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How to Make Creative Resumes for Creative Fields

C.S. Jones April 9, 2024 · 5 min read

If you Google “creative resumes,†you’ll bring up a seemingly-infinite showcase of unconventional ideas. Resumes made to look like Google search results, subway maps, and movie posters, printed on billboards, candy wrappers, coffee cups… 2056e7e7e326df976f4d51f6d4424c64Image by Sid Santos

You’ll also see a ton of great designs on Creative Market, in the form of templates you can download and plug your own information into.

perseus_resume-template-cv_08-o“Perseus” by “Resume Templates”

So how can you make something that great yourself?

Start By Writing A Normal Resume

Form before function. Write a plain resume, then build a design around it. It’s just like any other project, except you’re both the copywriter and the designer. This way, you also have a plain resume for companies that request one.

Brand Yourself

I wrote about the basics of visual branding recently, and all of them apply to your resume in a big way. It can’t hurt to start with your overall brand: picking out in advance what colors, fonts, and visual iconography you want to represent yourself. This is especially important if you’re designing other promotional material, like business cards or a new website, at the same time.

5-Star-Plus-visual-identityImage from Retail Design Blog

Now, how do you get creative beyond that? What flourishes or unique media of presentation should you use?

Decide What’s Appropriate for Your Industry

Resume tradition dictates simple and common fonts like Helvetica or Georgia, plain white backgrounds, and no creative flourishes. Obviously, this isn’t what we’re going for, but it is what many hiring managers will be expecting, and they may be annoyed by something too left-field. Not to mention 40% of Fortune 500 companies use scanners to input their resumes: scanners that may be thrown by decorative typography.

How much creativity is too much?

The “general rule†is that jobs in fields without much competition require “safe†resumes, where jobs in fields with heavy competition may take something more creative to stand out from the crowd. I don’t think this is a hard-and-fast rule: in fields that involve design skills or respect visual talents, why not make something that showcases both?

Fortunately for decorative resume fans (although less-so for most job-seekers), most creative industries are high-competition as well visually-oriented and friendly to lateral thinking, so there’s no excuse not to go for it.

curriculum_vitae_by_jonny_rocketNot the best for a middle-management job, but perfect for what this graphic designer does. Image by Jonny-Rocket on Deviantart

Pick a Theme

Often, the field you’re applying to will dictate the form you take. If you’re a photographer, this could be as simple as lining the side of the page with thumbnails of your work, or as complicated as creating a resume that resembles an old-school camera ad. Animators may favor video resumes. Illustrators will find a prime opportunity to showcase their lettering or calligraphy skills in the headers.

If your field doesn’t dictate its form, you may decide to go with something more tangentially-linked, perhaps based on an interest that’s close to your heart, or that you think your employer may want to know about for some reason. Or, you can always fall back on something simple and based in flat, geometric design.

Sketch it Out

Again, this is much like any other project. With something as important as your resume, you probably don’t want to improvise.

During this stage, make sure every component of your resume is sectioned off into a distinct and easy-to-locate container, with a logical flow between the elements.

Refine It into a Final Version

I could say “design a final version,†but except for a lucky few of us, you won’t just sit down and produce one. It’s most likely going to be a long process of trial-and-error with different design elements and combinations before you hit one that strikes the right balance of personality, experimentalism, and good taste.

Some Closing Tips

Typography is particularly important. No matter how creative you get, ease of reading is your number-one concern. Avoid tiny text and graphic elements that overwhelm the actual words.

The one concession I will make to resume tradition is that, for your background, you probably want to stick to something neutral-colored. Not many people want to be bothered reading something that looks like it’s printed on a party lightbulb.

Remember what the visual metaphors you use for your resume say about you. A resume template with a faux-crumpled-paper background, showcased in Her Campus, drew complaints that it would make the applicant look messy and disorganized.

Provide an easy way to access your portfolio. If you’re submitting it digitally, that means a direct link, and if on paper, that means a short URL.

Finally, the most important thing to make sure is that your resume is an original idea, well-executed, and not a gimmick. There are plenty of people who hate creative resumes, but it’s likely that they’ve been exposed to too many of the latter.

updated_resume_by_chuckdlayThis graphic designer’s resume, frequently included in best-of lists, strikes an excellent balance between decorativeness and creativity. By Chuck D. Lay

Any other suggestions? Ideas? Opinions? Leave us a comment.

Ready to build your own creative resume? Try these templates:

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About the Author
C.S. Jones

C.S. Jones is a freelance writer, artist, and photographer.\r\n\r\nIn the past, he co-founded an art gallery and worked at a product photography studio. These days, he does photo tutorials (and gigs), online copy, and content marketing for a living. He also writes about webcomics at…

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