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Résumé Refresh: Skills Worth Adding to Your Repertoire

by Taylor Slattery | September 21, 2021

When it comes to the creative fields, the job landscape is always changing. The role technology plays in both work and leisure has a profound impact on not only the types of work available to creatives, but also the tools used to do this work. The constant back and forth exchange between technology and culture results in industries where job titles and responsibilities can change frequently. This places a demand on creatives to adapt to changes in the job market in order to remain relevant.

Advancements in technology and the democratization of tools that previously had expensive barriers to entry have evened the playing field, allowing creatives of all levels to produce professional-level work. As a result, the bar has been raised and it’s not uncommon to see job listings reflect these changes as well. It seems that everybody these days, whether agencies or companies looking for in-house designers, expect potential candidates to be human swiss-army knives.

Disciplines each with their own dedicated 4-year degrees have become just one of several bullet points listed under the minimum requirements of your average job listing. With high-paying salaries in product design attracting lots of interest to the creative fields, the competition continues to grow steeper by the day. On top of that, the spread of user-friendly design tools like Canva and no-code site builders like Squarespace and Wix have made creative solutions more approachable than ever.

Many businesses, often in the interest of saving money, choose to go without professional design work, instead opting for these simpler, more affordable solutions. For the sake of its survival, the design community will need to up their game to make the difference in quality between professional work and what can be achieved with templates that much more apparent.

So not only is the competition increasing, both in number and skill, but the potential customer pool is shrinking as well. Additionally, tools have closed the gap between pro and amateur, making it harder to distinguish yourself from the crowd. As a designer, this puts you in a difficult position. The designers of today may find themselves needing to wear more hats on the job in order to remain relevant. Fortunately for you, as long as design is in the title, the underlying foundations remain the same, so all that’s needed is some additional technical skills.

Let’s say you studied graphic design with a focus on print, but you’ve been out of school for a while and you’re looking to freshen up your resume. What should you do to stay competitive? With graphic design as a starting point, you’ve got a number of options. Looking laterally, some possible fields to explore might be web design, 3D, and motion design. These fields all have a lot of overlap with your current skill set and would only require some technical training to add some additional punch to your portfolio. Because you’ve got the foundational knowledge under your belt already, you can skip the preliminary aspects of these fields and focus on how to integrate them into your practice.

The direction you choose will ultimately depend on the type of work you’re looking to enter or are comfortable taking on. The scope of the work involved in each field is worth considering. Depending on your team and the types of clients you’ll be working with, web design can be demanding but rewarding. Every business needs a website, and although it’s easier than ever to handle this without a designer, some people just can’t be bothered, and other cases require a more custom solution than templates can offer.

If you’re looking to enter the field, the rise of no-code tools have made skills like web design more accessible via tools like Webflow. By leveraging these tools you can quickly yield tangible results. With your knowledge of graphic design and a little research, you can add web design skills to your arsenal without needing to learn how to code.

The same can be said for product design using tools like Figma. Because Figma and other programs like it are built upon the conventions established by tools from the Adobe Creative Suite, like Illustrator, the transition should be fairly easy. Web design and product design both offer viable skills with obvious use cases that are immediately applicable in your professional practice. What about something less obvious, like 3D, though?

Although there is still plenty of overlap with graphic design, 3D is probably the furthest stretch in terms of application, making it one of the trickiest skills to wrap your head around. The possibilities with 3D range from simple type or logo treatments to fully rendered scenes and figures. While the learning curve may seem steep, the rewards are worthwhile.

3D assets can be infinitely re-posed and re-lit to suit different needs and situations. Whether used for illustrative or photographic purposes, 3D assets offer a great deal of utility. Whereas the composition for an illustration needs to be decided before its creation, with 3D, you can focus your efforts on the design of the object rather than the scene and worry about the exact application later. Investing the time upfront to create 3D models of logos, products or other elements would provide the means of generating additional assets in the future simply by reframing and relighting. This can be a major time and money saver and is sure to add value to your resume.

The filters found on apps like Instagram and Snapchat have already been widely adopted, and as AR technology continues to develop, more companies will be looking for new and clever ways to enter this space. 3D assets also have the added benefit of use in motion design, another possible field in which a foundation in graphic design would prove useful.

While the advertising space becomes increasingly saturated with template-based ads that, while clean, lack any true sense of personality, motion design will play an increasingly important role in our creative work. Although it can be tedious and incredibly time-consuming, it’s one of the most rewarding pursuits of those discussed today. It’s also one of the most secure investments of your time.

While website templates and builders have closed the quality gap significantly between what can be achieved with a professional compared to on one’s own, the same can’t be said for motion design. The differences between professional and amateur work are painfully apparent. Motion design has a seemingly infinite skill cap, with artists continuing to find new ways of expression making it one of the most innovative fields today.

If you’re already working with the Adobe Creative Suite and haven’t yet tried your hand at After Effects, you might be surprised at how easily you can take assets you’ve already created and with a few clicks, bring them to life. Motion offers a whole new dimension of expression and communicating personality through your work. Video is the most powerful means of reaching audiences and capturing their attention, and likewise, adding some motion skills to your repertoire is sure to do the same for your resume.

If you’re looking to add some value to your skill set and complement the ones you have already, you’ve got options. A lot can change in a few year’s time, so whether you’re in your first year of school, about to graduate, or have been out of school for a while, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of your field. Keep an eye out for new tools and always be looking to the pros who are leading the field to see what they’re up to. They can provide valuable clues that can help you stay ahead of the curve.


Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.


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