Graphic designers possess what is known as “visual intelligence” — the smarts to produce compelling information design and illustration, presented in an eye-catching way. If you’re a graphic designer, these skills will come in handy in producing what may be your most important work of art — the resume that lands you your dream job.
This guide will explore everything a graphic designer needs to know about crafting the ideal resume, including:
- What do graphic designers do?
- Salary and job outlook for graphic designers
- How to write a graphic designer resume
- Resume examples and guides to writing the resume summary, work history, education and skills sections
- Choosing the best resume format for a graphic designer
What do graphic designers do?
Graphic designers are artists, illustrators, visual geniuses — people who can draw a portrait, create a logo, produce a map, or break down a blizzard of information in an easy-to-read chart. They may be fine artists, pop artists, commercial artists or all three.
And they don’t just do artwork. Good graphic designers are skilled in typography, layout, photo editing and all other aspects that affect the look and feel of the final product, whether it’s a book cover, a magazine spread, a website design, a business card or the front of a box of cereal.
Graphic artists are skilled at every step of the creative process, from concept and visualization to design and execution. They may also have to meet with clients and managers , come to an intuitive understanding of their wants and needs, negotiate the production process, and navigate the hazardous shoals of “design by committee” in which too many cooks may spoil the soup.
Salary and job outlook for graphic designers
The median annual salary for graphic designers in the United States was $52,110 in May 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means half earned less and half earned more. The lowest 10 percent made less than $30,810, while the top 10 percent made more than $89,210.
How much do graphic designers make?
Median annual wages for U.S. graphic designers in the top industries that employed them in 2019:
- Advertising, public relations and related services $54,320
- Specialized design services $54,150
- Newspapers, periodical, book and directory publishers $43,950
- Printing and related support activities $41,290
Another aggregator of salary stats, Payscale.com, has very similar figures, saying graphic designers earn an average of $52,933 a year. Salary.com puts the average pay for graphic artists and designers a bit higher, at $56,100.
The job outlook for graphic designers in the decade ahead is not so promising. The BLS projects a loss in jobs for graphic designers of 4% from 2019 through 2029 — which compares with a growth in jobs of 4% in the overall economy.
Why? Well, for starters, do you subscribe to daily newspapers and monthly magazines like your parents did, or spend a lot of time browsing in your neighborhood book store, if there’s even one left? Most people nowadays don’t. The digital revolution has had a devastating effect on print media, which previously employed lots of graphic designers to make its products look great.
The upside is that positive growth is projected for graphic designers specializing in online and multimedia design — because all those apps and websites the world has migrated toward don’t just design themselves.
Graphic design remains a popular field for job candidates to pursue, but facing a dwindling number of total jobs, those with 21st-century skills are most likely to prevail. And, we hasten to add — those with superior resumes.
How to write a graphic designer resume
A graphic designer resume should be a one-page document that consists of just five essential components:
- Resume header
- Work history
Writing is not always graphic designers’ strongest suit, or else they might have become writers instead of artists. But if you’re in this category, never fear — you’ve got ONE PAGE to write, and none of it has to be in complete sentences.
This one page can, and usually should, be supplemented by an online portfolio of your published work, and employers will often speed-read your resume anyway, when what they really want to see is your artwork.
The header is an attractively designed section at the top of the resume (and sometimes along the sides) that contains your name, occupation, address, phone number and email. In the old days, these were known as letterheads, and companies used to buy reams of fine paper that were blank except for this informative element at the top. Then the office secretary would roll them into their Selectric typewriters and “take a letter.”
Some things don’t change. You still need a nice-looking section at the top of your page that provides your critical contact info. Here you may be totally in your element, working with creative typography, a nice layout, an appropriate use of white space, a little color, maybe some icons. You may or may not choose to include a photo of yourself.
You can, of course, design your own header if you choose. But you can also pick from the recruiter-approved resume templates offered by resume.io. These have been tested on the market and are effective at one specific thing: working well with recruiter psychology and hiring practices. So, when writing your graphic designer resume, make sure you are doing so on a template that’s been vetted in real conditions.
The function of the header is twofold: It’s essential for the obvious reason that it lets employers know how to reach you if they’re interested. But it also sets the tone for the look and feel of your page — it gives you a “visual brand” — and it should make the page look eye-catching before the recruiter reads the first word.
That leaves just four other components you need in your resume.
