by Jennifer Klein
The fastest way to compromise your chance of landing a job in a creative field is to submit a traditional resume. Creative professionals need to use their resumes as a tool to show their creativity and design abilities. Just as a model would not apply to a modeling job without headshots, nor would a writer apply to a position without a perfectly composed cover letter, a designer should not apply for a job without showcasing his/her design in the resume. Incorporating design into a creative professional’s resume is as important as including a name and contact information.
How to Put Together a Design Resume
Your profession will dictate how much design should go into your resume; while it is important for both a marketing executive and an interior designer to have a design resume on some level, the interior designer’s resume would incorporate more design aspects than the marketing executive. If you are in a field that is creative (such as marketing, media, or public relations), but you are not a designer, your resume may have just one design aspect that makes it stand out from a typical resume. If you are a designer, your resume needs to be treated as a design project, which means conceptualizing the resume’s design along with its content. You can express design elements in many ways, some of the most common being font characteristics, overall layout, a graphical element of design and/or use of color.
When choosing the font for your resume, consider both style and effects. While traditional resumes usually use typical fonts such as Times New Roman, a design resume can use any type of font as long as it is still professional and neither overwhelms nor distracts from the content of your resume. The use of effects such as small caps or outline type are also interesting on a design resume as long as you limit yourself to one effect. Although I have seen some designers use a few different font types on a resume, the rule of thumb is to choose one font that is interesting and professional, and use it throughout the resume.
Overall layout encompasses headers, separation of sections, spacing on the resume, and use of bullets or other organizational tool. These are all elements that any person needs to decide on when putting together a resume, but the difference in a design resume is that your choices need to reflect your creative skills and in some cases, your eye as an artist. “Overall layout” for a creative professional might also include graphic-design placement on the page.
I have seen designers create a graphic element and use that graphic on the resume. This graphic could be a small design used in a corner of the resume or on the header; or, it could be a larger graphic located somewhere on the resume that does not distract the reader from the content. Using a graphical element can be a great opportunity to showcase your skills, as long as it does not overwhelm the resume. (Note that if you choose to use a graphic design on your resume you will also want to incorporate this same design in your cover letter, teaser sheet, and portfolio. This design also needs to look great both on an electronic resume and on a print version, so be sure to print your resume before sending it out to ensure that the design works.)
Many creative professionals like to use color as an element of design, whether a colored line separating the header and content of the resume, or color that is more integrated into the entire resume; color can be a wonderful artistic element; however, it is important to remember that many professionals may not have a color printer, and many times a hiring manager will want to print out candidates’ resumes. Therefore, if using color as a design element, make sure that the resume will still represent your design even if the resume is printed in black and white.
It is very easy to make mistakes on a design resume. The most common (and most detrimental) mistake I have seen made is that the design overwhelms the resume. Remember that while your resume should showcase your design abilities and not look like a traditional resume, it is extremely important that the content of your resume is still easy to read, well organized, well written and edited, and that the content is very clear with regard to your design abilities. Sometimes incorporating too many elements of design can become distracting, and sometimes the elements that you choose to incorporate might not look right. Just as you would ask for feedback from other design professionals on your design projects, I encourage you to ask for critiques on your resume from people in your creative field.
Content in Relation to Design Resumes
If you are a creative professional, include all of your creative/design skills in the “Skills” section of your resume as these are important talents that will be required in any job for which you apply. In addition to any software/computer skills that are typically included on the resume, include a category of design/fabrication/creative that lists your skills in those areas as well. You can also consider including a “Design Philosophy” on your resume, in which you can make a statement about your design beliefs and/or style. (Make sure that if you do choose to mention a certain type of design expertise in your design philosophy that your resume represents that type of design. For example, if your design philosophy states you believe in modern design and straight lines, then the feel of your resume should represent that.)
If you are in a field of design that also requires a portfolio, it is important to incorporate the design aspects of your resume into your portfolio to provide branding consistency. The same is true of a teaser sheet. Be consistent with your font type, graphic elements, color, and other elements. The portfolio, teaser sheet, and resume should all have the same “feel” to them.
Final Thoughts on Design Resumes
A design resume looks both like a resume and a piece of design. You know more about design than this article can offer; deciding what your resume should look like and what design elements to include is a main part of your job as the designer. Your resume could be one of your most important design projects — the one that launches your formal career — so take time to think and plan as you use your creative skills, balancing professionalism with a design that works and makes the reviewer take note.
Here are Three Sample Design Resumes
- Design Resume Sample 1, showing judicious use of colored type, bullets, interesting font.
- Design Resume Sample 2, showing use of outline type, screen-tinted background graphic.
- Design Resume Sample 3, showing creative use of white space, branded, logo-like treatment of designer’s name. Used with permission of Cory Smith, senior, Wentworth Institute of Technology, pursuing B.S. degree in Industrial Design.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Jennifer Klein has her master’s degree in educational and developmental psychology from Boston College and an undergraduate degree in English from Skidmore College. She worked at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, MA, as senior co-op coordinator for industrial design students, where she implemented the requirement of design resumes for all ID students. She left Wentworth to work as a recruiter and currently does consulting work in the Washington, DC, area.
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