Practice Makes Passable: Resumes and Work Samples #3

This is the third in a series of posts documenting my evolution as a designer through the lens of resumes and work samples. If you missed the first two, you can find them here and here.


This one got me several interviews and my first real job out of college. As you can see, the resume hasn't changed much, but the work samples are almost completely different. The only thing that I didn't change was the idea of featuring one type of work on each page.

Page One: I Like Books
I've always struggled with professionalism and adult etiquette — don't talk politics and all that. I'm not good at being professional in the traditional sense. I think that work, especially design work, is or should be personal. I loved studio culture at school and I really hoped to find a firm with a similar working atmosphere. The book page was almost meant to be a litmus test for potential employers: if they saw the books and found the page interesting or compelling, then there was a good chance I would find them and their work interesting and compelling, right? And of course, on the flip-side, if they didn't like it or get it, then they probably weren't the kind of people I was looking for. This is one of the few things that I've produced that I'm not ashamed of yet. I don't necessarily think it's the best way to present myself to potential employers, but I do like it a lot. And coincidentally, when I was interviewing for my first job out of college, the interviewer had me walk him through each of the titles. Either he was humoring me, or he was interested/compelled, so I guess it worked.

Page Two: Architecture Models
As in my first work samples, this page is dedicated entirely to my best/favorite models. I thought it very clever at the time to have as little text as possible. The idea was that work samples should stand alone and communicate 80% of their message at a quick glance.

The best thing about this set of work samples is that somewhere between this one and the one before, I must have discovered that there's no need to reinvent the wheel every time you do something. When in doubt, use a simple grid system. Don't struggle and fight with images and type in pursuit of the perfect layout or composition. Just communicate as simply as possible and walk away. The painful irony is that I probably worked a lot harder on the terrible one.

Also, I'm pretty proud of these images. I still use them.

Page Three: Urban Design
On this one, I strayed from the formula. This one lacks the simplicity and clarity of my books and models. The text is hard to read, the images are too small to be descriptive, and its confusing: what's with the grid of faded images in the background? I don't know.

Page Four: Thesis
Again, too complicated. Text is hard to read and the images are too small. I think I was falling into the old trap of working too much on the computer screen and not printing enough. On a computer, 8.5 x 11 can seem infinite, but it's not. A single sheet of paper should only hold so much information, and this is way too much. Also, my thesis wasn't attractive enough or compelling enough to justify its own work sample page.


When I got laid off last year, I spent a lot of time generating a new portfolio and fresh new resumes and work samples. This is where I landed. With these, I chose to format the work samples to be consistent with my resume, an approach that I think is very appropriate. The layouts are simple, the hierarchies are clear, and I guess I think these are pretty good.

I sent these out all over the city, and I've actually received a lot of really good feedback (apocalyptic recession notwithstanding). A detail of note is that instead of communicating personality through a full page of books that I liked, this one uses more subtle cues. My favorite one is that I specify 1983-Present beside my name. It's not a loud joke, but I think it's kind of funny. And it's consistent with the formatting, so why not? I'm sure that not many people notice, and that even of those that notice only a very few give it a second thought, but I recently got the following email from a firm I'd contacted:


We got your resume some time ago and while I don't have any good news for you, I wanted to email you anyway to say that I appreciate you sending it to us. Of the many we're getting these days, yours stands out for several reasons:

1. You're an Auburn guy... War Eagle!
2. Your work is very nice. I like the hand drawn elevations on the last 2 projects.
3. The 1983-Present by your name is hilarious. My partner and I laughed and laughed and wondered what we would do with the resume if it said 1983-2010. We hoped you were trying to be funny about it... if not, I feel a little ridiculous now.

Sorry about the job market these days. I'm afraid it will be like this for a while. There are few firms that seem to still be working - you may want to check with the [...] (I see job ads for them every once in a while). There may be some others - just keep on trying.

Please stay in touch. Who knows what the future will bring..."

So I haven't heard from him since, but he got the joke, and he liked it. So now he's on my list of people in the city that I'll follow from now on. I want to work with people that are ready and willing to laugh. People that won't laugh aren't funny.

IDP Hours for the Jobless

From NCARB's website, a list of activities that allow unemployed architecture interns to earn IDP credit without having jobs. It's no fun to discover that your professional life depends, not on the quality of your work or education, but on the status of the economy. I'm specifically referring to those unfortunate designers who graduated from architecture school just in time to get a job, move to a new city, and get laid off. Bad economy = sit around until someone will hire you, at which point you can continue on with your march towards licensure.