Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Resumes and RWD: Content, content, content

Who knew I was doing it all wrong? Throughout my working life, my resume has been horrendously unattractive, difficult to scan, uninteresting, bland, and generally makes me wonder how I've gotten as many interviews as I have. Well, no more! I recently stumbled across a couple of graphic designers' resumes and realized that a resume doesn't have to be a dry, formulaic monstrosity (mine was also much too long, a sure indicator of my lack of experience). In my own defense, I had put that resume together while working and looking at jobs in the federal government, which is really not known for being terribly stylish. But that's just an excuse.

In reading back over some previous versions of my resume (pre-Git infestation in my life, so piles of old files), I noticed that not only had I dropped some minor positions from the tail-end, but I had also lost interesting tidbits like the list of gallery shows my artwork had been displayed in. I'm not currently looking for work as a photographer, but those shows were something I was proud of and had worked hard on. Could they be considered work experience, or just an example of well-roundedness? Is character an asset better addressed in a cover-letter and/or interview?

Somewhere not too long ago I made a mental note that it was possible to write a resume in HTML, rather than the old word processor approach. Then my brain did its thing and a dim little bulb lit up; an HTML resume is a great way to show off the fact that I can create a bit of content and do some basic styling. Plus, it would get me away from the headache of nudging paragraphs and headings around in Google Drive. Complete control! mwaha– ...I've been saying that too much in these posts lately. oops.

Here's where I went slightly astray: doing a bit of background research on HTML resumes. I only meant to find a couple examples (see my collection here), but somewhere along the way ran into A List Apart (ALA)'s article on responsive resumes. Which is when I realized I had seen a retweet of this article on responsive web design (RWD) earlier in the day. Which took me back to another article from ALA on fluid layouts, flexible images, and media queries (RWD in a nutshell), further explained with handy percentage-based grid templates and some guidance on element sizing for those of us who just don't grok maths.

Somewhere in there, the best explanation for the whole business of RWD was from Mark Boulton. Instead of designing for a computer screen, an iphone, or even a printed page, designers should think in the opposite direction: from the content outwards. Start with the content, lay it out in relative terms (ems and %s), think of the whole as a fluid form originating from a single element. Design outwards from the logo, from a critical ad for your store, from a dynamically generated element like a blog post. Like all logical things, this makes perfect sense once you've heard it.

"Start designing from the content out" also makes sense in the context of "content first, then style." You can't style something that doesn't exist, and it's much more difficult to stuff your content into arbitrarily created elements. So step one is to create or define your content, step two is to style it in relative terms. A resume is also a prime place to avoid contentless content and to make sure that you are getting the right information to the user (your future employer). So to review, the most important things in design are content, content, content.

Whew, well that was sort of step one in the process. Coming up next should be editing the old resume into a more manageable sound bite, then designing a new layout before looking too closely at inspiration. That way I can get raw me onto the page before introducing outside forces.

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