Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Illustration Resumes: 6. Typography

The last mentioned element of a resume is the most critical…typography. Setting aside all other forms of visual enhancement, a resume must impart written factual information, and this job is performed by typography. To admit that typography, in and of it’s self, is a complex subject, would be an understatement. And expertise in the subject is not easily acquired. Even so, in order to produce a professional looking resume, a basic knowledge of typography must be learned and applied. Despite what many think, typography is a visual medium, and when thought of as such, visual people, for example illustrators, can develop an understanding of it. The truth be told, typography is far too expansive of a discipline to be discussed in depth here So what follows are a few very basic explanations and suggestion. For more information on typography refer to the link below and the other articles in the Typography for Illustrators series on this website:


In order for text to function in the most basic sense on a resume it must be arranged, organized, and prioritized. Typographical hierarchy is the use of font selection, type size, character weight, color or tone, word placement, set style, and spacing, to articulate the relative importance of the written text content of a document. Any practical use of any two of these options will in effect create a typographical hierarchy, although in many cases more than two are used.

© 2013 Don Arday.

Font Selection

There are thousands of fonts available to choose from in addition to those fonts that are supplied with software products such as those by Adobe and Microsoft that were designed for a myriad of purposes, some having little to do with readability. Good advice is to choose fonts that have been designed to read as paragraphs of text, rather than those that were designed for display. Fonts that are too ornate or stylized will call more attention to the way they look than what it is they say. A common practice is to use both san-serif and serif type classifications together on a resume, with one as headings and the other as body text. Naturally, for illustrated resumes, the fonts should never upstage the visual or disrupt the reading flow of the written content. A quick note about italic type: Although italic type can be selected as a stand-alone font, it is primarily used for emphasis within a statement, or for captions and call outs.

Type Size

Size is another important consideration in the creation of a well-functioning resume. Type should not be too small, or it will cause difficulty for a reader. Neither should it be too large, or the written contents of a resume will not practically fit on a page. Unfortunately there is no global rule of thumb when it comes to selecting a type size. This comes down to the “visibility” of the font, i.e., how easily it can be recognized, and every font has presents its visibility differently. Some like Helvetica and Lucida have a high degree of visibility, while others such as Perpetua and Cochin are less visible, and consequently harder to read if set at the same point size.

Character Weight

Many fonts were designed as a family of character weights. This was specifically done for use in situations requiring the establishment of a typographical hierarchy.
Character weights include ultra-black, extra black, black, heavy, extra-bold, bold, demi-bold, semi-bold, regular, medium, plain, book, light, extra-light, ultra-light, thin, and hairline. So, weight alone can be used to create quite a stylish hierarchy.
Although all these weights are available, text weight which includes; plain, regular, medium, and book; and bold weight; are most commonly used.

Color and Tone

Like character weight, color and tone can not only add visual interest, but it can add subtlety to a resume and aid in the establishment of a typographical hierarchy. However, the use of color can add another level of difficulty when it comes to how the type will be perceived. Fortunately, illustrators are well versed in color theory. So it would be highly unlikely that lemon yellow would be chosen for text that will appear on a white sheet of paper, or display screen. Color has a strong visual impact on a viewer so it must be selected carefully, used consistently, an in a limited manner so as not to distract a reader from absorbing the written content. Colored text used together with an illustration in a resume works best when it is keyed to the illustration's color scheme. 

Word Placement

In addition to the other elements that can be used to create a typographical hierarchy, word placement can play an incisive role in improving the speed in which a reviewer can read through a resume. Type alignment style and the use of logical indentation can add a sense of well-designed organization to a resume’s appearance. This would include effectively utilizing the negative unused space with the establishment of functional margins as well.

Set Style

Set style refers to the manner in which a word or set of words are set. Set styles include setting type in; ALL CAPITAL LETTERS; Capital And Lower Case; all lower case; Capital And Small Capitals; all small capitals; italics; and underscored. Superscript and subscript are seldom, if ever, used on an illustration resume. The most commonly used set styles are all capitals, and capitals and lower case. Nevertheless, the other style options remain as a means for establishing an effective typographical hierarchy, and adding aesthetic appeal.


There are four types of spacing typically used on a resume; letter spacing; line spacing; paragraph spacing; and the much less commonly used column spacing.

Letter Spacing

Available on page layout programs with refined character controls, letter spacing adjustment allows for fine-tuning the appearance of words through kerning. It can also be used the to add extra space between letters for word  e m p h a s i s  and/or aesthetic reasons.

Line Spacing

Obviously the vertical spacing between lines, but not so obvious, line spacing can be finely adjusted. Spacing is added between lines to air out a paragraph, thus making it easier to read; to add some additional separation to a list of items, to separate a heading; and more. Normal line spacing for text in paragraphs is 1 point. So, 10-point text will be set on 11 points from baseline to baseline. The text in this article is set 10-point on 15 points of space to improve readability. When space is limited, as an alternative to reducing the size of the type, line space can be reduced to zero added space between lines. This is known as being “set solid”.

Paragraph Spacing

The space between paragraphs, which is vertical space, can also be customized. It does not have to be in the form of a carriage return, even if that is the most commonly used paragraph space. It can be more or less according to preference. One established, the paragraph spacing must remain consistent for all like paragraphs in a resume. Inconsistency is the single most common flaw apparent in poorly crafted resumes.

Column Spacing

Column spacing refers to the horizontal space between columns of text. Although many publications use a column structure, resumes are rarely formatted this way. However, depending on the content of the written information in a resume and/or for aesthetic preferences a column layout may be desirable. The standard minimum space between columns is 1 pica, which is equal to 12 points. Columns can add an additional dimension of organization to a resume as well as quicken its readability. A column structure also works well with the placement of illustrations. It does this by providing an opportunity to place imagery in open spaces.

In Conclusion

Whether you believe it is good typography that supports an illustrated resume, or that an illustration supports good resume content, the coordination of all visual elements, which includes typography, is important. When well presented, an illustrated resume will not only catch a viewer’s attention, which will focus their interest on the written text, but will impart a long memorable impression.