For a designer, a resume isn’t just a summary of your work experience; it’s a key portfolio piece that demonstrates your creative style, as well as your typographic, layout, and illustrational skills. So it’s crucial that you give a lot of consideration to the approach you’ll take on it, as well as how you’ll integrate it into your identity system as a whole. When you’ve finessed the content that you want to include, start with this checklist to make decisions on how your design will turn out.
Master the Basics
Conceptualize Your Identity System
Your resume should never be a standalone piece of work; as a part of your cohesive “brand,” it has to work with your business cards and portfolio design at minimum. And the visual language you choose to use should also be easily incorporated into other branding materials that you might choose to make in the future. This identity system is consistent as well as beautiful, and you can easily see how the typography, layout, and illustrations could be used in a variety of applications.
Typography Over All
By far the most important aspect of your resume design is the typography. Try to strike a balance between easily-readable, classic typefaces in the body text and striking, interesting ones in the headings. Beautiful type combinations are the hallmark of a good designer, so anyone reviewing your resume will look for this first. This resume, below on the left, would have benefitted from variegation in the type, while this one, below on the right, shows how even understated changes can make a big difference in adding sophistication to a piece.
Make Several Versions
It’s a good idea to consider making more than one resume; the first for a more conservative presentation, and the second for a more creative one. With both in hand, you’ll be able to tailor your application to suit the company.
A design resume can definitely benefit from some added styling; whether that means beautiful icons, an interesting layout, or lots of color. But you should never jump on a trend’s bandwagon without being sure of two things:
- Your version will be able to compete with what’s already out there (it shouldn’t be a poor imitation of another, better design)
- It makes sense in the application (and you’re not just senselessly applying it because it’s the cool new thing to do)
Data visualization is a big trend right now in resumes, so if you choose to do it, do it well. This resume, below, is a great example of how a subtle, clean use of infographics can add interest to a design. However, keep in mind that it’s from 2009; at this point, a resume with similar, straightforward graphics would be overlooked as passe.
Icons and Illustrations
A judicious use of illustrative elements can take a resume from sterile and boring to beautiful and inviting. While this resume emphasized the icons to the point where the text is overshadowed by them, they’re still very compelling. The key here is making a very unified and regular set of vector icons that you can hopefully use throughout your identity system. Make sure that your designs are fairly simple so that they can be resized and reused in multiple applications.
Arrangement and Color
Recently there has been somewhat of a trend towards resumes that have a disjointed or slanted alignment. While these designs are definitely interesting, keep in mind that such a radical choice should be balanced out by simple, traditional typography, like in this example, below.
Although some designers might want to make a statement in black and white (like in the first example); you should thoroughly consider your color choices and not just default to the obvious. Many of the resumes above show how a touch of color can make a big difference.
Of course, there’s always the danger of going too far in your creative approach; sometimes a resume has too much novelty, and it will come off as overdone, silly, or pretentious. Worse, the most flamboyant resumes (think ones that have far too many graphics or a layout that is distractingly bizarre) are often illegible and confusing. It’s far better to err on the side of caution and have a beautiful, subtle resume, than to waste time making an extremely flashy version that would only appeal to unusual tastes.