At the risk of sounding (super) obvious, graphic design is a visual medium. The primary task of a graphic designer is to combine a blend of technology, art, and information to develop an eye-catching image with a compelling message. It should convey the concepts, reflect ideas, and inspire the audience to take action.
We all know that to increase our chances of employment at any facility, you need to send out an impressive resume. However, it is not as straightforward as it appears in the case of graphic designers. Designers (or most of those who work in the creative industry) have an extra challenge when crafting a graphic designer’s resume. Apart from having compelling content, it must also look great.
But why is that the case? You may ask. Well, as a designer, one of the first requirements in order to make it in this industry is to display creativity. This is why you should impress your potential employers by showing them how creative you can be right from the moment they get to know (or read) about you.
The dawn of technological advancements has greatly changed the way graphic designers approach the development of resumes. However, the one thing that stands out the most from them is that you need a standout portfolio and curriculum vitae. As a designer, you will need both a portfolio and a resume when applying for a job. The resume’s purpose is to talk more about you (who you are), while the portfolio talks more about your work (the best projects you have handled before).
In the words of Eric DiChiara, senior vice president of The Creative Group in Boston, “Most designers have a resume-like section in their digital portfolios, but they still need a strong standalone resume that they can quickly email to employers.”
While a designer’s portfolios can speak for themselves, you still need a great resume to add (or give more) context to your work while providing additional information regarding your skills and experiences – basically because such skills don’t just come out of nowhere.
According to Jérémy Chevallier, the Director of Marketing at Crash.co, “When we hire a graphic designer, we look at four key things: quality of work, consistency of work, tool competencies, and — if they’ve freelanced — positive testimonials.” Even though there has been a growing trend of freelance graphic designers, resumes will still be necessary, and just having a solid portfolio won’t be enough to land you a nice gig.
Whether you’re writing your resume from scratch or you wish to revise yours, there are still basic rules that you ought to follow – some are new while some have been there for a while. Considering such tips will enable your document to rise to the top.
In this post, you’ll learn top tips on how to write a graphic designer’s resume and how to add your job experience and education to your resume.
10 tips for writing a good graphic designer resume
1. Skip the objective
Objectives have become passé, and hiring managers tend to gloss over them. Rather than having an objective part, consider going for a professional summary. This just entails describing who you are and what you do best in only a sentence or two. The job summary should also highlight your most recent roles and qualifications. Generally, the professional summary should briefly answer the question, “why should we hire you?”
2. Be brief
Let me fill you in on a little secret – always be brief in all your submissions. At the most, one page of content is usually enough not unless you have a significant amount of relevant experience and qualifications. If you notice your content getting to the second page, try to look for words to cut out or phrases to shorten. More information about yourself can be added when submitting your cover letter.
3. Cut the clichés and jargon.
When writing a resume, it is okay to include your accomplishments in words that other creatives might understand. However, you should avoid using buzzwords and jargon that non-designers might well understand.
Remember that your application might first go through the HR (human resource) department, meaning someone that might not understand all that jargon you used, hence decreasing your chances of getting accepted.
4. Resist the temptation to get too creative
I know, I know. The whole point of applying for a designer’s job is to showcase how creative you can be. However, let your work speak for you and not your resume. Well, of course, there should be a little sense of creativity in your work, but don’t be tempted to overdo it.
If you apply for jobs through online listings, you should be content with the structures laid out for an applicant tracking system (ATS). These systems tend to have problems with reading unusual files with unusual elements such as images, fonts, and text boxes.
According to Terry B McDougall, “A graphic designer’s resume needs to make it through the applicant tracking systems first, and those programs use keyword matching, not aesthetics, to determine who makes it through to the next step in a recruiting process.” An ATS is built to strip out many design elements in the application and ends up delivering only a plain text version to the hiring manager. This is why it is crucial to stick to a simple template whenever you apply online.
But this rule shouldn’t stop you from showcasing your creativity in your resume. You can also go for a design-inspired resume if you have a way to bypass the ATS or if you are sending your application via email. However, be keen not to go for a design that completely distracts the recruiters from the main content of your resume. Furthermore, it should be able to reflect the style of work that you do.
