Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Rant About Visual Design

Between the two of us, my girlfriend is the one who does the visual design. I'm not much of a visual artist (as one can tell from the couple of times I've posted my own images), which may be the reason that I prefer my visual information to be generally simple and clear.

While browsing through the archives of The Daily WTF, I found a link to a gallery that's clearly tailored for StumbleUpon. It shows a series of "creative resumes" for people in the graphic design field. It's a rather old link -- from 2009 -- but it's new to me, so I figured I'd comment on it

I was surprised that as many people had been defending the designs in the comments as I found. Although they capture visual interest quickly, they almost all feel completely over-designed. The information in them is nearly impossible to glean, and most aren't particularly friendly to black-and-white laserjet printers.

The effect is similar to a person standing on the street with a bullhorn yelling to try to get people to pay attention. Sure, it's loud enough to get attention, but hell if I can ever tell what people using them are saying. It always sounds like a garbled mess.

I would actively reject any such resume if it was put in front of me, if I were in charge of hiring at a decently-sized graphic design firm. That is, I would be turned off by these designs more than a completely plain resume made in 30 minutes in Word. There are a few reasons for this!

  1. It demonstrates that the person making it doesn't understand what the purpose of the resume is for -- to convey specific (written) information about the individual's education and experience. Design that actually obscures the text is counter-productive to that end.
  2. It suggests that the designer's ego cannot be kept in check. "Pffft, I'm not going to tone down my work for the plebes in suits who will be looking over it. If they can't appreciate my genius then maybe they don't deserve it!" Then again, maybe everyone wins if the applicant holds that attitude. Unless, you know, he or she is in need of a job.
  3. The designer probably has a portfolio that can be used to demonstrate situations where more intricate visual designs were appropriately used. The resume does not need to need to speak for itself.
  4. Similar to the first point, what if the applicant, once hired, comes across a design job that requires a relatively minimalistic approach? Can he or she be trusted to do that if the resume implies a lack of restraint?
To put it more succinctly, it's the equivalent of going to a job interview wearing a shirt like this. (I took the courtesy of not embedding it because some people might be concerned about the foul language displayed prominently on it, even if I have no fucking clue how the people who'd give a shit could have found this damn blog.)

Okay, I admit, that was a bit forced and cliche.

In any case, if I had to go through a couple hundred resumes, I would most certainly not try to spend more than a few minutes going through each one. If I had to, in order to get any information out of it, it would go in the pile.

I would not hire most of these applicants to design a website for me, since these resumes suggest that usability principles would go out the window FAST; the site would be cluttered and probably inefficient. ("What do you mean people still use dial-up?")

I might accept this sort of work for a print ad for a growing organization, though, where the main goals are to get visual interest and some level of name recognition. But that's far out of my realm of expertise anyway so I don't feel comfortable making a sweeping statement regarding that.

One comment on that page linked to another one with more modest resume ideas. These are all excellent! They are visually interesting, accessible, and printer-friendly, while also being uncluttered. The focus of the design goes more in choosing the typography and developing a focused layout. I would sooner go with a resume that looked like one of these but only had "lorem ipsum" text over it than the first set of resumes I saw.

I suppose ultimately it's a question of sizzle over steak. Or spending an extra 10 seconds looking at something that takes a full minute more to comprehend.

If there's any good news, it's that most of the entries in the first link seem to be done as non-serious assignments for classes rather than used to seek out actual work. *Phew*

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