Do's & Don'ts of Graphic Design Resumes: Tips for Rookies

graphic design resume tips

Think back to the Resume 101 class you likely took in high school. You still have the old-school format ingrained in your brain with all of the necessary ingredients: name, objective, education, experience, skills and accomplishments, all squished into a black and white, cookie-cutter layout. Basically, it’s a carbon copy of every other resume out there.

"When I'm in a hurry, I don't take the initiative to view a candidate's portfolio unless their resume screams originality."

Now if you’re pursuing a career in graphic design, forget everything you learned about standard resumes! Graphic design resumes are all about creativity and making a great first impression, according to Veronique James, CEO of The James Agency.

“When I’m in a hurry, I don’t take the initiative to view a candidate’s portfolio unless their resume screams originality,” James says. She hires designers frequently and says unfortunately an outstanding designer may be overlooked if his or her resume doesn’t catch the eye of the employer.

So we enlisted some experts to share some best practices for crafting a creative graphic design resume. These tips will help ensure sure you’re not one of those unlucky designers who get unnoticed.

Quick tips for graphic design resumes

What to do …

  • DO incorporate some spark of personality and visual flare, clearly demonstrating your design skills and training.
  • DO include your email address. If your personal email address is something silly, create a separate, professional account.
  • DO use one of your design programs like Adobe Illustrator, InDesign or Photoshop to create your resume.
  • DO include a web address to your online portfolio. As a graphic designer, it’s essential to showcase your multimedia design capabilities.
  • DO follow the age-old rule of keeping your resume to one page in length.
  • DO save your resume as a PDF to manage size, images and fonts.
  • DO highlight your design skills, including (but not limited to) software proficiency. No need to list every course you’ve taken; focus on what you learned!
  • DO use contrasting colors in your design. That way it will still be visually interesting even if an employer prints it in black and white.
  • DO make sure your headlines stand out and flow organically.
  • DO include your social media information. Many employers will search for you anyway, so providing them with the proper account names will ensure they find the right person. It will also give them a taste of your personality.
  • DO experiment with innovative layouts, such as formatting your resume like an infographic. Just be sure it’s clean and easily digestible.
  • DO create a resume NOW! No need to wait until graduation to perfect your resume or portfolio

What NOT to do …

  • DON’T go overboard with visuals, textures, background or funky fonts.
  • DON’T make an employer hunt you down. Make sure your contact information is present and easy to read.
  • DON’T submit a resume produced in Microsoft Word unless it is absolutely required.
  • DON’T forget to include any professional training or certifications you’ve earned, as well as clubs or organizations in which you’re involved. This shows you’re committed to your career and have taken the initiative to develop as a professional.
  • DON’T create a resume that is a unique size. Keep it on a standard paper size so nothing is cut off or cropped if printed.
  • DON’T forget that some job boards have size limitations on resume attachments/uploads. If your resume is a large file, have a less elaborate “Option B” ready just in case.
  • DON’T assume you NEED to include your GPA. It’s not usually required for designers, so only include it if it’s higher than 3.5.
  • DON’T think the only way to maintain your resume’s layout is to outline or flatten everything.
  • DON’T think that only registered businesses can have a logo or icon. Creating a personal logo or letter mark can help you establish a brand as a designer.
  • DON’T forget to give your social media profiles a professional makeover before providing them to potential employers.
  • DON’T forget to continually update your resume as you develop new skills and gain experience.

Open the door to an opportunity

You’re probably well aware that your design portfolio will carry the most weight in the hiring decision. But your resume often holds the key to getting your portfolio in front of the right person. Keep this list handy because these tips and tricks contain the info you need to grab the attention of any potential employer.

Now that you’re on your well on your way to crafting a standout graphic design resume, make sure your portfolio is up to par. Check out these graphic design portfolio tips!


Callie Malvik

Callie is the Content Manager at Collegis Education, overseeing blog content on behalf of Rasmussen College. She is passionate about creating quality resources that empower others to improve their lives through education.

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