Here are the most used buzzwords in design job ads – snapped as Live Laugh Love slogans

Ruby Donachy surveyed 100 creative job ads to get a grip on the market for a hilarious graduate project. Below, we find out what the designer discovered.

30 November 2022

“Optimistic, Outstanding, Obsessed”; these terms will likely sound familiar to any design graduate looking for work. They’re also well known to designer Ruby Donachy, who has recently reviewed person specifications from 100 graphic design job ads to gather the most frequently (over)used adjectives for the graduate project Good Honest Work.

Turning these buzzwords into Live Laugh Love-style slogans, Ruby displays the results in a series of yearbook portraits of fellow students. The aim is to show the pressures of meeting vague job specifications and offer a glimpse into the kind of industry language graduates face today. We caught up with Ruby to find out what can be learned about the design industry in 2022 from 100 job ads.

When Ruby started speaking to people in other industries about their job-searching experience, “it was clear that ads for creative roles use very different language”, the designer recounts. “They range from strangely casual to verging on dramatic.” Ruby notes “a definite theme of crazed passion throughout all the person specifications – plenty of ‘should LOVE design’ (specifically in caps), being ‘obsessed’ with design and detail, as well as being ‘hungry’ and eager to ‘hustle’.” Then there are the more “abstract, fluffy phrases that are impossible to evidence in an application, such as ‘people should describe your energy as infectious’ / ‘be someone who wants to be heard’ / ‘you’ll be your own person’”.


Ruby Donachy: Good Honest Work, Luis (Copyright © Ruby Donachy, 2022)

As for the designer’s methodology, Ruby collated all 100 ads into one body of text and used an online tool to gather the most frequently used words and phrases. Beyond expected results like ‘growth', ‘team’ or the more design-specific, ‘Adobe’, Ruby explains how buzzwords can also be used to reveal the speed or culture of a workplace, “like the old cliche 'work hard, play hard’ or ‘think differently’ (although almost every ad said this)”.

Ruby’s research also reveals the expectations the industry has for junior hires. “There are just so many job ads asking for one to two, sometimes three years of experience for a junior position and often not advertising the salary band.” As well as experience, companies are looking for hard skills: “So many requests for a web, UI, UX and graphic designer in one ad – eek! Which is it? I’d run a mile from ads like these.”

Vagueness is a recurring theme in the space, from words like ‘dynamic’, ‘disruptive’ and ‘cool’, to guidelines around portfolios. For example, many companies, Ruby states, ask for portfolios which are ‘outstanding’ or ‘exceptional’, “without any guidance on the sort of projects they’d like to see. [...] I also noticed that creative job ads love asking that you “bring” something grandiose – ‘Bring it every day’ / ‘Bring your inner child to work’ / ‘Bring ideas to life’ / ‘Bring the magic every day’ / ‘Bring ideas to the table’.”


Ruby Donachy: Good Honest Work, Jamie (Copyright © Ruby Donachy, 2022)


Ruby Donachy: Good Honest Work, Ryan (Copyright © Ruby Donachy, 2022)


Ruby Donachy: Good Honest Work, Madhura (Copyright © Ruby Donachy, 2022)


Ruby Donachy: Good Honest Work, Eliane (Copyright © Ruby Donachy, 2022)


Ruby Donachy: Good Honest Work, Deepak (Copyright © Ruby Donachy, 2022)


Ruby Donachy: Good Honest Work, Hazal (Copyright © Ruby Donachy, 2022)

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Ruby Donachy: Good Honest Work, Eliane (Copyright © Ruby Donachy, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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