Writing a cover letter is no easy task. For a designer, the challenge comes in the form of being able to express your passion and excitement using words instead of colors. Don’t worry, we’ll tackle it all below.
What should a graphic design cover letter include?
A graphic design cover letter should detail the most important and influential graphic design experience that you briefly mention in your graphic design resume. It should be formatted similarly to any other cover letter beginning with the letterhead, the greeting, the body, the conclusion, and finally, your signature.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel; grab the header from your graphic design resume and use the same one on your cover letter. While some graphic designers believe in out-of-the-box appearances, a cover letter may not be the right time to experiment with that or show off your design skills.
The positioning of your letterhead can be aligned to the left, right, or in the center. Whichever you choose, just be sure it matches the format of your resume.
Your header is the place to make your name stand out. Make it big, make it bold, and make it beautiful. Just don’t make it the size of half the page. Below your name, you should include some ways for the recruiter to contact you (phone number, home address, email, etc.)
Below the header is where the remainder of the letterhead goes. This should include the date at which the application is sent in, as well as the name and address of where it’s going.
Pretty standard stuff. Let’s get a move on.
2. The greeting
Saying hi is easy. Sometimes, the hardest part is knowing who you’re saying hi to. Often on job application sites, it can be difficult to find information about the recruiter. A rule about cover letters: never, ever, ever write “To whom it may concern”. There’s simply no excuse!
There are many ways to dig up the right information. If the recruiter’s name is provided but without a form of contact, do a quick Google search and see if you can spot it on their LinkedIn. If the recruiter’s name and information isn’t part of the application, go to the company’s website and check around to see if you can spot the right person. Worst comes to worst, you may actually have to pick up the phone and *shudder* ask someone.
Once you figure out who it is you’re writing to, there are a few ways you can address them. Let’s say Bob Smith is the hiring manager:
Dear Mr. Bob Smith,
Dear Mr. Smith,
If Karen Smith is the hiring manager, those options are going to look a little different:
Dear Ms. Karen Smith,
Dear Ms. Smith,
Dear Miss Smith,
Dear Miss Karen Smith,
Dear Mrs. Smith,
Dear Mrs. Karen Smith,
That Miss/Mrs. stuff is risky business. Unless you know for sure what the marital status is, Ms. is always your safest bet.
3. The body
Cover letters are typically never more than a page long. Make sure that you’re including the most relevant and important information that you want the hiring manager to know about you. Usually, most people start with...
In most cover letters, the applicant would probably say something like, “I’m writing to express my interest in the [JOB TITLE] position with [COMPANY NAME]”.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But remember how many graphic designers are applying for this job. Think about how many cover letters the hiring manager sees.
Then think about how many are going to begin like that.
Why not spice it up a little? Monster.com has a great example of a way to kick things off:
Here, the applicant is immediately sharing their excitement with the recruiter about exactly what the position requires of them. They also gracefully include the amount of experience they’ve had right up at the top of the letter, and then refer to the position they’re applying for.
A unique introduction curated to your interest in design like this is much more likely to grab the hiring manager’s attention, and once it does, you can move on to...
This is where you’re going to start outlining what skills you have that will be applicable to the position. For anyone, graphic designer or not, it’s helpful to pull up the graphic design job description again and look at exactly what the recruiters are looking for and what their requirements are for their ideal employee.
If they require you to have a portfolio, let them know that they can visit the URL that you’ve provided in your resume.
TIP: Don’t throw a link in your letter. That just doesn’t look professional.
If the job post requests that you be familiar with a certain type of design software, tell them how you’ve used it in the past. Did you take a few classes in school? Use it in a previous job? The more you can back yourself up, the better! If you’re not familiar with it, but still applying to the job, let them know you’re a quick learner (if you are). If you’re more than familiar, point them to the spot on your resume where you include a certification of your knowledge.
If they ask about production knowledge of CMYK versus RGB or file setup, let the reader know that you’re experienced, and make sure you detail where you got that experience. Then, you can write...
This is not the end of your cover letter – it’s the end of the body section.
Here, people take a chance to show that they know exactly where they’ve applied, that they’re excited about it, and tell the hiring manager why it made them so keen to write a cover letter in the first place.
Do some research on the company. Whether it’s an agency or an in-house position, show them that you’re dedicated! Check out their website and see if you can find a little nugget of information that’s unique to them.
If the Best Company Ever has an About Us page that mentions bringing transparency to B2B buying (wink wink), let the hiring manager know that this is something you think is important, too. Go on by explaining that you’re excited to be applying for a job with a company that shares the same values as you.
TIP: This portion isn’t “required” - nothing is. But it’s a great addition to consider for a few reasons. First, it shows the hiring manager that you took the time to research the company you’re applying to. Gold star. Second, it shows that you’ve carefully crafted this letter to be catered towards them. Two gold stars. Overall, it’s the perfect way to show that you’re invested in them!
This part is where applicants often have to tread lightly.
The conclusion of a cover letter is where you wrap things up and provide your contact information for the employer to reach you at if they decide they’re interested in setting up an interview.
While it sounds rather simple to do, it isn’t so straightforward.
Here’s how not to write your conclusion:
Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I really look forward to our interview. I am available April 10-15 and can be reached at 000-000-0000.
There’s a few things wrong with this.
First, “thank you for your time and consideration” could not be more default. Instead, let’s skip it entirely.
Second, “I really look forward to our interview” is a nice thing to say, but not if you haven’t been offered the interview yet. Confidence is great, but this is a little much.
Finally, offering up the dates you’re available isn’t appropriate. It’s completely fine to leave your contact information at the bottom, but let the hiring manager be the scheduler. If the date chosen doesn’t end up working for you, let them know and ask to reschedule.
The alternative would be to remind the reader to take a peek at your resume for more details on your past experience and credentials. State that you believe you and your skills would make a great addition to the team, and that you look forward to talking more about your qualifications and learning more about the position. And then you sign off.
Probably the most complex part of the letter.
That wasn’t so bad.
A template for a graphic design cover letter
Let’s put that all together.
Extra tips for a graphic design cover letter
While the above goes over quite a bit, here are just a few extra things to remember while you’re writing.
As a graphic designer, you should know to keep it simple. While your letterhead font can be a little exciting and different, make sure that it’s completely readable. In the letter itself, use a basic font like Arial or Times New Roman. You can’t go wrong with those. If your letterhead font and letter font don’t match, that’s okay – just make sure you're taking a good look at font pairing.
While a little color is okay, remember what the point of the letter is. Unlike the rest of your work, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a visual piece of art. The written content is what’s most important here. Color can make your letter stand out, but don’t use more than one or two mellowed-out ones.
I don’t think many recruiters are fans of neon green letterheads.
While this tip doesn’t have anything to do with design, it has everything to do with your chances of getting a job in the industry. Make sure that you’re telling the truth about yourself in your cover letter. If you write that you’re a quick learner, for example, and you aren’t, someone will figure that out pretty quickly. The job that you’re applying to is one that you should not only be interested in, but capable of doing.
A graphic designer’s cover letter is not always requested by an employer. Sometimes, just your portfolio is enough. But if a recruiter asks you for one, you should be all set!
Daniella Alscher is a Brand Designer for G2. When she's not reading or writing, she's spending time with her dog, watching a true crime documentary on Netflix, or trying to learn something completely new. (she/her/hers)