Another thing to consider when making an online application is to include a link or links to some of your previous (best) projects. You can include the link to redirect to individual projects, your website, or your portfolio.
You’ll also want to ensure that these links are not just added to your resume but that they are also well visible. You can decide to create a designated section on your resume to include the links to your works, as you provide brief reports on them. Besides that, you can also add the links within the experience section of your document. For instance, if you create the logo used by a company, you could add a section like:
Collaborated with Bawabba on the design of the new company logo from research to conceptualization, through the draft, production, feedback, and finalization. (link)
6. Tailor your resume for different opportunities
Your resume might not change dramatically from one application to another, even when sending out job applications to different organizations. However, you should always plan to tailor your resume for every posting you respond to. Although this sounds cumbersome, it is easier than it actually sounds.
Here is a quick tip to help you around it:
If a particular proficiency or skill is listed in the job description, then you have to ensure that it appears more conspicuously on the resume (as long as you have the stated expertise and experience). Doing this will help you to cut out whatever won’t be relevant at that stage for that particular role. This is one of the tips that you can use to make your resume just one page long.
The desired goals and aesthetics vary from one company to another. You’ll have to be thoughtful about the external links (to your portfolio) that you indicate on the document. From the job description, you’ll be able to identify the company’s general taste, and you’ll also know the kind of work they are after. This will enable you to pick out the right samples of your previously done work that could help increase your chances of getting picked.
According to McDougall, “Seek to understand the goals of the company you’re interviewing with. Some companies want to use creativity to shock or gain attention. If you’re working as a graphic designer for a snowboard company, you will likely have much more leeway in your design than if you’re working for a more conventional company like a hardware store or hospital.”
Going in this direction will enable you to show your prospective employers that your abilities and aesthetics are a strong match for their needs, besides being a talented designer.
7. Use the right keywords.
In the era of applicant tracking systems, you must know the right keywords to use when making an online application. APS technologies are programmed to scan the resumes for specific keywords to determine which applicants may be more fit for the role.
Be careful, though, as you shouldn’t stuff your resume with all the graphic design keywords under the sun. Before making an application, you should first research the specific role and find out the most relevant keywords to be used.
Not sure where to start? Well, we know that job postings may vary, but here’s a list of popular keywords to use when writing your graphic designer resume:
- After Effects
- Brand Consistency
- Product Design
8. Highlight the relevant technical skills
It is a no-brainer that as a graphic designer, you already have a working knowledge of programs such as InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and such. Prospective employers will need to see such skills on your resume. However, you shouldn’t just stop there. After all, there might be tens or hundreds of you applying for the same role, and yes, you guessed that right, you might all have the same expertise in such programs.
If you are skilled in any additional programs that you think might be relevant to that particular role, you should consider adding them. According to Chevallier, you can “Go beyond pure design tools like Adobe and show that you also know marketing tools like Mailchimp or TweetDeck. These are complementary skills that will increase your value as a designer.” McDougall also adds that “If you have ‘crossover’ skills such as video editing, copywriting, or illustration, you should list them in the skills section of your resume, too.”
With that in mind, you should be careful about how you add such skills to your resume. For the sake of scannability, you can organize the skills in categories such as marketing tools, coding languages, design tools, etc.
9. Focus on the numbers
It might be challenging for designers to zero in on their work on hard data by thinking conceptually. However, you should note that today’s hiring managers are more interested in the results that your work has shown.
If your work is measurable, the better. You can include figures like sales statistics, fundraising figures, response rates, etc., that your design work has been able to pull during particular campaigns. This shows that you not only work to grab the attention of the target market, but you are also a results-oriented individual.
10. Spotlight your soft skills
Besides focusing more on the technical skills, you may also want to include the soft skills you are well versed with. Hiring managers are getting more attuned to non-technical skills such as teamwork, effective communication, problem-solving, time management, and flexibility.
Apart from just mentioning them, you can briefly explain how you would put such skills into action or how you have used them in previous settings.
These are not the only things to consider when writing a good graphic designer’s resume. There are tons of other things to factor in, such as:
Consider color – getting creative in your resume also means you can add some color to it. However, watch out that it only enhances your content and not getting in the way of it.
