Graphic Designers are in more need today than they ever have been. While, yes, things have definitely transitioned to more of a digital fashion, meaning more product-oriented design is required — we are still relying quite heavily on our branding, marketing and sales efforts in technology to drive the business forward. As more businesses become tech-driven, they’ll be looking to great communication designs to help them display their value to the end customer. This can be for consumers or even for B2B markets. The designing and creating of white papers, for instance, would fall directly on a graphic designer. In this article, I’m going to go over how to craft a great graphic design resume and what to be sure to include. As well put together some examples and samples you can use yourself.
Basics of the resume
Graphic Designers need to be sure they’re covering a few basics in their resume. The first one is showing their previous experience. Instead of listing what you did at your last company, I would encourage you to think about how you might show the results of your work. Tell a short story with words and data. Think of this as communication design in itself. You want to show percentages that you increased or business lines that you supported. Maybe even teams that you supported, like your sales team and the variety of assets they needed to do their job well. Show these in a really simple way. But also combine them with a brief introductory paragraph about what your primary responsibilities were. The primary responsibility should explain the domain you had. Meaning, imagine trying to explain to a stranger when to come to you for certain needs. That would be what you might include in this.
In the graphic design space, in particular, it's important to allude to awards and accolades. Since this is quite an easy process to submit your work to a variety of online and print publications which showcase great branding or graphic design examples, you should be doing this. I wouldn’t list too many awards that you’ve won, many graphic designers have hundreds of awards. But definitely list the most important ones. Anything like “40 under 40” or something similar, would be really great. Be sure these are towards the footer of your one-page resume.
Here’s a list of what you might want to include in your resume, in no priority:
Achievements Prior work experience, including responsibilities and title and dates Prior work accomplishments, including moments you were pleased with the outcomes Accolades and awards for creative work Education and clubs you were part of Your basic information and links to your creative portfolio Skills and software programs you are familiar with, like Adobe Suite products (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and more)
Articulating your achievements
You have a few options, you can either articulate your strengths as a person or you can articulate accomplishments. When I think of accomplishments, I think of them as a series of bullet points that could either be related to your previous employment or also could not be. Meaning, maybe it was a school project that achieved some high degree of notoriety. I like to put achievements front and center before thinking about previous job experience. Mostly because as we become more distracted in the workplace, this is a simple way to show your overall strengths and why a job or hiring manager might continue reading. List 3-4 bullet points at most, make sure they’re extremely powerful, support this work data of any kind. For example, the number of visitors to a Website would be fine.
Education is a misnomer
While this may be up for quite a bit of debate, if you are following along the steps above when you are thinking about designing your resume, you won’t need to rely so heavily on education. Education is definitely a factor in hiring, but since you are applying for a creative position, your results will carry much more weight than education. For education, I like to tuck that towards the bottom of the one-page resume as well. It will not be as heavily considered in a graphic design position as you might think.
While this is not part of your resume. You have to remember that you will most likely be attaching a resume, cover letter, and portfolio. We’ll get into the cover letter in a moment. When you think about your portfolio, I would encourage you to think along the same lines as the above. Support your creative work with how it helped the business you were apart of. That will show your ability to take responsibility and also the ability to be part of broader conversations which you can turn into executables. This will help you stand out and will also make it easier for you to speak about fair compensation. You’ll have the ability to support your track record. If you don’t have that track record yet, you’ll have to understand that your portfolio in the future needs to get built out with that. So in lieu of that, you can use variety to your favor. Try to show scenarios of which you’ve designed for that are broad. From print to digital and from one space to another. This will help show that you are a flexible team player which is just as valuable as someone with a strong track record.
Whenever designing your portfolio, it can be a healthy practice to think about what other people might be sending in. Try to put your portfolio in PDF form versus a slideshow and try to make it brief but strong. You want to stand out from the crowd because someone hiring for this position is going to be looking over hundreds or potentially thousands of visual portfolios. You’ll need to find a way to distinguish yourself. Using your own photo can also help. Since it gives some personality to the presentation and puts a face to the work. Try to make it friendly, inviting and personal to you.
When thinking about the length
Length of your graphic design resume is important. If your resume is long or is designed poorly, then there’s going to be some irony in your presentation. Try to keep the resume to 1 or 2 pages at most. Ideally, its only 1 page and you have the ability for the interviewer to ask you more questions. Rely on the above points of interest to really pack a strong punch in that single page. Think about your information architecture and layout on the page as well. You need to make this something that speaks volumes for the type of work that you do. Also, consider not using too many custom fonts as your future employer may still print your resume to share with colleagues during the interview process and you’ll want that to present itself well. Use at the most, 9pt font. You want it to be legible when printed but also not too big so that you can’t express what you need to.
