It’s the time of year again when we layer boiled woolen sweaters over our Uniqlo heat tech, make excuses for lunchtime hot toddies (they’re medicinal!), haul pine trees up four-story walk-ups, and settle in for the season of compulsory gifting. Fortunately for even the least giving and least talented gifters among us, there’s a gift guide waiting to smack you in the face in every magazine you open and on every Instagram feed you mindlessly scroll through. Smack! That’s the sound of our gift guide slapping you back to your senses again. Hand-picked by our editors, you’ll find nary an overpriced set of coasters or overachieving kitchen gadget in the lot—just things made by some of our favorite designers and illustrators, perfect for the picky designer or illustrator on your list. Or their kids. Or your kids. Or yourself, who are we kidding?
For the co-worker who puts the “sad desk” in “sad desk lunch”
If you can’t be the master of your destiny, at least be the master of your domain—namely your desktop, which we firmly believe should hold more than your laptop, a free pen from your insurance company, and that photobooth pic of you and your co-workers pretending to have a good time together (the giant blue mustache prop is not helping). If this sounds like you or someone you know, here’s how you can help:
- Super Splash notebooks, Write Sketch & ($10) We’re pretty notebook-obsessed over here, so the effort required to pick just one left us all hot and sweaty, but we’ve been feeling the work by Officemilano for a while now, and there’s nothing we’d rather pen our next searing editorial opus in (or doodle in when we’re supposed to be paying attention at meetings).
- Amazing Scissors, Present & Correct ($20) Is it weird that one of our favorite Instagram feeds is mostly pictures of beautifully art directed erasers? We hope that when we die, Present & Correct is what heaven looks like.
- Stationery container, by Daniel Emma ($73) Sure, you could keep your paperclips in the crummy little cardboard box they came in, but what fun is that?
- ISO Organizer, by Jonah Takagi ($80) Ditch that basic file folder holder the last person who sat in your desk left behind.
- Ellepi stapler ($30) When was the last time looking at a stapler made you happy?
- Standing pens, by Areaware ($15) Because no one likes when you leave your shit lying around, you slob.
- Brilliante pencils, by Louise Fili ($10) If they’re good enough for Louise, they’re probably too good for you, but everyone needs an aspiration. If you’re not familiar with her work, shame on you, fix that right now.
- Little Barrel, by Doug Johnston ($45) You can’t afford a full-size Doug Johnston yet, but you want your friend to know you wish you could, and hey, it’s the thought, right?
- Red Pat container, by Group Partner ($65) Keep it tidy with a little pen pot that smiles back at you, or go for a conversation-starting boob or boy pot if you need a hand with desk-side small talk.
For when you need to get organized or get off the grid
Sometimes you need to be on your A game minute by minute, and other times whole days could pass and you could give a f*ck. We’ve got you covered—no inspirational carpe diem quote calendars in the bunch, promise.
- Typodariuam calendar ($20) Can we just level with you for a minute and say plainly that we love this calendar? Starting each day with lovely letterforms from designers all over the world is like giving someone a little present each morning for a full year. Gosh, that’s just nice, isn’t it?
- Google I’m Feeling Lucky calendar, by Julie Holiat ($26) Okay but wait, we also really love this calendar, too. The (actually practical) weekly agenda is filled with those insane auto-completes to Google search questions that start normal and then get weird. The second week of January 2017 looks real real.
- Year Round tape calendar ($28) Finally, a solution for all the extra wall space you’ve been moaning about, or that office wipe-off board your boss keeps urging you to “get creative with” (it’s the one near the cluster of bean bags for informal team meetings). You could wrap a room several times over in these eight rolls to plan your entire year all at once like a crazy person, but we think ripping off bits as you need them is probably the way to go.
- DodeCal ($98) Those other calendars are nice, but they’re pretty much just made of paper, right? When you’re ready to get next-level, this 12-sided time-telling device won’t help you schedule your next meeting, but it’ll make your desk look like a proper grown up’s. And if 2017 turns out to be just as shitty as 2016, you can literally chuck it in the (recycling) bin this time next year.
- Tan & Loose calendar, by the Hickson Brothers ($12) Oh what, you thought you were gonna get out of this gift guide without something Risoprinted? There’s no telling what each month will look like, but the Hickson Brothers’ calendar of “bizarre and underwhelming images” sells out fast each year, so get it now anyway.
