Portfolio Counsel

How To: Create A Great Design CV

Published on: 03-01-2015

Your Design CV should portray you at your best. Employers usually scan a creative CV in about 20-30 seconds, after which they should be left with a good understanding of what value you can add to their design practice.

CV Design
  1. Start with your profile.

    This should be a paragraph profiling your career to date. You want to give an overview of your experience, awards and achievements. It should be engaging and ensure that the prospective employer has a reason to read on. Talk of your skills with authority and conviction.

  2. List your experience.

    This should be the most recent first and should include:  Job title, company name, dates (very important), location and a brief description of the role (it is important here to mention any big brands you have worked with, and the extent of your involvement in these projects.

  3. Profile your education.

    You should start with your University degree, including dates, subject, level achieved (i.e. 2:1) and University attended (add any awards won here, too). Then add your college education with the same information. You can also add your secondary school information although this is not always necessary, less so the more advanced you are in your career..

  4. Software Skills.

    You should then follow with the software packages that you use.Crucially – this should include the ones you have experience with and not just a list of all the packages you have used once or twice. If you list all possible ones it will not be clear which you are competent with – prospective employers want to know that you will not need assistance using these packages if you get the job!

  5. Awards.

    If you have won any awards or have any notable achievements you should add them in here. If there has been any press coverage of these awards then add this in, too.  Don’t forget to mention the brands the work is associated with!

  6. Add referees.

    These should be professional rather than academic. You ideally want a mix of colleagues who have worked very close to you as well as senior members of the practice.

A Designer CV should be well designed. However, it is not an opportunity to show off your graphic skills. It should be simple looking and easy to navigate around and read. Quite often the best designed CV’s are the simplest looking.

It is often important to tailor your design CV for different design jobs.

After writing your CV, I suggest you give it to a valued peer and ask them to proof read it. Then, as a review, ask them what you do, what your main skills are and to name notable brands. The will give evidence of clarity and the ability of the reader to retain important information.



  • Grammar and Spelling:

    One of our pet-peeves is a CV with spelling and grammar mistakes! If you’re applying for a job as a designer, you may think it doesn’t matter, but yes it does! Spelling and grammar mistakes will make you seem uneducated, ignorant and/or lazy – none of these represent the image you’re trying to convey.  Always double check.

  • Throw in Some Colour

    For design positions, touches of colour are an acceptable way to add a discreet personal touch.  CV’s for this sector are and should be different to others!   Do be cautious though and don’t go crazy.

  • Include Work Samples

    If you don’t include any samples showing what you’re capable of, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that the recipient will not consider you for the job. You’re going for design roles; show them what you’re capable of!  Stills from motion graphics projects are perfect, unless you’ve been specifically asked to include something else. Don’t go overboard with images though- that’s what your online portfolio is for.

  • Be Brief

    Art directors do not have the time or the inclination to read your entire life story. Cut the flab from your CV and focus on the relevant details. If your CV is any longer than two pages, you’re waffling and including too much stuff. Clean, neat and well-laid-out CV’s will always win.

  • Do Not Use Word

    If you’re applying for a secretarial position, Microsoft Word is ideal, but if you’re after a design job or something creative, its limited and idiosyncratic layout options and subtle cross-platform issues can mangle the best CV’s. To create good-looking documents that are completely cross-platform, use PDF.

  • Use DTP Software

    Art directors will be paying close attention to the layout of your CV as much as the content, so it’s important to use a DTP package such as QuarkXPress, InDesign or even Illustrator will create great looking CV’s.  They will also enable you to save them as PDFs. You can always download a 30 day trial if you can’t afford one of these packages for yourself.

  • Be Honest

    Honesty is always the best policy.  You don’t want to risk being found out if you start ‘elaborating’ your CV.  It’s fraud and illegal and trust us, it won’t do you any favours.

  • Show your Personality

    Just because you’re keeping it simple, it doesn’t mean it has to be dull! A CV is a reflection of your temperament and character, and the recipient will be scanning it, consciously or not, for things that set you apart from the rest. Make your CV stand out with a distinctive design and personal touches.

  • Consistency is Key

    Design projects are usually centred around a single, consistent theme or concept that runs throughout the logo, branding, literature etc. Your CV, portfolio, covering letter and so on, need to demonstrate the same consistency. For example, bulleted lists should be in the same style across each of your pages.  The colour scheme should be consistent.  And so on.

  • Write a Cover Letter!

    Most of the time, when you apply for a job, your CV should be accompanied by a cover letter. This should look formal and business-like: this isn’t the place to showcase your creativity and imagination. It’s best to keep it short and to the point – three paragraphs is a good rule to go by; just enough to compliment your CV.
    Make sure it’s personal to the particular job and company you’re applying for; don’t copy and paste the cover letter and use the same one for all the jobs you’ve been applying for.


Also see advice on how to create a successful design portfolio.

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Written by: Adrem Admin