A Designer’s Resume

We see plenty of designers’ resumes here, and thanks to a recent opening at FontShop, have seen and continue to see plenty more. So after a brief discussion with the editorial board yesterday, we decided it would be apropos to spend a couple articles in this series on resumes. Specifically, our own resumes. Ones that can and must stand up to the scrutiny of designers and art directors who are in a position to hire us. I’ll share typography-specific insights as they come up, but for the most part we’ll be sticking with general design principles.


After the cover letter, the designer’s book, or portfolio, is likely the first thing seen by a design studio or agency. If the work is good, the resume generally determines who gets called in for an interview. If the work’s no good, no one looks at the resume. When a resume crosses my desk, it’s a similar process. I see the overall composition first, and then if there’s a demonstrated ability to practice the principles of typographic design, I see the content.

Both the design and content of your resume should exist to serve its audience. Start with the content. Include your name and how you may be contacted, pertinent work and education information, etc. and exclude the rest. Fit it on a single page.

Now you can give appropriate form to your content. (And obviously since you’re the author, editor, and designer, your content can be trimmed or extended as needed to fit the form you give it.) Just to make a quick point, this managing the give and take of form and content happens to be what design is. For all the time we spend styling content and calling ourselves designers because of it, let’s not forget what designers must do in order to be designers.

A few general guidelines and you can take it from here. Create a clear visual hierarchy. Adhere to a baseline grid. Use adequate margins. Demonstrate proper use of typographic scale. Use figures, punctuation and symbols properly. Have a second set of eyes you trust check your work, including final design, spelling, and grammar. Here’s a rough sketch I did.



It’s rare that I’ll give specific instruction on what not to do, but in this case, yes, here are some clear don’ts.

Don’t be too clever with the medium. If the final version is on a nonstandard paper size, make a standard version that will e-mail and print properly without your supervision.

Don’t include the icons of Adobe’s Creative Suite for the purpose of demonstrating the depth of your experience with design software. If you designed these icons for Adobe, you may put them in your portfolio.

In fact, I don’t generally think it’s helpful to list all the software titles you use, ever.

Don’t feel you have to brand yourself. Remember that you’re a person, not a commodity.

That’s all. I’ll go into a bit more depth next week, and maybe touch on the burning question, “What’s the best font for a resume?”


  1. Greg Schaumburg
    Posted April 5, 2013 at 6:29 AM | Permalink

    Thank you. Well said and helpful.

  2. Margaret
    Posted April 5, 2013 at 10:11 AM | Permalink

    “Don’t feel you have to brand yourself. Remember that you’re a person, not a commodity.”

    I find this hilarious 🙂

  3. kcolucci@fristcenter.org
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 11:07 AM | Permalink

    The work should always speak louder than anything else being sent

  4. XM
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 6:21 PM | Permalink

    “In fact, I don’t generally think it’s helpful to list all the software titles you use, ever.”

    Not arguing with the core of this (and maybe it just needs a little more explanation), but for me, as a developer + designer hybrid who also spends a lot of time copywriting and has a experience in typography and 3D, I find that a lot of people don’t often understand what the true extent of my capabilities are (and just including these things without the software associated leaves too much open to imagination).

    While listing out *everything* would obviously lead to an unnecessary eyesore, I think that the definition of “designer” is expanding so much, and is so vague to begin with, that you’re doing yourself (and myself, as a potential employer or business partner) a disservice by not being clear and up-front about the tools that you use or the languages you write; i.e. a web designer using Dreamweaver is not of the same caliber as a designer who can write it by hand in an IDE (which ignores those who call themselves web/app/product designers but don’t sling any code at all, which is an unfortunate and growing amount).

    I realize this is an old post, but with it showing up in the newsletter, I thought I’d chime in.

  5. Posted January 2, 2014 at 6:59 PM | Permalink

    Well sure, if it’s helpful to potential employers in your subspecialty, list your commonly-used software titles. You might even tack on version numbers to some of those if there’s great distinction one from the next. My general feeling here though is that software titles come and go; and that it’s better when listing to list the specific technologies one uses, independent of any given software suite or vendor. Otherwise reading it feels like an artist naming their preferred brand of pencil. If you must list it, just call it a pencil.

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