- Perpetual Wall Calendar, by Dan Reisinger ($78) This is quite literally the only calendar you’ll ever need to buy. It’s also perfect for 1) control freaks who can change the design to their liking 2) paper agenda-snubbing idiots who rely solely on smart phones for daily cal syncing, or 3) people who just appreciate a good pattern.
- Today clock ($158) Ever since we got a prototype of the Today clock to test drive this past summer we’ve been pretending there are way more than 24 hours in our day—and getting away with it. That’s the magic of telling time without numbers. That shit’s all relative anyway, right?
For the asshole friend who calls you out whenever you default to Futura
We know you know why default fonts lead to default design, and it’s not like you’re not reaching for Calibri or Times New Roman or some shit. But jumping on the latest type trends is just as dangerous as resting your laurels on stalwarts like Helvetica, even if it’s got the lifetime Vignelli stamp of approval. Here are five typefaces that are as fun and different as they are usable:
- bb-book A, from Benoit Bodhuin’s Breaking Rules collection ($150) Read more about the typeface, plus the rest of his Breaking Rules collection.
- Retina, by Tobias Frere-Jones ($50-900) Read more about why it took Frere-Jones 15 years to release this baby, and why, out of all his award-winning work, he calls it his proudest accomplishment.
- Function, by Anthony Burrill for TDF ($25+) Read more about how it was inspired by the way “people who don’t know how to design a typeface would draw,” (and why that’s a good thing in this case).
- Aktiv Grotesk, by Dalton Maag ($56-225) Read more about why this is the perfect typeface for those who hate Helvetica and for those who practically worship at its altar but need an alternative because, c’mon, I mean it’s just a typeface guys, not a religion. Everyone just relax.
- FS Siena, by Fontsmith ($250) Read more about why you certainly don’t have to love Hermann Zapf to appreciate the elegant, eclectic personality of FS Siena, but then again who doesn’t love them some Zapf?
For the magazine obsessive who would honestly have a million dollars if they got a dime for every obscure new title they nonchalantly name drop
If sentences like “Did you read the piece on the way urban hot dog farming is revolutionizing food culture in Norwegian witch communities?” sound familiar, don’t slap the poor dear whose mouth it sprung from—they simply can’t help it. Independent magazine addiction may not technically be a disease, but here are five great ways to treat it:
- Impact 1.0 & 2.0 (Unit Editions, $90) Your mag-loving friend may already have the best magazine covers from 1922 on onward committed to memory, but this is the first time we’ve seen them altogether in two really beautiful books designed and edited by Spin/Unit Editions’ Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy, with essays by Shaughnessy and Steven Heller.
- COLORS, a Book About a Magazine About the Rest of the World (Damiani, $48) What magazine, be it mainstream or independent, can’t claim to take inspiration from COLORS? Here’s a fittingly unconventional look back at an unconventional magazine, one “without any stars, without any celebrities, and without any news.”
- Intelligent Lifestyle Magazine: Smart Editorial Design, Ideas and Journalism (Gestalten, $68) Not even your best-read mag lover is likely to have many copies of IL: Intelligence in Lifestyle lying around, unless they subscribe to Italian daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. But this book is packed with examples of why the modern classic is so widely praised for its experimental editorial concepts, groundbreaking infographics, and bold use of typography, photography, and illustration.
- So You Want to Publish a Magazine, by Angharad Lewis (Laurence King, $25) There are probably more expedient ways to dispose of excess time and money, but we can’t think of one that’s more fun and personally gratifying than starting your own magazine, and this book is absolute best guide we’ve found to do it—less Sat Nav, more magic eight ball—revealing the myriad of options available and the tools you need to make your own decisions as you go.
- One-year subscription to Stack Magazines ($87) When your indecisive flipping has worn out your welcome at the newsstand, let the mag know-it-alls at Stack pick the best of what’s new each month. Place your order by December 11 and they’ll toss in a free Supermundane Christmas card. In the meantime you can brush up on this year’s Stack Award winners and impress your party guests (or bore them to tears).
For the library card-carrying curmudgeon whose second favorite word after “paper” is “toothsome”
The only thing designers judge one another more harshly by besides their Instagram feeds is their bookshelves. Here are five new titles that’ll raise both your design IQ and nearby eyebrows (in approval):
- Mapping Graphic Design History in Switzerland (Draw Down Books, $69) If you feel like you’ve hit peak Swiss design this year you’re not alone (what is it with that country turning out so much good work all the damn time?), but instead of adding to the noise, this new book of essays and previously unseen design cuts right through it.
