Practice Makes Passable: Resumes and Work Samples #2

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


So in my last Practice Makes Passable post, remember the disclaimer I attached to my first resumes - "...I didn't spend a lot of time or energy...they didn't represent me to any prospective employers..." Right? Well, that was all said in truth, but also to amplify our appreciation of this sample. In contrast to the first, this one does represent some time and energy; it was created specifically for a prospective employer, and I think it's far worse than the first two. I'm not sure what the fonts are, or why "SKILLS" isn’t the same as everything else. I'm also not sure why it's so so terrible.

As before, I have no record of grades or criticism. The only thing I can offer by way of feedback is that I did not get the job.


This one actually got me a job - my first internship. I remember thinking it was good at the time, although the first time I printed it out the size of the type really caught me off guard. I'd grown used to looking at it on a computer screen, and it didn't look good on a real sheet of paper — print often. In spite of this realization, I proceeded to hand them out at Auburn's internship fair, an annual gathering of 70-100 firms from all over the country. In addition to the cartoon layout and type sizes, this resume suffers from bad/excessive_use_of_underscore and bad use | of | the | pipe. But the work samples...

I had a couple dozen interviews at the internship fair, and two of them went particularly well: a firm in Huntsville (my home town) made me an offer, and a firm in Memphis requested some work samples and maybe a follow-up. I'd never done work samples before and so after the interviews, I scrambled to put something together. The results are above, and man are they lousy. As lousy as they are though, they're hard to critique; all I can think of to say is "No, no, no, no, no, no...Wrong. No. Bad. That's bad. Yeah. No, don't sent that. Don't. No." I just can't figure out what I was thinking. Part of the idea was to have one page each for architecture models, architecture drawings, and urban design work. I don't know what the deal was with the black, gray, and white backgrounds. BAD, BAD, BAD.

I sent the work samples and never heard back from the firm in Memphis, which was okay. I couldn't afford to go to Memphis anyway. I took the job in Huntsville and stayed with my folks for free. But most importantly, I consider this a very valuable humiliation. If I hadn't done these bad work samples then, I probably would have done them later, and that would have been a lot worse. My advice is to start failing as early as possible. Young failures come off as adventurous, ambitious, and endearing; old failures are just sad because, after all, they should know better by now, shouldn't they?

In spite of it's shortcomings, I kept this resume around for a couple of years. There were minor changes, but most of my energy went into trying to figure out how to do work samples and portfolios. Someday soon I'm going to post the evolution of my portfolio designs.

Practice Makes Passable: Resumes and Work Samples #1

For a while now I've been meaning to do a series on the difficult, often painful process of becoming a competent designer. My primary focus as a designer has traditionally been in the realm of architecture and urban design; those are the degrees I earned in school and most of my work since graduation has been in these fields. But I'm also really interested in - ever increasingly interested in, I should say - graphic design, web design, and writing. I've dove (doven? HA!) into these three headlong over the past several months and, while I'm learning a lot, I'm struggling quite a bit more. Everyone has experienced this phenomenon where the more you learn and the better you get, the more you're ashamed of everything you've ever worked on (SEE ALSO). I look forward to the day when I can produce something and be proud of it for more than a couple of weeks, but I'm not very confident that it's going to happen.

Also, I should say that my interest in other design mediums isn't entirely new. During school, I felt the acute need to improve my layout, presentation, and overall graphic sensibilities. Architecture is great, but the best design is nothing if you aren't capable of effectively communicating your ideas. Architecture is often (sometimes unfortunately) a heavily visual medium, and successful design work can depend on one's skill with visual communication.

This will be the first of many posts that will show my personal growth. I've chosen to start with resume design, and discuss how each iteration led to where I am now - hopefully a respectable level of competency. With each iteration, feel free to laugh. But more than anything, feel free to marvel at how far I've come. I'm not saying that I'm great by any means; I'm only saying that practice makes passable and I've worked hard to catch up to some of my peers who, I think, may have had a nature or nurture head start on me.


This resume and the one below were turned in for a professional development class (in a design program at college, if you can believe it), so in all fairness I didn't spend a lot of time or energy working on them. After all, they didn't represent me to any prospective employers; they were just assignments. That being said, they're still wretched.

In case you're wondering, the fonts are Skia and Baskerville. While I find Baskerville somewhat respectable, I have no idea what compelled me to choose Skia, a font that I didn't know existed until I found these old files of mine hanging out in the closet of the basement of my computer.

