I'm currently a student at an art school, however I know I lack a large amount of experience to even be considered a graphic designer. I don't think I have the portfolio/experience yet to do internships. I do personal projects of my own, research, and read as much as I can about the industry.

But I want to learn as much as I can and gain as much knowledge/advice from experienced graphic designers. But I want to be as respectful and professional as I can about this, so I don't waste the person's time. So I was wondering where I could begin to look and how I could even go about this. I wouldn't mind simple email correspondence with the individual, but I wasn't sure if that was deemed professional. Thank you!


4 Answers 4


One option is to stick around this site, there are questions that I have and I am sure others have benefited greatly from the answers. Questions that I would have not thought of. I am not talking about the technical support how to type questions but the questions regarding being a professional graphic designer.

Some examples:

How to handle client requests to violate copyrights?

What are best practices for choosing and pairing fonts?

How do you deal with clients who bash your designs?

There is a plethora of high quality content on this site that will give you personal first hand answers from designers around the world.

Another idea would be to try getting an internship.

I believe this would be the closest way to finding a mentor. I have not personally met a graphic designer that had a "mentor". The designers I knew did an internship while in or after college.

The internet is primarily how you will find these positions but I however got some great advice from a local marketing agency. While I was looking for an internship during college I went to a business district in my town. All I had was a black portfolio and a resume (I didn't even have a website at the time). I walked into the place and asked if they had any openings for an internship.

They politely said no, but after I left I got a call about 10 minutes later. He said that he liked my enthusiasm and initiative to walk into a place that he wanted to review my portfolio and take me on a tour of his facility. He talked about the type of clients they get and the work that they do in-house and how they do it (The how to was more for their photography studio).

So my advice is to keep working, practicing and participating in online forums. With the growing web, it is easier to find information on graphic design and get opinions from people all over the world. Whether you participate in the Graphic Design Stack or another online community, you will find people who are willing to help.

  • 1
    While an internship can be quite helpful for learning, I believe the question is aimed at people who are unable to gain an internship currently. Still a good answer! Commented May 14, 2015 at 19:34
  • 1
    You're correct, I guess I just wanted to share my experience with trying to get an internship. I certainly didn't have great skills at the time. I did however get some great advice from an agency who was willing to take the time and talk to me (Even though I didn't end up working for them). My thinking is that you need to take the initiative and put yourself out there and maybe someone out there will take the time to help you.
    – AndrewH
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 19:42
  • Thank you for sharing this, I will definitely try to put myself out there more. I was hesitant about making an impromptu visit to an agency, however I will try this out when I have a portfolio! Commented May 14, 2015 at 21:17

Posting here is a great start! I'm far from a professional designer, but I'll give my take on the subject as I've just gone through it (and still am).

Learning design is similar to learning a lot of skills these days. The key, to me, is to always learn more by creating projects and to get involved in a community doing the same. You can (and should to some extent) do these things offline, but doing them online is incredibly helpful because the whole world is at your fingertips! (Sorry for being cliche, but it's true, haha)

The simple fact is that you don't need a mentor because having many mentors is better. What I mean by that is there are fantastic communities online (and offline) where people learn and help teach about all sorts of things. The best I've found for most subjects is here on StackExchange, specifically GraphicDesign for design related things.

The community here on SE is open to anyone interested in learning more and is nice about it. Here on GD there are professionals in most all fields of design, from print to web. I get helped by a whole lot of the people on here, but can often help others given my background with the web and programming.

The Q&A is incredibly helpful for any specific questions you have and the chat is available for more general subjects, quick questions, and just general conversation with others. This can be more valuable than you might think. Often times I've been encouraged, gotten ideas and learned things I would've otherwise not learned by being a part of the chat.

By becoming involved in a community like this one, you can not only learn by asking question, but also learn from trying to solve other people's questions and reading (listening) other's conversations and interactions. This will help your ability to think well and solve problems past that of your own experience. Having people of all skill levels is also helpful because you can learn from those a little further along than you and, in turn, you can help others who are a little bit less further along.

It's also very nice because you see that everyone, professionals included, have troubles and questions. We help each other when we get stuck and give (perhaps too much of) our own time to help solve someone else's problem(s). We do this because we care, because others often help us, and because it helps us too.

Being involved in a community like this one not only improves your design skills, but also improves your ability to ask good questions and to work with others. Over the short couple of years I've been involved, I've gone from asking a good many somewhat poor questions to solving most of my own problems and only asking really good ones that I can't figure out the answer to.

I've also become a lot nicer in the way that I convey myself to others through text and how I handle others who don't always act courteously. It takes time and no one is perfect, but we all get better and better at what we do, from interacting with others to creating our work.