Your graphic design cover letter
Graphic Design Cover Letters can be the difference between you landing the job or the competition. There not much difference between the skills or tools used by designers. Designers mostly differ from each other based on their experience and the way they present themselves in the interviews. You can’t compete with a person’s experience, but you can highlight your significance with a compelling cover letter along with a resume.
Let’s look into what goes into making an effective cover letter.
What to include in the body of the letter?
The body of your cover letter is the space that you can use to create the biggest impression on the recruiter’s mind. A recruiter is solely focused on finding the best candidate for the job.
Start with your biggest achievement till date. Mention things that are related to the design field and are worth mentioning.
Anything you cite in your cover letter should help the cause and should be supported by facts. For example, do not just state your skills, mention your accomplished degrees too. Put more weight in your appeal by speaking about your personal passion in the design field.
Show your love for the importance of branding in modern and historical business (Example: Uber, AirBNB, Google, Facebook caring about branding and investing in their branding).
Explain how graphic design can play a role in helping all team members and how you envision that working inside the company you are applying for.
Put focus more on the work you did than the title of the job. Be specific about it. Don’t just stop at mentioning Lead Designer, state out the aspects like print design, typography. Mention your desires and ambitions to advance further in your career and show some passion for the company and their mission.
Finally, do not just end the letter with a simple acknowledgment like ‘Thank you.’ Rather be daring and deliver a proposition. It hints at your eagerness and interest to work for the company. These propositions should be something specific to that company, the company’s sector or the job itself.
Let's take a look at an example graphic design cover letter. In this cover letter, it's important that you don’t copy it 1:1. It will be easy to recognize that you’ve found the format online. And you won’t really be able to stand out from the crowd very much, which is one our main principles from earlier. Instead, think of this as checking the box of a few different types of data points to include. Try to spend as much time as you can in a quiet place, writing down your thoughts. It can be difficult for creative people to talk themselves up, so it's important you do your best. You are a valuable player in the organization, remember that. So be sure you are presenting yourself with confidence both in written form and verbal form later on.
Graphic Designer, MN designs
17 November, 2018
Mr. John Doe
Address Line 1
New York, NY 10011
Dear Mr. Doe —
Having been the recipient of Designer’ Choice of the Year Award for my logo design of NX Inc. in 2017 has been the greatest moment in my life thus far. With the logo redesign, NX Inc. registered a 14% boost in sales. I’m a firm believer that general acknowledgement of design is vital for creating a successful branding in business. Look at big players like Google, Apple or Facebook, all have their distinct but simple trademark. Hence, simplicity has been the trademark in my designs; making the creations highly comprehensible with the general mass. Graphic designs that highly relate to the market help other teams positively (increasing sales, expanding market, making new customers). One of my clients, DKG Stores had a 10% increase in market growth after I did some work to simplify their website design.
It has been 12 years since I first started my work as a graphic designer. I’m highly excited at the prospect of working with FKD Studios. I’m already acquainted with the wonderful work you people are doing in the digital design sphere and would love to contribute to that with my expertise. Here are some of my past achievements:
• 5-year experience as a lead designer at MN Designs; helped redesign the company’s website to increase conversion rates by 11%.
• Worked at SnT for 3 years; redesigned their brand theme which resulted in 7% hike in their annual product sales.
• 4-year experience as a freelance designer; worked on flash animation, UX design and wireframing.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design. Apart from UX and logo design, I’m adept at sketching and illustrating and proficient at using Adobe Creative Suite, InDesign, CSS, HTML5, and HTML. I am truly buzzed thinking about what I can contribute to FKD Studios. Can we agree on some time to talk about redesigning the company’s website to create 12% more leads than the current scenario?
As you can see from the above cover letter example, we’re using the opportunity of the first paragraph to emphasize on greatest strengths. Then in the second paragraph, we’re telling them why we want the job, the reason for applying and why this is a unique position. Finally, in the third paragraph, we support some achievements and talk to the match between person and employer. It's quite a basic format if you think about it, but it covers most of the fountain to create a great relationship.
Since these days when job postings go online, especially for graphic design, an employer might receive hundreds or thousands of applicants. It’s important to try and find a way you can go above and beyond standing out. One tip and trick I’ve seen is attaching a small custom video interview of yourself. If you have the ability to do this through the portal, attach a copy of you speaking to the camera and to the person hiring for the position. You can speak to all of the points above if you want. But this simply helps you get one step further to personalized delivery. Be sure you aren’t duplicating this video multiple times for each employer, spend the time to do it correctly. Because that will show. I’ve also seen some professionals put together video collages of their creative work, this is also a very neat idea that lets the future employer see your work in the way you decide to present it. Also, when people tend to open video files on the computer, they often spend the time to complete it. And this can be a big benefit for you, having the floor to discuss yourself.
I hope this article has been insightful for you and that it helped to think through the materials you will need in your future job hunt. I’ll be including more samples and templates in the near future, although I would strongly encourage you to develop your own as they will help to accomplish our main goal: have you stand out from the rest of the crowd.