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How To Create A Great Web Design CV and Résumé?

The economy is bad. No one’s job is really 100% safe, so it’s time we all bucked up and got our recession bags packed (just in case!). Your portfolio is already gorgeous, but have you created a drool-worthy résumé?

This flimsy one-page document is more important than many people think: the résumé is the first portfolio piece that potential employers see, and if they’re not impressed, chances are they won’t look at the rest of your portfolio. “But I’m not a print designer!” you moan. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t want to hear your excuses! You need to conquer this, because if you’re a great Web designer, you don’t want your first impression to be mediocre.

The Steve Stevenson Challenge Link

Everyone likes a competition. How about one in which ten good Web designers have to design the same résumé in only a few hours? Meet Steven Stevenson.

Steven Stevenson, a fictional Web designer, doesn’t have a résumé. The competition: each designer must translate his work experience, education and interests into their own unique style. Watch and learn, people. At the end is a summary of good tips for Web designer résumés. (If you’re interested in taking the challenge yourself, check out misterstevenson.com1 for all the rules these designers followed, Steven Stevenson’s raw data and the chance to add your own entry.)

And in no particular order, here are the contestants’ entries!

Contest Entries Link

Sam Brown2 made a real effort to distinguish between the three main components of Steve Stevenson’s life and adds a touch of personality with some handwritten text and highlighting. He shows he isn’t afraid to mix media but manages to do so in an elegant, fun way.
Download the PDF3 | Download the source file (.ai)4


Ali Felski’s design is beautiful and simple, but manages to convey Steve Stevenson’s strong design skills. Her usage of colour is muted, but appropriate, and she’s left out a lot of extra information that could clutter up this one page document. Ali is also aware of the boundaries of the medium. She says, “A résumé should be designed well, but just like the Web, it has constraints, and even as designers, we should respect them.”
Download the PDF6 | Download the source file (.eps)7


Chris Spooner9 opts for a purely typographic, clean design that showcases his ability to display information without the need for adornment. Clean design is a skill that Steve Stevenson may possibly need should he be looking for a corporate Web design job, in which case he’d need to present something simple and professional.
Download the PDF10


Niamh Redmond makes Steve Stevenson’s résumé stand out by choosing a landscape-style document with well-divided content and good branding. Niamh says about her design: “My aim was to design something in which each element served a function. Every shape and line, the colors and their use, the font variations and text sizes were chosen to communicate something to the reader.”
Download the PDF12 | Download the source file (.eps)13


Eva-Lotta Lamm15 chose to keep her résumé simple and typographic: “The only illustrative element is Steve’s little logo (playing with the nice alliteration of his first and last name). It is repeated as a small blue dot to separate different section sin the résumé.” The result is a beautiful, yet simple piece, which is easy to follow.
Download the PDF16


Sarah Parmenter18 goes with a solid yellow background and a very prominent photo of Steven Stevenson (who is quite cute!). She breaks up the copy and puts emphasis on his freelance work.
Download the PDF19 | Download the source file (.ai)20


Wez Maynard has simplified the information and given it lots of room to breath. His design could easily be used as a Web design. He’s also given a lot of space and prominence to branding and has effectively separated the freelance work from the work experience.
Download the PDF22


Luc Pestille24 has added some great imagery without making it unprintable. He’s allowed spaces for a photo and company logos, and he brings in arty spray-painting. While most likely inappropriate for a corporate work environment, it is playfully suited to a funkier job opportunity.
Download the PDF25 | Download the source file (.ai)26


Ollie Kav28 chose to use Steve Stevenson’s love of Japanese culture to organize his résumé. These personal touches give the CV a huge dose of personality, which would give employers something interesting to speak with him about in the interview. “I’ve based the design on the signage in the Tokyo subway stations, which has bright bold colors,” Ollie says. This boldness makes for a resume that shows Steve Stevenson’s confidence and passion.
Download the PDF29 | Download the source file (.indd)30


Albert Lo32 has broken an important rule by making his résumé virtually unprintable. But he has also organized the information very differently: chronologically, with awards, skills and work all intertwined, just as they would be in real life. Albert says his inspiration came from listening to house and trance; his colors and illustration really communicate the type of designer he is.
Download the PDF33


You can download all of these entries in a handy ZIP file35 (5 Mb). Thanks to all designers for their participation!

