It’s the time of year again when we zip down-filled puffers over layers of boiled wool and long underwear and convince ourselves that a chic beanie is tying our “look” together; we make excuses for lunchtime toddies (they’re medicinal!); haul pine trees up four-storey walk-ups; make ridiculous plane-train-automobile travel plans to visit family and swear we’re not going to stand for sleeping on the pull-out guest couch yet again this year (and then give in like a sap)—and otherwise settle in for a season of compulsory giving.
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?
Mag mag mag: For the hoarder who can’t stop adding to that pile of magazines on the coffee table…
You can pick up any old magazine at your airport newsstand, but these publications take a little more effort to find. Artful in design and concept, our favorite titles are the the types of mags you’ll spend hours flipping through before nestling them into a hallowed home on your bookshelf.
- One-year subscription to Stack Magazines ($150)
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.
- The design-phile’s bundle: Bricks From The Kiln ($19), Shoplifters ($25), and MacGuffin ($21)
If your special someone lives and breathes all things design, then pair an Eye on Design subscription with this typographic trilogy to make their heart sing all year round.
- The literary lover’s bundle: The Happy Reader ($5), Hot Dog ($13), Still ($17), The White Review ($17)
No better time to discover new writers and sink into their fictional worlds than with a cup of tea during the chilly winter months.
- The sport fanatic’s bundle: Shukyu ($13), Victory Journal ($16), Mundial ($10), Raquet ($15)
For the designer that’s also a team player, blow them away with these stylishly art directed sporty titles. We shoot, we score.
- The muso’s bundle: Record ($20), Brick ($13), Electronic Sound ($14.50)
This collection of titles is sure to delight (and impress) that friend who’s constantly sharing Spotify playlists and moonlighting as a DJ.
- The girl gang’s bundle: Krass Journal ($25), Ladybeard ($10), Leste ($15), Girls Like Us ($28)
This holiday season, why not start a feminist mag reading club with all members of your close-knit girl gang? No Photoshop or unattainable beauty standards in sight here: these uncompromising feminist titles from around the world are radical not just in words but in visuals, too.
Desk goodies: For the co-worker who puts the “sad desk” in “sad desk lunch…”
If you can’t be the master of your design job destiny, at least be the master of your domain—namely your desk, which we firmly believe should hold more than your sticker-covered laptop, the free pen from your insurance company, and that awkward photobooth pic of your office mates 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:
- A tape dispenser that doubles as a sculpture may seem like a waste of precious desk space—unless you’re Martha Stewart, we know you’re not taping things together with actual Scotch tape. But when you peel your eyes away from the blue-light vortex of your screen and need to rest them on something besides your news feed or your latest typeface experiment, you could feast them on far worse than this. It’s expensive for a tape dispenser, but a bargain for a piece of art. ($80, Merge)
- These scissors that are too fancy to ruin by ripping open packages, because you need at least one pair that isn’t covered in tape gunk and dulled to Crayola-safety-scissors levels. ($45, HMM)
- The best-looking bluetooth speaker of the year comes in five colors that are somehow on-trend, yet not obnoxiously so; and that will stand out, yet also blend in just the right amount. And yes, it sounds great. ($229, Hay for Sonos)
- Now any lame glass is a vase, and even the humblest bodega flower is a prized stem in this so-simple-how-does-it-not-exist-yet floral hack. Instant desk upgrade. ($38 Poketo)
- This purple candle that doesn’t suck is perfect for the anti-candle-acting person who is secretly a hot-bath-red-wine-good-night person. ($24, Areaware)
- A pen that looks like a pencil from an iconic brand that only big-time writing instrument geeks will recognize (a.k.a. us), this special-edition Caran d’Ache x Viking pen is the only collab we give a damn about this season. ($50, CW Pencil Enterprises)
Calendars: 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.
- The Tan & Loose Press 2019 wall calendar
Like Tan & Loose’s Risoprinted monthly pub The Smudge, the group’s annual wall calendar is a throwback to simpler times when people took lunch breaks and stared out of windows for whole minutes; visited unspoilt natural preserves and relaxed with grass, not CBD; and generally believed that things would be okay if we all just chilled out and were nicer to each other. Consider this calendar a passport to that ancient world. Hang it on your wall. Stare. Repeat. ($15, Tan & Loose)
- Phases of the Moon calendar
Time may be a manmade construct, but the moon is not. Get this calendar if you’re looking to get more in sync with your natural rhythms, the natural world, or if you’re a witch. ($18 MoMA)
- Rubber Stamp calendar
Take control over your month by stamping it anywhere you damn well please: over the cover of your company’s annual report, your computer screen, your favorite rock, your forehead, on top of another Rubber Stamp calendar—the opportunities are only limited by your imagination. ($23 Present & Correct)
- Stendig “Vignelli” calendar
Because, Vignelli. ($38)
- Typodarium 2019 calendar
Heavy on the inspiration, light on the #inspo, each time you tear off a new page of the daily Typodarium calendar, you meet a new “rising design star” and a new typeface. Also, the simple act of turning over a new page each day makes the fact that you’ve lived another 24 hours seem like an accomplishment in and of itself. Go you. ($24, Cooper Hewitt)
Typefaces: 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:
- For those dreaming of a white (lines) Christmas—FREEZE! Here’s a typeface for hip-hop lovers and anyone who likes to combine “steady rhythm along with a joyful, spontaneous abandon:” Grandmaster. Designed by Lucas Descroix at The Designers Foundry, the font is available as a bundle of all five styles for $95, with individual bold, back, italic, regular, light, or thin for $30 each.