Of course, you can't become great at something if you don't do it. As such, you need to create work - and lots of it - to gain actual skill and build a portfolio. There is "the gap" between knowing what's good and creating what's good which takes a long time to overcome. But, with time and effort, you'll be able to do so before you even realize it :)

Always have a project (more likely projects) you're working on. Something that you really care about and enjoy working on. This will keep you learning and keep your interest for the subject. Plus it's fun! I love the whole process of thinking things out, building them, and looking back on the work I've done. It may be even worse than I remember it being, but it's something I created, something I'm proud of.

If you really do want a one-on-one mentor and the chats won't do for some reason (I really do think they're perfect for most people), try a local design school or studio and ask around. Most people are nice enough to help you every so often or to tell you that they don't have time to. It never hurts to ask! Just know that they are giving their time and don't be annoying about it. They may need a reminder every so often, but nothing makes me not want to help more than someone being annoying in the way that they ask.

There are also mentorship programs through groups like the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts), linked by Ryan's answer, which can be found and are created specifically for this purpose.

A lot of these thoughts, along with others, can be found in my blog post Why I Still Contribute to StackOverflow. I think it's worth a read :)

  • Once you have the opportunity to get one, internships can also be helpful if there is someone there who is willing to help teach you Commented May 14, 2015 at 19:56
  • Thank you for this insight! I appreciate it very much and it's given me a good clue. I just join this site, but now I know that I can gain some knowledge here. :) Commented May 14, 2015 at 21:14

Well, joining websites and internships may seem nice but it doesn't quite motivate you. Today, internships is more about making students do your job free of charge rather than teaching them something useful.

What I would recommend is that you go to as many exhibition openings as possible and meet the artist, show interest in their work. Many artists nowadays have personal workshops you can attend to and from there on it's your duty to make yourself noticed.

There still are artists that take apprentice and you can benefit a lot from that. Keep your head up and your mind open.

Best of luck!


"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

You'll find good mentors where they are; working on projects and doing design.

Finding an experienced designer is not that hard, what's hard is finding one who wants to have you as a mentee! It requires a lot of time and patience, and also passion for this. You can't really ask people to be your mentor. It will happen if it has to.

For a designer with experience, there's a lot of beginners who come and go, a lot of "small fire" beginners, a lot of unmotivated candidates that already made them waste their efforts and time. So the first thing before you seek a mentor is to already be certain you have very strong passion yourself for design and desire for knowledge; and details and mastery. Mentors also have their self-interest in having mentee; a lot of time, they want someone who share their vision to maybe work with someday. If you are not someone who really want to become a master, you're just using the mentor's knowledge in a way and that's not a fair trade. My mentors were never the most "socially nice" but they were masters, very good with details and a bit cynical too! If you want a friend mentor, then forget about it and watch tutorials online instead or share your ideas with friend students instead.

As a personal note, I can tell you it's very hard to find people to mentor! It's not hard to find people who want to use your knowledge, it's hard to find people who are worth investing in. So my advice is to show you're worth that investment when you meet senior designers. A lot of new designers say they want to learn but they often make the mistake of putting priority on partying, their part time job, their friends, taking Instagram pictures of their breakfast instead of posting designs, being ultra-selective on projects, don't experiment much, etc. They don't "eat" design, they just know about it. Don't do like these guys.

You need to look in your town where they are. It could be a teacher, it could be a local artist or the friend-of-a-friend to who you have been referred to for some questions on print or design. Maybe it's online too, maybe at the print shop. Maybe one of your student friends will get in contact with a design studio and can introduce you; stick around these guys, go meet them! Usually when you love what you do and talk about it or show what you do, there's always someone-who-knows-someone doing the same thing as you in your network. If you can't find a senior designer then design and don't stop, one will notice you eventually! Even publishing on your social media profiles openly is good, you never know who's looking. The point is that your potential mentor is already in your network, so make connections. They won't always show themselves as interested, they'll probably prefer to watch how you evolve and then maybe connect with you.

There's also a little universe in the print environment where everybody knows who does what, who's new, who seems like good potential... So ask questions, get small stuff printed, offer your services to community projects; you'll get in contact with a few printers and they might talk about you, you could even get some internship or some small test projects. Sometimes you meet mentors or get internship opportunities by proxy. Some "bad" designers still have big network that can be useful to you, and they also have their own self-interest in referring you. Design, practice and get noticed.

And yes email correspondence is fine. Your questions might show you want to learn. And if you show some efforts and results, well, it's even better. I don't think the portfolio and where to look is the most important when you want mentoring; it's the mindset that's important.

Stick to communities like this one and join others, keep learning using tutorials, having fun with design and improving your skills on your own at the same time. What you'll learn from a mentor is almost a by-product of the conversations you'll have with him/her. If you want a "teacher" then schools and this stack are full of them!

That's it! keep designing and building your portfolio; it's the mentor who will find you.

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