10 Useful Tips For A Great Résumé Design Link

Let’s now take a look at some useful ideas and guidelines that – in our humble opinion – may help you to achieve a great, compact and beautiful CV.

1. Make It a Summary Link

Your résumé needs to tell an employer (at a quick glance) the details most relevant to him or her. This means the whole thing should fit on one page! If you’re a Web designer, keeping it short and punchy is even more important. Sure, writing for Web is different than writing for print, but by showing your potential employer that you can keep things concise, you are actually showcasing an important Web skill. Besides, you need to leave something to talk about in the interview!

2. Keep It Simple and Understandable Link

When designing a CV, remember first and foremost that you are a designer, but don’t go overboard. Many people over-design their résumé. It’s a chronic problem: they’ll add so many fancy bits that the actual content gets lost. Most design jobs are all about your ability to organize content, so simplify, simplify, simplify!

But that doesn’t mean boring either. “Simple doesn’t mean simplistic; simple is hard to achieve,” says Niamh. Remember that you are applying for a design job, not to become a managerial assistant or to compete in an art college creativity competition.

3. Leave Some Details Out Link

Some people include their entire life history and every personal detail on their résumé. Your job as a clerk at the corner store 10 years ago won’t ever get you a job in Web design. Mentioning it only takes focus away from your relevant work experience. Keep your marital status, age and grades off, too. What if a potential employer wants to see your grades? Wez Maynard offers some great advice about this: “If the employer wants to judge you on your grades and not your portfolio, believe me, you do not want to work for them.”

4. Make It Perfect Link

You are a professional, so attention to detail is critical. Everything on your CV should line up, every pixel should be absolutely perfect. And even though the job is not to be a writer, a large proportion of employers throw away résumés with spelling or grammatical mistakes in them. By making it perfect, you are showing potential employers that you aren’t sloppy and that you will care about every detail of their projects. Get 10 people who can spell to look it over. Just do it.

5. Use a Grid Link

Over and over, Web designers scream about “the grid.” Why is the grid so important for a Web designer’s résumé? If you’re applying for a design job, the employer will most likely have an understanding of grids and baseline grids. “If you’re not using a grid, you run the risk of giving the impression that you don’t have an understanding of basic design principles,” Olliekav warns us. For those employers with no design background, grids make your résumé look cleaner and more organized.

6. Make It Printable Link

When working on designs for websites, you are allowed to have dark, moody and texture-heavy backgrounds. They look fantastic on your browser, but they are simply inappropriate for résumés. Most CVs are printed out and given to hiring managers in batches, but not everyone has a photo-quality color printer; and, without contrast, your background-heavy résumé will become illegible.

So make sure your résumé

  1. matches the paper size for your country (letter size for the US and A4 for the UK, for example), so that employers don’t have to make any adjustments before printing,
  2. has a white background,
  3. looks okay in black and white,
  4. will print well at 300 dpi. The best way to avoid a pixelated result is to create a PDF with embedded fonts.

Displaying URLs for your projects is crucial. If the employer will be viewing the résumé as a PDF, link the URLs back to your portfolio (using anchors if it is very long) or the projects themselves. Here’s how to create links in a PDF document.

(Many of the designers in the Steve Stevenson challenge noted that they would have done this, but because the applicant is fictional, the links wouldn’t have gone anywhere!)

Once your résumé is printed out, it should serve as a quick reference for potential employers to check out your projects. So, spell out the URLs alongside your project descriptions. You don’t need the http://www at the beginning of each URL, though.

