Q&A with Bob Gyles, Letterpress designer

 Bob Giles has been a print designer using the letterpress for many years. His dad was a printer and he worked at the Register Guard doing their printing before they went digital. He now has a small out-of-home print shop called BNS Letterpress.

Q: How did you first get into design work?

A: My career began as an apprentice, working for a newspaper. Not much design involved in that. Just learning the ropes and following instructions from others was the basis for learning my craft.

Q: Do you remember the first print you made? What was it like?

A: The first printing that I did in my own shop that I designed myself was a small piece that was a copy of the words to the song “God Bless America”. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attack, a printer in Canada made up a set of ludlow lines with the wording of the song. He sent sets of the type to any U.S. printer that wanted them as a gesture of goodwill and support. I asked for a copy and used the type for my first printed piece. I did it in of course, red, white and blue. I had a two color flag setup and used that in the background then printed the wording on top of that. I was pleased with the results and happy that this was the first thing that I printed in my shop.

Q: What is the greatest reward and largest challenge in working with the letter press?

A: The reward is doing the work, the challenge is doing the work. It is a satisfying thing to me to be able to create something from a thought or idea and put into a physical form. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but the process is fun and creative. Things don’t always work out the way that you plan, and you have to be able to adjust as you go, and sometimes just throw in the towel and start over again.

Q: Have you done digital design before? If so what do you like/dislike about it? How does it compare to using the letter press?

A: My career led me into the design world, but usually as I said working with others doing the actual design. I did enjoy taking the design of others and putting it together, offering suggestions along the way to improve what I was working on. Working with actual type in the letterpress environment is much different than using a computer to do design.  Type in the letterpress environment is a physical thing, it fits or it doesn’t, you have to be open to changing your design to accommodate this.

Q: What is your favorite project you have worked on?

A: The pieces that I produce for the APA group are my favorite ones to print. It allows me to make all the decision concerning the piece. From the initial idea to the type and art selection, then the color choices and paper, size, etc. All this is based on choices and there are no right or wrongs just decisions to be made. Sometimes they work and sometime they don’t but it is fun just going through the motions.

Q: What is the biggest way you believe you grown as a designer through out your career?

A: I guess mostly by watching and working with others, I have been able to achieve what I am able to accomplish. In many ways this kind of work requires the input of many to arrive at a successful conclusion with what you are working on.

Q: What is your favorite typeface and why?

A: I prefer the serif typefaces because I think they have more character and convey a message better than the san-serif faces. My favorite in my shop is Baskerville, mostly because it is the face that I have the most of, but I do like the look of it.

Q: What is your creative process like?

A: Pretty much, the Indiana Jones method. You make it up as you go. I usually start with some idea, then look for art work that goes with it, and then try to put it into a meaningful form.

Q: What advice would you give to designers starting out now?

A: Learn the basics. If you are working with type, learn about it. Study the origins, and look at the work of others to get ideas and see what works and what doesn’t. Know that there are right and wrong ways to do things. But also know that sometimes you have to break rules and do things your way.

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