Prioritize readability – regardless of the format you have used to design your resume, ensure that the words used are easy to see and read. Readability should be a top priority, and you should always try to simplify the designs used.
Check the file size – this goes hand in hand with the graphic resolutions used on your resume. It should be a high-resolution document, with all images, colors, and texts appearing sharp. This means that they will still remain clear even when the hiring manager decides to print out the document.
Proofread – although this sounds cliche, always proofread your document before sending it out. Just know that a single typo or error could cost you the job, especially for a competitive position.
Before submitting your resume, ensure to go over it severally, both on-screen and on paper. You may also get help from a friend or a professional proofreader to help you out.
The top skills for a graphic designer
Before you even get to the nitty-gritty of a graphic designer’s resume, you need to first know the relevant skills you must get to qualify for any top design position. You also need to note that you might have all the technical skills required, but without displaying your soft skills, you might not get hired in any good setting.
Some of the skills that you need as a graphic designer include:
- UX / UI Design
- Print Design
- HTML / CSS
- Infographic Design
- Product Packaging Design
As a general rule of thumb, do not go way overboard with soft skills. This is because they can be a bit more difficult to back up, more so if you are new to the industry. For instance, anyone can say that they are creative, but it all changes when you need to work on InDesign.
What to include in a graphic designer resume
To come up with a competitive resume, your document needs to be subdivided into sections for readability. The main sections of a graphic designer resume are:
- Contact Information
- Work Experience
If you want your resume to stand out more, you can go ahead and add a few other optional sections such as:
- Awards & Certification
- Interests & Hobbies
This next section will help you to write the categories mentioned above:
1. Getting the contact information right
No matter how much this point has been stressed before, it still remains one of the most important things to consider when writing any type of resume. You may fail to get invited to interviews after sending your applications, mostly because the hiring managers could not reach out to you because of misspelled numbers or letters.
In general, the contact information section should contain details such as:
- Full Name
- Title – In this case, “Graphic Designer.” Make this specific (the role you’re applying for), and don’t try to be too creative (Master of Designs).
- Phone Number
- Email Address – use a professional email address, if any. If you don’t have one, you can create a new one with your full name, e.g., (firstname.lastname@example.org)’
- Portfolio Link
- Location – the location is optional and also dependent on whether the job summary requires you to add one.
2. The job summary or objective
Fun fact – recruiters take an average of six seconds to look at your resume. Well, while this looks a bit overboard, it is practical, as you can’t expect them to go through over 300 other applications. This means that if the hiring manager doesn’t see that you are fit for the job in a single glance, you may not get shortlisted.
Knowing that the biggest question you may have is how to hook the recruiter to your resume and see that you are the best fit for the job within the first few seconds they glance at your document. The simple answer is to have a compelling job summary.
But the big question pops up, which one should you go for? Is it the job summary or career objective? Here are examples of the two to help you understand the difference between them:
- Graphic designer resume job summary sample
Graphic designer with a strong background in marketing design. 5+ years of experience in creating infographics, Facebook ad creatives, banner ads, and more. Passionate about working in a marketing agency, which involves creating graphics for clients in all sorts of fields.
- Graphic designer resume career objective sample
Motivated graphic design student looking for an entry-level job at Software Company X. Passionate about web & UX / UI design. Experience creating website designs for made-up businesses as a student at University X. Skilled in Adobe Creative Suite, including Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and more.
From the two examples, we can conclude that a resume summary is a 2-4 sentence summary of your professional experiences and achievements, while a resume objective is a 2-4 sentence snapshot of your professional goals and aspirations.
With this, it is a clear indication that a career summary can speak more about your qualifications and convince the hiring managers to think that you are the perfect fit for the job. However, a career objective would come in handy if you’re new to the field and do not have much experience.
Making your graphic designer resume stand out
The bit of work experience is an essential part of your graphic designer resume, of course, after your portfolio. If you’ve had any experience before, some of the things that must stand out are:
- Job title
- Dates that you were active
- Company name
- Responsibilities & Achievements
Here’s an example:
If you really want to stand out from the rest, you need to pay more attention to how your words are placed. For instance, you should focus more on your achievements rather than responsibilities.
