A Guide to Your First Design Resume

Before your portfolio is even examined, your resume will be used to create a first impression about you. This means your resume will be very important in helping you stand out amongst hundreds of other designers applying for the same position. We’re going to go over some important tips to remember when creating and formatting your design resume.

 What Are You Looking to Accomplish?

Before you start on your resume, it’s important to identify a list of potential employers. The last thing you want to do is make it seem like you copied and pasted hundreds of the same resume to every company you contacted. Do some market research on the companies you want to apply to and look through job descriptions and expectations of your desired position. Consider your needs and goals as a job seeker. What kind of job do you want to apply for? This will have an effect on the content and format of your resume. 

Focus on Content

Design is important for showcasing your content, but the content of your resume still maintains the highest priority. Ask yourself if your resume answers the follow questions:

  1. Who you are?
  2. Does it clearly state what position you are applying for?
  3. Showcase what you can do for the employer?
  4. Show you have appropriate experience for this position?

Many art directors won’t have time to sift through hundreds of resumes. Anything longer than a page is in danger of being thrown out. Focus on the relative details and keep it brief. Clean, well-organized resumes will grab the attention of an employer over a lengthy one. 

What to Include

Contact Information: Contact information should be included near the top of your resume. Depending how much information you need to disclose, e-mail, website and phone number will often suffice.   

Personal Statement: This is a quick statement including your title or how your skills can help impact the company. It’s important not to talk about yourself, but to direct it to your audience. Don’t make your personal statement something super generic like, “I’m looking to obtain a junior design position at  your company.” They already know that since you responded to their job ad. Make it personal, short and convey the benefits of them hiring you. 

Experience: Always place your education after experience. Real-world experience and familiarity with the design industry is what employers really want to see. Since so many people in our industry are self-taught, education holds little importance to most employers. It might get your foot in the door, but it certainly won’t get you hired.

Education: In this section, you want to display academic achievements, extracurricular activities and related courses. For example, it should look something like the example below:

BFA in Graphic Design
Sail University
Related Courses: Web Design, Advertising, Branding, HTML/CSS

Skills: Skills is a difficult section to populate especially for student designers just coming out of school. You might be familiar with the skill, but are you competent enough with it to consider yourself proficient? To begin, start with a really long list of everything you can say you “know” and begin to trim it down. If you have a skill that you are unsure about, list it anyways (you an always clarify during an interview).

I list HTML/CSS on my resume, but my strength is more in design. List your most prominent skills first, least-confident last. Again, make your skills appropriate for the position you are applying for. 

 Awards: Have you received any special recognition during your education or career? Anything in this section helps you stand out from other designers. Remember, it doesn’t always have to be design related, but make sure the experience/results are applicable to employer who will be reading your resume.   

Design: Keep It Simple

You’re a designer, so you should have a good grasp on typography, colour and layout techniques. It can be tempting to create a fanciful design with embellishments, but often times, these elements are just distractions from the content on your resume. Your layout needs to be simple, tasteful and to-the-point to facilitate easy reading for the viewer.  

Fonts: Fonts fall into two categories: san-serif and serif. It’s recommended that you use a serif for headers and a san-serif for body copy. In large blocks, serif fonts can strain the eyes. Changing the font will naturally bring attention to the different sections on your resume and guide the eye to the body content. Keep it to a maximum of two different typefaces. 

White Space: White space automatically creates visual separation for the reader. It allows for an easier aesthetic flow and consumption of content. One page provides very limited space for all the information you need to include. Make the best use of the space you have and use a two-column layout. For example, don’t use a whole line for a single word.  

Consistency: Are all your bulleted lists the same style? Are all your headers the same font and colour? Consistency on your resume says a lot about your design skills. Your resume should be consistent with your portfolio and personal branding scheme.

Grammar and Spelling

The tone you emulate with your writing has a direct influence on the way employers will perceive you, whether deliberate or not. Spelling and grammar mistakes will make you appear too lazy to be bothered with proofreading. This is not the message you’re trying to convey. If you want to appear professional, get someone else to read over your resume and fix any mistakes, since it can be really easy to overlook your own spelling mistakes. Make your first impression a memorable one because of your work and experience, not because of a spelling error.