8. Don’t Use a Template Link

A little inspiration here and there never hurt anyone. But imagine you submitted a résumé and it was the exact same as someone else’s? Gosh, would your face be red. If you are a Web designer, you probably wouldn’t want to use a template for your portfolio website either. Take some time and think about the impression you want to make: I bet it isn’t that you can enter data into a template.

9. Update it often Link

Résumés are an often neglected aspect of a web designer’s portfolio. Make sure you update it every time you update your portfolio and make it accessible from your portfolio.

10. Show Your Personality Link

You are a designer, so I hope you have your own style. Steve Stevenson, from his interests, sounds like an interesting guy. Olliekav used his love of Japanese culture to give his résumé a personal touch without going overboard. If the job you’re applying for requires a lot of creative thinking, the employer wants to know you’re not a pixel pusher or a drone. Let them know you have personality, a sense of humor and a sense of style.

Bonus: If You’re Going to Break the Rules, Do It Well Link

Albert’s resume is completely unprintable, but it’s also absolutely beautiful. If you’re going to take risks like this, make sure you’re willing to alienate a few haters en route to more creative employers who will appreciate your ability to think outside of the box. Always make sure you’re aware of the rules, and break them cautiously. Done right, you’ll shine from the crowd.

The résumé is an oft-neglected piece of the Web designer’s portfolio. Make sure you update yours every time you update your portfolio, and make it accessible from your portfolio.


Footnotes Link

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Kat Neville is a freelance Canadian web designer (living in the UK) who is constantly coming up with too many ideas for new websites. She also loves arts and crafts, gardening and going on adventures. You can find her design work at

  1. 1

    Krisdat Kutayiah

    April 1, 2009 6:57 am

    Excellent Resource!!!!

  2. 2


    April 1, 2009 7:02 am

    great stuff. i just happen to be in the process of creating a new resume.

  3. 3

    Dieter Mueller

    April 1, 2009 7:29 am

    When I hire (web) designers for a project I want to see at least some thumbnails of their designs. Overall most web designers CVs look too much the same or tell the same story: yes you did some CSS – but so did everybody else …

    I want some more details about the person and your experience levels.

    How good are you with CSS, Photoshop and other stuff (beginner, good, excellent, god)? I don’t expect from designer to be brilliant in every field. For some projects / budgets it’s oke to hire a generalist and sometimes I am looking for specific skills. If you list for example your Photoskills divide them into fields of expertise like photo retouching etc.

    What was the size and duration f the projects you participated? Usually I prefer people who have experience working nerve wrecking (big) projects. Whipping up a small blog template for a small firm is one thing, working on a big ass shopping website with a couple of thousand products, sections and languages a whole different story.

    Do you have any international experience? For example menu items in French and German are usually much longer than in English. A good designer leaves extra space for longer words & phrases. Also colours and styles have often very different cultural meaning and impact.

    Do you have experience working with project management tools and methods (very important these days)? Being able to read and understand concepts and wireframes is important, also to follow project plans. Forget all grand delusions about being arty farty – you need to play your part in a serious production now – and project managers needs to know upfront if you can follow typical project management processes – or even organize some basic stuff yourself?!

    Have you produced any style guides? Can you do good presentations? How do you communicate and document your ideas, work and code? Most designers are terrible communicating their visuals (or code) to clients or even co-workers. They hate documentation, but it’s very important for the team and the client. Undocumented code or design decisions will cause problems, misunderstandings and unnecessary questions later.

    Which kind of sites / businesses do you have experience designing for (shopping, communities, news & corporate websites) and understand their business relevant mechanisms and target groups? Designing a site for elders and their pets is a completely different ball game than doing a World of Warcraft fan page. I want to hire a designer who familiar with the visuals, needs and lingo of a certain industry or target group. I don’t want to spend too much time explaining what’s important or not. That also means they do their homework and research that industry before doing any designs …

  4. 12

    Also, for great design jobs, look through twitter… for example, check out the great jobs currently available:


  5. 13

    Wicked article!

