Volunteer of the Month for April 2021
"Gilbert is one of the most talented Canadian book designers and it is truly amazing that he volunteered his time to design such a large piece as the RGD Handbook for us. He is funny, a delight to work with and committed to producing nothing but an outstanding piece. The RGD Handbook is the nicest piece we have ever produced and it was entirely pulled off by Gilbert and his team."
— Karin Heinsch RGD, Creative Director at the RGD
How long have you been volunteering with the RGD and in what capacity?
I started volunteering soon after becoming a Member in 2006. I’ve participated in many ways, such as reviewing portfolios, mentoring, being on panels, leading workshops, hosting tours of our studio and guiding Designathon teams.
Portfolio Review, HeadStart 2014
What contribution are you most proud of?
Very proud of our studio’s design of the current edition of the RGD Handbook first published in 2016. It’s an honour and nerve-racking to design something for our industry peers. While working on revisions for the recent reprinting it made me think of how many designers have used and continue to use the RGD Handbook.
RGD Handbook, Reprint 2021
What is the most surprising/unexpected thing to come out of volunteering with the RGD?
Being physically distanced during the pandemic made me realize the importance of the RGD in keeping the design community connected. Participating in various webinars and virtual events over the last year has helped tremendously from feeling isolated.
What have you learned about the industry since volunteering for the RGD?
The challenge of communicating the value of design and designers to others seems to be quite universal. I hear from young freelancers all the way to fellow studio owners who struggle with this. And after 25+ years in the industry, it’s still difficult.
Based on your experience volunteering with the RGD, how would you describe the role of the organization in the industry?
As important as the RGD is for networking, its most valuable role is in how it facilitates knowledge sharing. And it becomes more relevant and useful to the whole industry the more people participate and contribute.
Studio Tour, DesignThinkers 2020,
What have you gained from being an RGD volunteer and why would you recommend it to other members who might be thinking of getting involved?
I have benefitted so much from the generosity of others in this industry that being able to pay it forward by being an RGD volunteer is so rewarding. Especially with the RGD’s reach, the amount of people that you can impact is so much greater.
Do you have thoughts on what you might like to do as a volunteer with the RGD in the future?
As I become more and more a veteran (i.e. older) member of the design community, I hope the RGD continues to provide ways for me to share my experience and knowledge with fellow designers.
Panel Discussion, HeadStart 2014
Gilbert is Creative Director of The Office of Gilbert Li, a Toronto-based graphic design studio he founded in 2004. From pocket-sized brochures to coffee-table books, the studio is renowned for its work with leading cultural, non-profit and educational organizations such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, Médecins Sans Frontières and University of Toronto. In addition to leading his team, Gilbert has taught typography at Sheridan College and York University.