Graphic designer profile/summary resume example
A resume is mostly a collection of lists — lists of jobs, schools, and skills — but the resume profile, sometimes called a summary, is one exception. It consists of a few lines of text under your header that describes your “superpowers” in your own words.
It doesn’t need to contain the word “I,” and it doesn’t need to be written in complete sentences. If you start with “Wildly creative graphic designer with vast experience in editorial and commercial illustration and layout,” the employer will know who you’re talking about.
This section is sometimes called a “job objective” if it identifies the type of job you’re looking for. But it may be obvious from your experience and skills that you’re looking for the same kind of job you’re already good at.
Put a lot of thought into your graphic designer resume profile. Use imaginative, evocative language, never flabby or dull. This profile is your best opportunity to describe yourself on your own terms, so squander it at your peril.
You never want to sound arrogant or egotistical, like you’re God’s gift to graphic design, but you do want to sound like a standout candidate. Pump yourself up a bit without going overboard.
Here’s an example of a decent profile/summary for a graphic designer:
Experienced Graphic Designer adept in creating powerful visual designs using digital illustrations, images, and typography. Committed to helping clients shape their brand identity through the use of compelling graphic designs. Accustomed to collaborating with other creative professionals to achieve project goals.
How to beat the ATS bots
Many large employers use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which are computer programs that perform automated searches of resumes for job-related keywords and filter them according to their relevance.
The way these systems work is that employers input important job qualifications into the ATS — for example, “graphic designer” would probably be the first crucial keyword for a graphic designer job — and then run your resume through the software to see whether you mention these all-important keywords.
If your resume never mentions the words “graphic designer” — and that’s the only thing the employer is looking for — then your resume is likely to be rejected by the ATS search bots before any human being even glances at it.
In fact, an estimated 75% of resumes are automatically rejected by ATS software without any human review. This is why it’s so important to review job listings closely and make your resume match the job requirements as closely as possible.
Customize your resume
The tip that appears above brings us to another essential point — why it’s critical to customize your resume for each potential employer.
A resume is not a one-size-fits-all document that you create once and then send to 100 employers. It’s a dynamic, editable document that you can and must adjust to address the needs and wants of each employer.
Resume ATS optimization is the process of tweaking your resume slightly for each job application so that it speaks to what each employer is looking for. If you skip this step and trust that your one-off resume is good enough for all, you are bound to fail the ATS test again and again.
Graphic designer work history resume example
Many graphic designers ignore or underplay the role of their resume employment history, focusing instead on their visual achievements. This is a mistake.
The work history section of your graphic designer resume is still very important: if you’re applying to a company, not only are your skills and accomplishments relevant, but the employer also needs proof you can work within a team and a corporate structure. The employment history IS that proof.
“What have you done for me lately?” — in addition to being a great Janet Jackson song — is probably all employers’ top question. In other words, for companies that are hiring, nothing carries more weight than recent, relevant, impressive experience in the field.
Which brings us back to that idea of a portfolio. You need to find a way to showcase your published work, and attaching 25 images to an email isn’t going to work. If you can create a personal website dedicated to showcasing your artwork, that’s probably ideal. Then you can send a recruiter all your greatest hits in one link.
But you’ll also need an employment history section on your resume that highlights the top jobs you’ve held and what you did there. Many graphic designers are self-employed, so this doesn’t necessarily have to be the standard reverse chronological recitation of all your most recent jobs. But it does need to highlight your best work ever.
What if your graphic designer work history is made up of freelance gigs?
Don’t worry, that’s not an obstacle. You just need to apply some creative thinking to how you format/structure this section. There are a couple of options:
- Add your largest freelance gigs as projects, but in the same format as formal job positions (mention the dates and add bullet points below describing project accomplishments, milestones and relevant facts). This approach is good when 50% or more of your career has been in freelance.
- If your freelance projects are in the minority, you can either omit the months in the dates and/or note “Freelance project” in parenthesis next to your project role.
- “Self-employed” (once again - in the same format as a regular job) is another way to note your freelance work when it doesn’t compose the majority of your career history. Mention the years and add your major projects as bullet points below. You can see examples of this all over LinkedIn in freelancer profiles.
Don’t just say where you worked or for how long, but be specific about what you did at each of these jobs, using facts and figures wherever possible. Use bullet points and strong action verbs to describe your specific achievements, accomplishments and milestones.
Here’s an example of a good graphic designer work history:
Graphic Designer at First Run Creative, New York
September 2017 — February 2021
- Worked directly with clients to produce appealing and compelling presentations that engaged target audiences.
