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Enrichment Scholarship Judge Michael Bierut on Seeking out Mentorship

written by Allie Fisher.

The Enrichment Scholarship was created by the AIGA SF Education Initiative to recognize outstanding design work by graduating students. It is judged by a panel of industry leaders nationwide, and winners are announced at Portfolio Day on June 4th. In the lead-up to this year’s event, we asked Enrichment Scholarship Judge Michael Bierut to share his perspective on building a career in design. 



For students entering a competitive market like San Francisco or New York, what can they do to stand out?

Whether you’re in San Francisco or New York or Tulsa, Oklahoma, what stands out is being energetic, honest, polite and smart. Do your homework, be enthusiastic, check your spelling, and send a thank you note afterwards.


What’s the best way to seek out mentorship early in a design career?

This one is easy. Don’t ask your mentor’s permission. Just pick someone you admire and be a protege. (I’m not even sure you need to actually meet them face to face these days, to tell you the truth.) For bonus points, find someone that you can mentor. It’s never too early, or too late.


What can a young designer do to stand out on a team?

Trying to stand out on a team defeats the idea of teamwork, doesn’t it? Just work harder and be nicer than everyone else and that should do the trick.


What is one accomplishment you are most proud of from early in your career?

I did the mixtape for the first meeting ever of the AIGA’s New York Chapter back in 1983, and I still have it. You have to start somewhere.

About the AIGA SF Enrichment Scholarship:

AIGA SF is committed to enhancing the quality and diversity of design education. The Enrichment Scholarship was created to invest in the future of our students and their education. The scholarship is awarded annually to graduating students with outstanding work. Schools with active AIGA student groups nominate the best work of their graduating class to be considered, and winners are announced during AIGA SF’s annual Portfolio Day event. Known as the best portfolio review on the West Coast, it is an opportunity for graduating seniors in design programs and graphic design professionals looking to make a change to get valuable one-on-one feedback on their portfolios and career goals from some of the Bay Area’s best designers. To attend this year’s event, register at If you are a professional with at least 5 years experience and share AIGA SF’s commitment to education and professional growth, consider signing up to be a Portfolio Day Reviewer. Email to be included in this year’s event.


About 2016 Enrichment Scholarship Judge Michael Bierut:

Michael Bierut has been a partner in the New York office of the international design consultancy Pentagram since 1990. A co-founder of, Michael is a Senior Critic at the Yale School of Art, a winner of the AIGA Medal and the Design Mind National Design Award from the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, and a member of the Art Directors Hall of Fame. His book 79 Short Essays on Design was published in 2007. A career monograph on his work, How to, was published last year.

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