover letter – it is meant to introduce you to a potential employer and give you chance to say why and how you are a good match for what a company is seeking.

In the spirit of truly professional graphic design resumes, cover letters should be brief; they should be one-page long – strictly no more. Write short paragraphs and convey your point without delay or procrastination. Assume that employers will skim the cover letters you send quickly for relevant information, so avoid too much detail. Finish your cover letter professionally with an appropriate salutation and include accurate contact details.

Edit meticulously 

When your resume is written, the task is still not completely finished. It still needs to be edited for grammar and spelling errors and to ensure it is clear.

You cannot rely completely on spellchecking software since these do not always pick up on proper nouns and phrasing. It is a bit more difficult to check grammar, and even software designed to check grammar can overlook obvious errors. It is helpful to read a finished resume aloud; if something does not sound absolutely right, it may indicate a grammar glitch. This method is also a good way of spotting if any words are missing.

Designing a Graphic Design Resume

Utilize tools from your own trade

If you want a creative cover letter design and creative resume design, leave MS Word aside for the moment. To create the “resume look” you want, use a design program e.g. Illustrator or InDesign. This will enable you to create a consistent and interconnected design that can be used for both printing and posting/sending online. Clients and employers will also be able to use this to connect your print-version resume with your electronic portfolio since their visual capabilities are similar.     

Personalize your design to make it yours

The design of your resume is a good opportunity to demonstrate to prospective clients and employers something of your unique personality - in terms of the individual you are and your capability as a graphic designer. It lets future colleagues get an idea about whether or not you identify with them and match their organizational culture.

Use templates cautiously

If, for example, you want to create a resume with logo art and/or other design features quickly, there are plenty ready-made templates for doing this. While these tools can be useful, you should not use them to create a resume for yourself. To start with, there is no way of knowing who or how many people is using the template you have chosen. Should it come to a prospective employer’s attention that you are using the same design for your resume as other designers, they will probably take no further interest in you or the other candidates.

In the event you do use an existing template, alter the design so that your “trick” is at least not obvious. Templates are sometimes a good way of learning resume and design techniques, but if they that are no more than a form with “blanks’ to fill in, they will simply jeopardize your chance of gaining employment.

Choose colors wisely

Except in cases where perhaps a resume for creative jobs is needed, graphic design experts generally differ from applicants in other professions insofar as they are at liberty to bring some personality and color into their application documents. There can be considerable advantages to this since color has the ability to draw a range of emotions from readers. The most effective and right color scheme in a resume is a way of playing to recruiters’ emotions. Blue, for instance, is associated with stability and security and gives the impression you are a secure option for a particular position.

Your highest priority should be readability

Where resumes and cover letters for graphic designers are concerned, you should never put fashion above functionality. Ultimately, a resume is just that and should function as a resume. This implies the information in it should be legible to recruiters.

Use legible and simple fonts. Choose a font that is readable and ignore those that are flourished and fancy. The content should flow logically in the way it is laid out and it should be arranged in a manner that fits how people read pages of text.

Consider displaying information in infographic format

Infographics are something most people love. They are a way of breaking ideas down into more digestible format, and in a way that is exciting and entertaining. Many of the best resumes are comprised of some good-quality infographics, and designers have been known to have made excellent use of them to convert entire resumes into this format.

Whitespace should be used advantageously

Now you know where to put contact info on resume documents and you understand where other information goes, using whitespace is another method of appealing to recruiters with numerous resumes to read all at once. This applies to both cover letters and resumes, even in cases where the resume is a standard text document.

Good use of whitespace allows information to be scanned quickly and easily, and this means the most important elements of your cover letter and resume actually stand the best chance of being read/seen. Keep your paragraphs short and break information up by using lists.

Getting a Resume Distributed

Send digital copies as PDF files

While much depends on each situation, it may be necessary for you to distribute your resume to prospective employers in digital format. PDF format is the better option in these cases. Why? Well, to start with, you are not in a position to know which office software an employer uses or is accustomed to. Therefore, it is possible that where a document appears perfect to you, compatibility problems may cause it to look different on a recipient’s computer. The majority of people can, of course, access a .doc (MS Word) file, but this format can be unpredictable if someone uses a different program to try to access it. A professional tip worth bearing in mind for sending digital copies of resumes is that the sender should place their name immediately within the file name e.g. “Peter-Jones-Resume.pdf.”.

Make sure the paper you use is good quality

A resume is, essentially, a request that an employer makes an investment in the applicant’s design skills; so you can at least make a little investment in the process yourself. Use good-quality paper to make your application shine. Where recruiters can just feel that your resume is different from others, it can go a long way to making it stand out.

Files should be good-quality

A format of 300 dots per inch (dpi) gives the best print output so make sure you use at least this format. This applies to both digital and printed resumes, and it is possible a potential employer will have a reason to print a resume.

Resumes should be presented in a professional manner

One mistake that a lot of graphic designers are guilty of is focusing too much on creating their resumes and preparing themselves for interview, to the point they overlook a vital in-between step: the presentation of their resume and the need to make contact.

Sometimes, a resume will be presented personally by the applicant, either directly to a client, to a company’s receptionist, or to a representative of a HR department. Regardless of who your resume is being presented to, it is essential the first impression you make is a good one, and undoubtedly this is what you will want. Dress in a professional manner, be clean and neat in your appearance, and be professional and polite in your conduct.

Be ready to take various materials along with you e.g. your professional portfolio or business cards. It is difficult to know how a first meeting between you and a prospective employer will unfold, and often you might get questions or the opportunity to discuss the job or position briefly. Think of this of a type of advance interview.

At other times, a resume will be sent by email, so it is essential to have your resume in digital format. Similar rules to the “advance interview” scenario apply; while there might not be any contact on a person-to-person level, this is an opportunity to ensure the initial impression is a good one.

Last Thoughts

Your resume should, ultimately, be one you are able to stand by – a document you are happy with and one you think represents your own tastes and style in an accurate and fair way.


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