Graphic design is shifting to more digital applications. The employment of graphic designers in computer systems design and related services is projected to increase 20 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Compare that to the 22 percent decline in the employment of graphic designers by newspaper, periodical, book and directory publishers.
As a current or prospective graphic designer, you may want to take advantage of digital opportunities in the field. However, job searching in the industry can be tricky, as debate ensues over traditional versus creative resumes. You may also need to prepare yourself for various interview practices, such as those that require you to give design feedback and complete live testing.
How can you develop a standout resume and nail the interview? And what kind of resume should you create? The following sections help answer these questions.
Standard or Creative Resume?
Some of the “coolest” resumes pull out all the stops, according to Business Insider. Whether they integrate QR codes, video, fabric, a milk carton or even mimic the results of a Google search results page, these graphic design resumes show just how much creativity can be involved.
But do they work? As the headline for the article explains, “Employers either love or hate these creative resumes.”
Forbes asked hiring managers and agency heads in advertising, branding and design whether color, icons, fancy fonts, background designs and infographics are acceptable for a graphic design resume. The results demonstrate how employers are split on the matter.
- Debbie Millman, founder and host at Design Matters Media, said resumes loaded with color, icons and infographics don’t fit the bill. “Graphics – especially not from a designer – smack of gimmickry and narcissism,” she said. “But I also would discourage designers from using any color, icons, fancy fonts, background designs or infographics.”
- “Resumes should be clear, clean and to the point,” said Sue Karlin, founder and CEO at Suka Creative. “I don’t believe they should entertain, distract or compete with the information the prospective employer or recruiter is looking for. I’m looking for a resume that is clear and easy to scan and for me to get information I need. No fancy fonts, no wild colors, no background designs.”
- “For a designer or writer, or even a brand strategist, a portfolio or website is the place to let your creative star shine,” said Rob Wallace, chief marketing officer at Sams and Co. “A resume needs to be that much more information-driven.” Wallace said he is drawn to people who use their resume as a place to reflect their core essence. “My recommendation? Create a logo, use a considered font, explore an expressive color palette…but never lose vision of the information.”
- “You have to think about the specific department to which you are applying,” said Bruce Stockler, global director of brand community at McCann Worldgroup. “If you’re applying to our growth (new business) or account leadership departments, a flashy resume probably won’t help. If you are applying for a job in digital creative or digital strategy, a sharp-looking website, Tumblr or HTML resume would probably be a good idea.”
What if you don’t want to be too flashy, but a standard resume doesn’t fit the bill? Be creative in finding a middle ground.
Ultimately, you may have to let your instincts guide your decision. “Just design to the standards that you love and adore, something that you like, because if you design a resume that you think captures what the company is looking for, and that’s not how your design is, you won’t be happy working for them,” said Christy Swanberg, a graphic designer and photographer based in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Graphic Design Resume
The resume gives you an opportunity to showcase who you are as a designer, Swanberg said.
“It really exemplifies the skills that you’ve learned to make graphic design a project that people can view because [graphic design is] not only about designing pretty shapes. It’s about understanding how the audience will interpret it.”
What should the graphic design resume include? Make sure you include as much relevant experience as possible. You can also focus on your skills in certain graphic design programs and tools. If the variety of programs that you’re able to work in is stronger than other elements of your resume, showcase that variety, she said. The same holds true for showcasing philanthropic work.
Take the time to consider your strengths and skill set, and then create a resume that illustrates what you can bring to that organization. You can also include awards, references, programming languages, social media profiles and more, based on how they apply to you and the position itself.
You’ll also want to consider how your resume will interact with your graphic design portfolio. If your resume highlights your experience with nonprofit organizations, then your portfolio should offer strong pieces from that industry.
Graphic Design Interview Tips
Interviews can incorporate unique elements. For instance, you may be asked how you would improve certain designs that are presented to you. Or you may be asked to briefly create a design in-person.
Be honest about your skills. Focus on what you do well and how you think it can benefit the organization in the prospective role. If you aren’t proficient in a particular skill that is mentioned during the interview, express how you would be interested in learning more. Professional development is a major part of the graphic design industry, so that could be an opportunity to express your desire to progress professionally. Also, share examples of how you have done this with other skills in the past.
Bringing a physical portfolio to the interview can be a powerful asset, Swanberg said. “This day and age is so digital that having something to touch is more real to people.”
Starting or Advancing Your Career in Graphic Design
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