Instead of writing “charged with designing websites for client companies,” you can indicate “designed 30 client websites from start to end.” But what is the difference between the two, you may ask? The first one sounds a little too generic and doesn’t show your abilities as an individual. On the other hand, the second version is more specific and shows that you are result-oriented.
But what if you do not have work experience?
This is the greatest worry for most newbie graphic designers that are just throwing themselves into the market. You’re fresh out of college, or you’ve just learned your new skills from an online course but never had any clients before.
Do not worry if this is your case. You can still create an impressive graphic designer resume even if you’ve never landed any major gigs before. The most important thing is your portfolio and how it looks. Here are some of the ways you can create an outstanding portfolio without much experience:
- You can take your time to create mock-ups. You can design a website, posters, flyers, product packaging, etc.
- Pick up some freelance gigs in places like Bawabba.
- You can ask your friends or family if they know of anyone that might be looking for some cheap design work.
- You can also join online contests on websites such as 99 Designs.
Power words to consider when writing a graphic designer resume
Do not go for generic words when writing your resume, especially on the part of job experience. Your resume needs to STAND OUT; therefore, you should avoid more common words like:
- “Responsible for.”
- “Worked in.”
Everyone uses such words in their resumes, but yours needs to be different from the rest. Instead, go for powerful words that can help make your responsibilities and achievements stand out. Go for words such as:
Other sections to include on a graphic designer’s resume
Having done your education and experience background extensively, your resume is ready to be sent out, right? After all, you have covered all the essentials. Well, not really. There are still other sections that you may need to add to your resume to make it stand out. They include:
3. Awards and certifications
Have you won any competitions or received any awards throughout your work and school experience? If yes, and you feel it is relevant to the job, you can add it. If you have none, don’t worry, as there are so many places where you can get certifications that could come in handy in your application. Such sources include:
- User Experience Research & Design Coursera Certificate
- Adobe Certified Expert
- Advanced Graphic Design Class at MadeUpUniversity, and many others.
5. Hobbies and interests
Writing about your hobbies and interests won’t get you the job per se, but it plays a crucial part in increasing your chances of getting an offer. Most employers wouldn’t want to employ a robot that will only work on design projects back to back. They also need to know who you are as a person. Besides, what better way is there to bond with your employers besides shared interests?
Congratulations! If you have followed our guide to the latter, then you’re pretty much on the road to landing your next big job. Now, to sum up, here are the most important things that we have discussed in this post:
- Use a job summary to catch the attention of the hiring manager when going through your resume.
- Talk more about your achievements and rather not the responsibilities in your work experience section.
- Get your portfolio right. Some of the things that employers will consider before you’re employed are”
- Whether or not you have a good balance between your hard (technical) skills and soft skills
- Your proficiency in computer-assisted design (CAD) software
- Whether you have all the certifications necessary, such as NCIDQ
- How your skills may be invaluable to the company
Just remember that design is such a vast field, and you must tailor your document to match the requirements of that particular job description. As you submit your graphic designer resume, ensure that you have a compelling cover letter. This is one of the documents, besides your portfolio, that will help you win the hiring managers’ hearts.
But you shouldn’t always wait to apply to work for bigger corporations. You can always get your career moving by taking up well-paying gigs as a freelance graphic designer.
Frequently Asked Questions on graphic designer resumes.
Q: What if I haven’t finished college?
A: The lack of a diploma or degree shouldn’t discourage you from applying for your ideal job. Just get your portfolio in order, and if you’re still studying, you should mention the course you’re taking and mention the year you’re in or how many years you studied if at all you dropped out of school.
Q: Do I list my high school education?
A: The only time you can be allowed to add your high school education is when you do not have any higher education – but with a good knowledge of some CADs. However, if you have a higher education, that’s what you should mention. No one really cares about your As or Bs from high school.
Q: What goes first between education and experience?
A: No one will really penalize you for going for whichever format. However, to be on the safe side, start with the experience if you’ve worked before. If you don’t have lots of experience, then your education can go to the top.
Q: Should a graphic designer resume be designed?
A: Based on the nature of your industry, the resume you send should have some level of creativity to it. However, be careful not to overdo it. It will also depend on whether you are sending out your resume directly or through an applicant tracking system. If you’re using the latter, then you have to keep your design to its minimum.