The Pitfalls Of Graphic Resumes & How To Balance Creativity for Graphic Design Resumes

For creatives, the resume is often an opportunity to demonstrate design and layout abilities alongside exhibiting the key elements of candidacy in a standard resume. The introduction and rapid widespread utilization of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have instituted a simultaneous evolution in the approaches creative professionals must take in designing a successful resume.

While it is important to uphold your creative brand at every opportunity and exhibit your skills, it is equally as important to ensure your document’s performance before it reaches the eyes of a recruiter or hiring manager.

By blending functionality with creativity, it is possible to hit the mark on both fronts and take the next step in your design career.

The Basics of the Visual Resume

A visual resume is defined as a resume utilizing graphics, charts, colors, and other design elements to present key details of a candidate, including experience, skills, and additional information.

For graphic designers, a visual resume is a strategy used to demonstrate skills within the resume itself. The onset of ATS systems have revolutionized the approach job seekers, primarily designers, must take in maximizing the effectiveness of a visual resume.

As a graphic designer, the fundamental principles of design are second nature. Ensuring your document demonstrates proper hierarchy, balance, white space, and even movement may be a natural proficiency, but ensuring alignment to ATS best practices is likely not.

Building an ATS-Friendly Graphic Designer Resume

ATS serve as an electronic gatekeeper for employers and hiring managers, parsing a resume’s content into categories and scanning for specific keywords to determine if the document should be further passed to the next phase of the hiring process.

While traditionally a human would view and enjoy your graphic resume, a computer will commonly be the first “eyes” laid upon it. This means that your creative strategies simply need to evolve to match these new requirements.

Firstly, and most importantly, begin with a straightforward approach. Rather than incorporating multiple columns or tables of information, ensure your information and details are presented in a linear way. While this is a popular layout strategy of modern resumes, instead opt to integrate hierarchy with varying header alignment, strategic font pairings, and possible highlight colors when appropriate.

Traditionally, graphics can draw the eye of the viewer to create intended movement in the document. For an ATS-friendly resume, though, graphics — such as logos or complementary graphics to headings — can disrupt the technical reading process and cause your resume to be discarded. Instead, focus again on creating variety and interest in the way you organize and present your information.

Remember, your interviewer will have access to your provided portfolio of work alongside your resume for reference of your abilities.

The design principles harnessed through education and professional experience can be demonstrated even in the most basic document.


While building an ATS-friendly resume can feel limiting for a creative individual, the basic function of this first round in the job search is to land the interview. This creates the opportunity for leave-behind collateral.

A leave-behind is a document commonly left with your interview after the interview. As tangible items, there is certainly more space to leverage your design skills and creativity. Developing a secondary resume — and even other supplemental documents, including your cover letter and thank you letter — designed to showcase your designer brand is a very common practice in the modern job search and leaves behind a physical product for your interviewer to reference when they are preparing for second round interview selections.

Key Takeaways

Visual resumes with lots of graphics are appealing to look at, but they will not optimally perform in ATS scans and typically utilize a lot of space that would be better used on your skills and accomplishments. Maintaining a blend of traditional and visual styles can provide you with the best of both worlds. From the initial ATS scan to in-person interviews, focus on utilizing the complete job search process to demonstrate your creative skills. As the job search evolves, allow your approach to evolve with it.


Business Inquiries

Ryan Miller
Client Success Manager
Employment BOOST

Press Inquiries

Kane Carpenter
Director of Marketing
Employment BOOST

LinkedIn is the #1 place headhunters go to find you. With a LinkedIn Development upgrade, we will update your profile with your new resume information, keyword optimize, and assist with your photo selection and editing if needed.

Please Note: 24 and 48 Hour Resume Rush Service speeds up the time of delivery after your intake session. The sooner you schedule your intake session, the faster you will receive your documents. Rush is only available for the resume writing portion of your package and only applies to business hours.

Intake sessions take place during normal business hours Monday-Friday.

Available intake times will be highlighted post-purchase. If you cannot find a suitable time, call us immediately after your purchase.