How To Make Your Resume Shine (& Tackle InDesign) with Libby Peterson

Attention to detail goes beyond grammar—aesthetics are just as important.

Whether you’re an aspiring writer, editor, photographer, or designer, both your resume’s content and its design need to wow potential employers. But if you’re like me, you have no graphic design experience, so putting together an aesthetically pleasing resume is kind of like getting lost in a foreign country. To take your drab Microsoft Word resume up a few notches, harness that intimidating monster known as Adobe InDesign (download it for free at to solve your resume design woes.


Libby Peterson

Getting Started

Your first instinct when you open InDesign might be to panic. Resist the urge, and breathe. The long list of tools on the left side of the screen may look scary, but for our purposes, you’ll really only need to know about 2 of them: the dark arrow at the top (used to move things around) and the T a few icons down (used to create text boxes and to type).

Problem: Your resume doesn’t fit on one page.

Solution: This is where InDesign really comes in handy and where Word falls flat. You can make text boxes (using the T tool), size them any way you want, and put them anywhere you want on the page (using the dark arrow). One of the best tricks to fitting everything on one page is to divide your resume into two columns. Try making one column smaller than the other and treating it like a sidebar, as would a magazine. Maybe in the bigger column, put your experience and activities, and in the smaller column, list your skills, education, and references. This will depend on how much you have in each category, so play around with it. If you want, you could put a line between the two columns (using the line tool right below the T).

Problem: Your resume looks boring.

Solution: Add a little bit of color, but only a little. If you look at any well-designed magazine page, it’s mostly black and white with one thematic color throughout. Treat your resume the same way. Choose one color (and think about what this color will say about you) and maybe employ it in your name at the top, or the subheads throughout your resume (i.e. Experience, Education, etc.)

Problem: Your resume looks chaotic.

Solution: InDesign can be fun, but don’t get carried away. If your resume has some things in bold, others in italics, and others underlined, it may start to look too frenzied. Keep it simple. Under my experience, I boldfaced my position and company name, then have the location and timeframe in regular font, and have the job description in a slightly smaller font size below that. By using the same font throughout, you maintain uniformity so the copy looks clean at first glance, but by having boldface (or italics or underlining) in one area and a different font size in another, you can still differentiate information while keeping it simple. And be sure to make the styling uniform throughout categories. For example, under education, I have my school in boldface, the location and timeframe in regular font, and my degrees and honors in the same smaller font.

Don’t forget to…

– Pay attention to spaces between text boxes. Since you can move text boxes anywhere on the page, make sure that the spacing is uniform between them and from the margins. Pay attention to the little arrows that automatically pop up to show you if your spacing is even across the page.

– Save it as an InDesign file, then as a PDF. Keep the InDesign file, in case you want to go back and make edits.

– Learn more about InDesign! These are just the bare-bones basics, but you can find helpful tutorials on the Adobe website and even YouTube if you want to learn how to do more complex designs (like making your own logo)!