- NASA Graphics Standards Manual reprint (Standards Manual, $79) Remember when this hot spacey baby basically broke Kickstarter last fall? If you didn’t manage to snag a copy, this reissue is your chance, complete with scans of AIGA Medalist Richard Danne’s original manual.
- Paul Rand: A Designer’s Art (Princeton Architectural Press, $50) Go beyond the inspirational quotes bearing his attribution that are clogging up your social feeds and get to know the man himself through 200+ images and 27 essays, available in print again after a long hiatus.
- Cooking with Scorsese Vol. 2 (Hato Press, $10) Oh, bet you weren’t expecting us to drop a cookbook in this bitch, were you? While you’re waiting for your follow up to Volume 1 to arrive, kill two birds with one stone and figure out what’s for dinner tonight by playing Hato Press’ addictive Scorsese cooking game.
- Modern Life, by Jean Jullien (teNeues, $28) This isn’t Jean Jullien’s first illustrated commentary on modern life, and we certainly don’t expect it to be his last, but right now we can’t think of anyone better at capturing our collective malaise and turning it into something we can actually laugh at.
For the mini designer you’re raising, who, let’s face it, will probably rebel and pursue dentistry (not that there’s anything wrong with that)
Raising kids is hard; buying gifts for them is almost too easy. Our rule of thumb for sorting through the loads of crap on offer? What do you wish you’d had when you were their age? Sometimes that means a plush binky, and sometimes that means a darkly comic, wonderfully illustrated book about robbers. If that’s the kind of mini-me you’re rearing, we’ve got you covered:
- Tomi Ungerer: a Treasury of 8 Books (Phaidon, $50) We’re big fans of illustrators who don’t talk down to kids and aren’t afraid to scare them a little (it’s for their own good!). Banned from libraries and the pages of the New York Times for writing salacious stories for magazines like Playboy, Tomi Ungerer’s wicked sense of humor and cutting wit is exactly what we wish we’d been given to read when we were younger.
- Map of Days, by Robert Hunter (Nobrow Press, $19) This story has everything kids love: its main character steps into a common household object and is transported to a beautifully illustrated world of “dreams and mystery.” Um, that actually sounds pretty great right now. Can we come?
- Words, by Christoph Niemann (Greenwillow Books, $19) We can’t say whether worrying about how to convey the meaning of tough-to-draw words like “once” and “often” to children is one of the nine creative fears that keep Christoph Niemann up at night, but our hats are off to him for going where most picture books fear to tread.
- Seeing Things: a Kid’s Guide to Looking at Photographs, by Joel Meyerowitz (Aperture, $20) Put your budding artist on a first-name basis with photographers like William Eggleston, Mary Ellen Mark, Helen Levitt, and Walker Evans while showing them how to go beyond the first glance. It’s like art history and appreciation 101, but fun. And there’s a big eyeball on the cover, which is something we like here.
- Tech Will Save Us DIY kits ($29-139) When your kids are being all whiny and shit at your holiday party and you’re tempted to just stick a screen in front of their faces, give them one of these kits instead, which teach children as young as four how to code their own games, build their own speakers and synths, and make all kinds of stuff that buzzes and lights up.
For the minimalist who’s now eschewing material possessions
You know that designer who’s pared things back so far their apartment looks like a gallery space pre-install and the only thing on their desk besides a computer is a Wacom tablet? Call their bluff and make a donation or sign a petition in their name. Bonus points for gifting this to that dusty old relative who still thinks climate change is a hoax.
- Sight Unseen’s Design for Progress One click donates to seven of the organizations who will probably have to work the hardest over the next four years: Planned Parenthood, Everytown for Gun Safety, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, EarthJustice, and the National Immigration Law Center. “To anyone feeling powerless, marginalized, scared, or angry today, this is one small thing we can all do to help.”
- Climate Reality Project It’s one thing for 195 countries to sign the Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse emissions, but it’s another thing to make sure that actually happens. The Climate Reality Project makes getting involved seamless, and beautifully illustrated, too.
- Greenpeace UK’s Not Just Tuna campaign Unregulated fishing doesn’t only mean there’s more than simply tuna in those tinned cans, but it also has huge implications for “slave” labor practices around the world. Visit the site to sign the petition on behalf of a friend, share the wonderfully animated video with them, and see how different tuna brands you might be eating stack up.
- AIGA membership: As part of AIGA, Eye on Design depends on member support. There are loads of good reasons to join AIGA, but if you want to show your support for this site and the organization’s work advocating for designers in general, memberships (yes, you can gift it) start at just $50.