Never was Microsoft Word so deftly manipulated as when I drafted these tasty morsels of composition. Note the skillful application of italics, bold, and m a n u a l (space bar) k e a r n I n g. Really classic work, if you ask me. I wish I had some record of the response these received at school, but sadly I don't have any grades or criticism.


Just a variation on Resume 1. This one has a "Purpose" section - an expressive outlet that will replace studio in between academic terms? It's so bad. I also like that I called myself an "adept hand draftsman." Pretty much everything about everything that's written on these resumes is terrible. They get better, I promise.

SEE ALSO this excellent series of videos in which Ira Glass discusses his personal struggle towards excellence in storytelling (Clip 3 of 4) and Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule.

CNU 18: Atlanta 2010

I found out last night that I've been accepted to volunteer at the Congress for the New Urbanism Conference hosted this year in Atlanta. I had to apply for consideration and didn't send in my forms until the due date, so this is good news, and surprising. I'm not sure how competitive it was, but I'm very happy to be exempted from the $435 registration fee.

...And the list of speakers! I only recognize about a third of the names, but those that I do recognize are really exciting - folks from juries in college, people I've read and cited in papers, and a lot of people that are high up in the great, good firms in Atlanta.

My Most Notables:

Peter Clathorpe
William de St. Aubin, Sizemore Group
Peter Drey, Cooper Carry
Andres Duany
Ray Gindroz, Urban Design Associates
David Green, Lord Aeck Sargent (formerly with Perkins+Will)
Kenneth Groves, City of Montgomery
Peter Katz
James Howard Kunstler
Steve Mouzon
Nathan Norris
Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk
Stefanos Polyzoides
Terry Shook, Shook Kelley Architects
Dan Solomon
Jeff Speck
Bill Tunnell
Fred Yalouris

For me, this list is amazing, and these are the talks I'll be hoping to attend. Half of the folks on this list are sitting on my book shelf right now; the other half are people that I've sought out to work with or learn from over the last several years. Of all of them, I think I'm most most excited about Dan Solomon, who wrote one of my all-time most influential books - Global City Blues. You should read it if you haven't.

Man...This is a good list.

It looks like in all they've got about 150 speakers. I don't know how they're going to have time for all of them. But rest assured, I'm going to write about everything; people I meet, talks I hear, EVERYTHING. It's gonna be great.

Sublime Architecture Takes a Turn for the Organically Complex

It's growing increasingly difficult for me to enjoy this kind of work. I guess I just don't see the point anymore. If this work has value because it's new and exciting and perversely beautiful, then I guess that's okay. And I suppose there's some inherent value in novelty; of course there's (probably) value inherent in pushing the boundaries of any given field, but I'm not interested in making spaces like these. I don't really see much potential for inhabiting them, either. They don't move me or inspire me and if I'm honest, I find them annoying. Is it mortal architectural sin to say that this level of formal abstraction is a waste of time, talent, and money? I have no problem conceding that this stuff takes incredible effort and that maybe I'm poo-pooing works of immeasurable genius, but there it is. Sometimes architecture is too introspective and that's lame and disappointing.

It's also annoying that work like this is often accompanied by words like these:

"Expressing grand passions and utopian ideas, Sublime Spaces illuminate the emotional involvement between the creator and the user of architecture spaces."


"Housed in the Nave of Christ Church Spitalfields and displaying designs for churches, mosques and other spiritual spaces, the exhibition will offer a direct dialogue between historic and contemporary theology, theory and practice."

Theology? Really? Ugh...

If you do work like this, then you should know that I'm not mad at you. I admire your craft and skill and creativity. I just hope that architecture doesn't continue creeping towards some new wayward psychotic style-ism.

Clients from Hell

Great place to kill a couple of hours. I hope some of these are made up; they're just that sad.

Fun Small Buildings

Nice little simple structures designed and built by Architect Amir Sanei. I've never heard of him or his architectural toys until now, though apparently he's been featured in Dwell.

One day someday I'll have a place (a backyard maybe) where I can play around with bricks and scraps and test out some of the stuff I read about and draw all the time. Until then, I'll keep reading and drawing and admiring other people's work from afar.

Working Out of the Box

This has a lot of potential to be a great series. I don't think it is, but it's still a great concept! The series includes interviews with people who chose not to pursue professional practice or licensure after graduating for architecture school.