5 Ways to Get Your Design CV Graduation­-Ready

Design students—enter your student work in the HOW Promotion & Marketing Design Awards by April 10! All winners will see their work in print this Fall, and the Best of Show winner scores a free registration to HOW Design Live 2018, plus a gorgeous award to be presented at the conference. 

The following article is contributed by online trade printing company QuinnsThePrinters.

The design industry job market is a tough place for those fresh out of education or training. The competition for starter roles can be fierce.

One of the best ways for any student to stand out is experience—but how can someone who hasn’t even completed their studies get enough real experience in graphic design?

Fear not—there are ways around this challenge. After years of replying to requests for advice from young designers, online trade printing company QuinnsThePrinters has created this guide to getting the right experience to make your CV and portfolio stand out in the crowd.

5 Ways to Get Your Design CV and Portfolio Graduation­-Ready

5 Ways to Get Your Graphic Design CV Graduation­-Ready

Blog Your Way to Thought Leadership

A static portfolio of work is an essential sales tool in your design career. It showcases your creativity and your final products. But to really stand out, you will benefit from publishing your own blog online. It acts as a website portal to your online portfolio. More than that though, it gives you the space to really showcase the breadth of your talents and knowledge.

Blog posts don’t have to center around what you’re studying or the small projects you find to gain experience through. You can also highlight your inspirations in the design world. You can write opinion pieces on issues affecting the industry, or chart your personal story and how creativity has shaped your hobbies, your travel, your home.

The scope really is broad, and a blog is the ideal outlet for it. You’re archiving your thoughts and work for employers, but you’re also gradually making yourself searchable online, attracting people to you rather than you chasing them. It also improves your experience of design and aesthetics for online audiences.

This effort to become a thought leader in your field shows a potential employer that you have passion and ambition, and also that you’re an industry thinker as well as a doer. Someone who will bring well-rounded knowledge and opinions to their team

TIP: Blogging need not cost more than your time. WordPress templates, basic storage and standard domain names are all available for free and are widely used by big businesses too.

Get with the Local Businesses

If you feel you don’t have enough real business-world experience in your design CV, then stepping away from the laptop and taking a walk outside your house may provide the answer.

A stroll through your community will reveal to you a plethora of small businesses that might not have the budgets to hire design agencies. Whether it’s the coffee shop, the small vegetable grocer or the corner pub, these businesses require design—whether it’s branding, posters, flyers or for social media.


Related: Branding, posters, flyers—this is exactly the kind of work accepted in the HOW Promotion & Marketing Design Awards, whether it’s created for yourself, for a class project or for a paying client. Learn more here.

(Work pictured here is by design student Michaela Yarbrough. See more of her work and that of other students here.)

You’ll find introductions to the decision­-makers easy at this local-business level, especially when you are a local customer yourself. They may even have a small budget to pay you for your time. But what you’ll learn in terms of experience managing clients and content for your portfolio or blog is really priceless at this stage of your design career.

TIP: Approach local businesses in the way you would in the real world: Ask for a meeting and then come prepared with ideas that show where they could benefit from a new/revamped design and how this fits with the local market/what their competitors are doing. This doubles as pitching experience.

Help Out at the Business Hubs

With the digital business economy making it more achievable for people to work for themselves, startups, entrepreneurs and co­working spaces for freelancers are popping up in towns and villages everywhere.

Hubs and co­working spaces can provide you with opportunities for guest speaking and training. They’ll often run sessions for members on everything from branding to digital marketing and social media. Of course, you can’t teach them all to be designers, but offering to show people the basic principals of design when they’re using popular free tools (e.g., Canva) could be really beneficial both to them, and to your CV.

And of course, entrepreneurs need to brand and market just like a bigger company would—and they often suffer the same budget constraints that local small businesses do. So there’s opportunity for gaining experience in that way as well.

TIP: If you don’t feel you have the confidence to present at a group level, consider first going into the hubs yourself, perhaps renting a desk for the day. This way you get to know people and help them one-on-one, which is still valuable real­-world experience.

Design for Good

Not everyone wants to share their talent and hard work with businesses for little or no pay. If that’s you, then a good cause may be the right place to channel your efforts. Charities and community groups rarely have the financial resources to invest in design—and yet they can benefit so much from it.

Approaching a cause that’s close to your heart or an event or venue that interests you will ensure you have a personal investment and passion for the voluntary donation of your time. It also shows potential employers that you’re a well­-rounded individual, committed to the community in which you work. (Corporate social responsibility is a high priority for many business owners).

And if you want to regularly give your time to a voluntary organization, it’s likely you’ll be given more free rein to take responsibility for a higher-level piece of work—which will work wonders for your CV and portfolio.

TIP: If you can’t immediately think of a cause or group, research with a local council or government department that’s responsible for funding charitable projects. You can also contact umbrella bodies for volunteering or the charity commissions, which will be able to give you a list of local organizations.

Make Your Portfolio Sing

When it comes to communicating the work examples that you do have, make sure that you’re showcasing them to maximum effect. Yes, this is a creative industry, and so a visual portfolio is essential to show your skill set. But don’t forget about the process. Remember that a lot of research, strategy and thought goes into the projects that a full agency or in­-house team will create. So be sure to explain the brief you were given, or the problem you tried to solve.

Then show how you researched the market, how you perhaps tested ideas, the feedback you had from the recipient (your “client”). Be sure to mention anyone else you had to work with as part of a virtual or real team, such as web developers or trade printing companies.

Learning how to articulate the design process adds to a more well-rounded experience. This will show potential employers that you possess all the qualities a designer needs in order to work for them. It also ensures that even if they don’t personally like any final designs in your portfolio, they’ve been given insight into your process, your research and your drafts, which will show your potential to grow and improve.

TIP: If you really want to show personality and attract attention to your CV, then think of visual and creative ways to showcase your projects­.

Big news: The Regional Design Awards is now open to both pros and students.

Students, enter for a chance to have your work published, win a pass to HOW Design Live, and much more.

2017 Judges: Aaron Draplin / Jessica Hische / Pum Lefebure / Ellen LuptonEddie OparaPaula Scher.

Student work judges: PRINT editorial & creative director Debbie Millman and PRINT editor-in-chief Zachary Petit.

Enter the 2017 PRINT RDA by the Deadline, April 3!