    I will say that your CV should ALWAYS be on white, practically must rule here. These CV’s will more often than not be printed – is saturating the page in ink the best way to impress your potential employer?

    Are the designers going to make the source files available to…. ahem….. borrow?

  6. 14

    kat neville

    April 1, 2009 7:48 am

    Hi guys, I’m the author of the article… thanks for your lovely feedback :). There’s so many things you can say about a resume (and I’m sure there’s been books written about them too!). At least one of the designers said they’d give it up as open source. I will ask the others and post em all on

  7. 15

    Right, the contest expects PDF’s, which I guess certainly explains the no images rule. So are PDF’s standard for CV’s? To be honest I’ve never heard that.

  8. 16

    Chris Raymond

    April 1, 2009 8:06 am

    Great article, and some fantastic designs. However, this fictional job applicant has only a modest number of years of experience in one field of design. Wonder how the designs might have changed for someone like me, with 10+ years of work in both print and web design, plus sometimes relevant work experience as a writer and editor? (I actually tweak the content of my resume depending on the employer…)

    I also have read from many resume-writing gurus that it is important not to just list job duties, but to offer a nugget of what you accomplished in a particular job: for example, “developed web production project checklist” or “turned around campaign design on 2-week deadline”–you get the idea.

    Curious to know what Kat thinks about this?
    my online portfolio
    my personal blog

  9. 17

    I agree that the best way to save your CV is as a PDF with embedded fonts but nearly every recruiter out there will want it in word format which can be a huge pain.

  10. 18

    Wez Maynard

    April 1, 2009 8:19 am

    Nice to see the comments roll in on this one! :)

    I, through personal experience and having worked alongside allot of agencies, would suggest that PDF is by far the most common form for submitting your cv.

    If you’ve allot to say, i dont think theres anything wrong with having 2, but certainly no more than three pages.

    Certainly in the creative industries – more often than not because employers (general sweeping statement forthcoming) understand what a pdf is, and that they CAN open/print it.

    If someone applying for a designers vacancy sent me their cv in word, they would be heading to the bottom of the pile. Your a designer, design your damn cv!

  11. 19

    In Response to “Dieter Mueller”‘s comment, all those questions are asked at the interview.

  12. 20

    Another tip – if you’re going to use words in another language, use them correctly. Ollie Kav’s has a few upside-down Kanji characters (next to Employment).

  13. 21

    kat neville

    April 1, 2009 8:35 am

    @chris it’s hard to choose what kind of character Steven Stevenson would be… in the end, I didn’t want to make the thing too long. Your stuff is lovely; you’re a very talented lady!

    Also sad that not ONE of the designers picked up on his love of watch making. I thought someone could have done something really cool with that!

  14. 22

    Lukasz Bachur

    April 1, 2009 8:40 am

    So creative topic! Good job.

  15. 23

    This is just what I need. Thanks!

  16. 24

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Thank you SM, I love you!

  17. 25


    Rule 8: Don’t Use a Template
    Yeah, but the artworks above look like templates. Many of them are templates without any doubt. It’s also a template if you copy it from your memory. Especially, Albert Lo seems to have a hyperthymestic memory :)

    Rule 10: Show Your Personality
    I studied all artworks above and do not know anything about Steven’s personality. He’s a webdesigner, right?
    Luc Prestille’s attempt is worst. Looks like the WordPress default theme :)

  18. 26

    Wow, this article goes against everything I’ve learned about creating a resume. HR departments routinely “file 90” fancy resumes and recruiters/consultants even go so far as to strip style out so it’s purely a typed up document.

  19. 27

    Sean McArthur

    April 1, 2009 10:01 am

    The picture of Ali Felski’s attempt links to Ollie Kav’s instead!

  20. 28




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