- One for those pals who aren’t sure if they’re all about restraint or eccentricity here: Saol Text by Florian Schick & Lauri Toikka for foundry Schick Toikka draws on American “old style” Victorian fonts with a thoroughly contemporary twist. As you’d expect from such a characterful wee font, there’s a ton of styles to choose from, each for $50.
- Holiday season is family season, so what better font to gift to a type-loving relative or friend than one with a cute familial backstory, and charming serifs to boot? Here’s F37 Bobby from Rick Banks and his foundry Face37, inspired by the “very warm and popular serifs” from the 1970s, like Windsor, Bookman, and Cooper Black and yours for around $44 per weight.
- Christmas is all about sparkles and sometimes typefaces are, too. Minérale’s angular yet fluid form recalls the stones it’s named after. Created by Thomas Huot-Marchand for foundry 205TF, packs of two weights are $85.
- All those who like to overindulge on both food and TV over the holiday season, look no further than Super Fat Bob by Jean-Baptiste Morizot for Phantom Foundry. Inspired by vintage video game characters and one very famous sponge, Bob is yours for just $34.
Books: 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 titles that’ll raise both your design IQ and nearby eyebrows (in approval):
- VNIITE-Discovering Utopia: Lost Archives of Soviet Design Just a guess, but perhaps there’s someone on your list who can appreciate a gorgeously-printed, enormous tome of a coffee table book? Full of high res images of Graphic Design? We loved this book from Unit Editions, filled with some truly beautiful, radical work from a studio called VNIITE that’s been buried by history since the collapse of the USSR. $45
- Sagmeister & Walsh: Beauty Another one for the purely visual reader—and this one wears its subject right on its sleeve. Beauty is Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh’s exploration into what beauty is, why we’re so drawn to it, and how it influences the way we think, feel, and behave. And yes, the book is beautiful. $40
- Broad Band by Claire Evans No surprise that women have been all but written out of history of the internet, but Evans—both a journalist and the front woman of the pop band YACHT—tracks them down and writes them back in, with warmth, efficacy, and a real knack for storytelling. Warning: more words than pictures. $16
- 4 Fragments by Viktor Hachmang For the friend who still thinks “print is dead.” Prove ‘em wrong with Hachmang’s very beautiful, very tactile comic, which one EoD staffer calls “dreamlike, elliptical, and atmospheric.” $17
- Friendship of Nations Published a few years ago, but as relevant as ever. Looking back on the the collapse of Communism and the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz traces the unlikely points of convergence in Iran and Poland’s political, economic, and cultural histories—through research, installations, lecture-performances, and print media. $25
- Typographic Ticket Book Oh, so your friends have strong opinions on typography?? They can’t banish Comic Sans from the world, but they can certainly try. $10
Kids: 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:
- Josef Albers Puzzle
Josef Albers was a master of color. The ex-Bauhaus and Black Mountain College educator taught many a designer the ins-and-outs of color theory and was a prolific painter to boot. Now six of his painting from MoMa’s collection have been transformed into 25-piece puzzles that are simple enough for your kid to master and pretty enough to hang on your wall when they’re done. ($25)
- Solar Powered Rainbow Maker
This little doodad is the best of both worlds—a scientific lesson and home decoration all in one. Stick the suction cup to your window, and the tiny solar panel will gather enough juice to make the gears whir into motion and spin a dangling crystal. As the sunlight filters through the stone, it refracts sunlight to create tiny moving rainbows throughout the room. ($38)
- Origami Paper Planes
There’s more than one way to fold a paper plane. Proof: This colorful origami set from that serves as a guide to paper plane design. Whether your kids likes 727 jetliners or into tiny propeller planes, this set will walk them through origami basics for folding nine paper plane designs. The kit comes with a poster that you can hang on the wall, too. ($12)
- Balancing Blocks
These colorful blocks from Fort Standard aren’t your average building blocks. For starters, they not exactly easy to build. The set of ten stone-shaped pieces of oak have flat surfaces that can be used to create unusual compositions. Stack them vertically and horizontally to create your own Stonehenge-like creation. ($48)
- Chalk Set
Everyone loves to draw with chalk, but no one loves the mess it makes when you toss it into a bucket. This high design chalk set from Fredericks and Mae is arranged into a star shape, which helps keep the chalk organized and functions as a puzzle—albeit one that’s going to get your hands a little dirty. ($30)
Donate: 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.
- Designers Available is a project initiated by Joelle Riffle that connects designers interested in contributing their skills in support of non-profits and community organizations, facilitating social change through direct service. Starting 2019, the platform will allow designers from underrepresented backgrounds working with non-profits to get paid for their work. You can donate here to help compensate these designers equitably for their time.
- Interference Archive is an all-volunteer open-archive that aims to encourage critical and creative engagement with our rich history of social movements. Its mission manifests in an open stacks archival collection, publications, a study center, and public programs including exhibitions, workshops, talks, and screenings. You can become a member and/or support it here.
- Women Who Code The global non-profit has programs and opportunities designed to promote and inspire female engineers to excel in technology careers. Donations will help fund training, workshops, hackathons, conferences, as well as technical scholarships and industry conference awards.
- The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ youth. They provide a 24/7 crisis line with trained counselors, in addition to education and resources for kids who may not otherwise find the support they need. You can support them through donation here.
- 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.