- Utilized extensive knowledge of Keynote, PowerPoint, and Adobe Creative Suite.
- Brought forth advanced experience working with typography and graphic design principles.
- Created designs for different screen types and media platforms.
- Successfully packaged and optimized presentations for ultimate client satisfaction.
What if I have no experience?
It’s always good to have experience, but everybody has to start somewhere. If you’re just starting out, or changing careers, then you need to find a creative way to highlight anything you’ve done that’s relevant to the job you’re seeking.
This might include internships, fellowships, volunteer work or at times work totally outside your field. If you have no experience because you’re still in college, it might be a good idea to list your educational qualifications first — and to go the extra mile in your profile/summary to explain why you know this is the right field for you.
Graphic designer education resume example
The graphic designer resume education section is usually brief and to the point, with simple formatting. Graphics designers looking for a job usually need a bachelor’s degree in a related field —graphic design, fine art or the like. A bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field can also work with additional design-related training and/or certification. You rarely need more than one degree or certification to be qualified for a graphic designer position.
But plenty of famous artists had little formal training. If you’re good, you’re good, and if your portfolio proves it, your chances are as strong as anyone’s.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design provides accreditation for some 363 member institutions, establishing national U.S. standards and providing credentials for art and design disciplines. AIGA is another professional design association that offers courses in graphic design to keep designers’ skills sharp and up to date.
Here’s an example of a graphic artist education section:
- September 2011 — May 2015, Bachelor of Graphic Design, Purchase College, Harrison
- September 2007 — May 2011, High School Diploma, White Plains High School, White Plains
Graphic designer skills section resume sample
Obviously, you’re not going to get anywhere without skills. Skills are the main reason anyone would hire a graphic designer, so you should put considerable emphasis on this section in your resume. In terms of priority, they are equally important (or perhaps - very slightly below) your profile and work history. In some cases, the skills section will actually be the most important one for a graphic designer. For example, if an employer wants you to work with website designs, they will expect to see Figma or Sketch in your skill list alongside Photoshop. Forgetting to mention these may even become a deal-breaker.
Typically, the skills section of a graphic designer resume will highlight both “hard” and “soft” skills. Hard skills are technical capabilities, like knowledge of Photoshop or InDesign, that allow you to sit down and do your job all alone. Soft skills are “people skills” that mean you play well with others — you’re a good listener, a good talker, a good coordinator, a good negotiator.
Make a master list of all the things you’re good at, even if they’re things you take for granted. Then pare it down to six or eight items that are actually unusual, and marketable, and put them on your final list.
To avoid clichés, try to think of skills that won’t be on everybody else’s resume, or at least find a different way to describe them.
The BLS lists the following as important qualities for graphic designers:
- Analytical skills
- Artistic ability
- Communication skills
- Computer skills
- Time-management skills
Here’s an example of a good skills section for a graphic designer:
- Adobe InDesign
- Digital Photography
- Graphic Design Principles
- Adobe Photoshop
- Effective Time Management
Best resume/CV format for a graphic designer
In case you didn’t know, what’s known as a resume in the U.S. and Canada is usually known as a CV in other countries. But whether you’re looking for a graphic designer job in Houston or Hong Kong, you need to find a format for this document that’s worthy of a graphic designer.
It needs to look as good as it reads — but that’s your specialty, right?
Resume.io divides its resume templates into styles called Simple, Creative, Professional and Modern. As a graphic designer, you might want to lean toward the creative templates , which have just a bit more visual pizzazz. But even if you design your resume yourself, you need to think carefully about its format and design. You are, after all, a designer, so the look of your resume should actually demonstrate to potential employers that you’re good at what you do.
If you find a design here you like, simply click on it, and our easy-to-use builder tool will walk you through the steps of turning this into a resume that’s ready to send.
- Graphic designers make our world more colorful, adding art and illustration to almost every product we see. But it’s an industry in decline, making it essential for you to have a superior job pitch in a highly competitive field.
- A graphic designer resume should be a visual demonstration of your skills, but it also needs the crucial components that every resume/CV needs.
- These elements include a well-designed header and well-written profile, work history, education and skills sections.
- You must customize your resume for each job you want, making it reflect the qualifications mentioned in the job listing in order to be greenlighted by the electronic ATS test.
- Graphic designers should choose a resume format that best highlights their job skills.
Review related resume examples at resume.io here:
Your dream job is out there. Now go find it!