It’s the time of year again when we layer boiled woollen sweaters over our Uniqlo heat tech, make excuses for lunchtime hot toddies (they’re medicinal!), haul pine trees up four-storey walk-ups, and settle in for the 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?
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 content, our favorite titles are the the types of mags you’ll spend hours flipping through before finding them a deserving place on your bookshelf.
- Anxy ($40)
As one of the year’s buzziest new titles, Anxy is perhaps an obvious choice, but deservingly so. Coming out of nowhere (seemingly) and at just the right moment, the magazine about our deep-seated anxieties dove into anger in its first issue from a range of perspectives, including an interview with Margaret Atwood, nbd. What zeitgeist-y topic will it tackle next?
- Pin-Up, (~$50)
Yes, Felix Burrichter’s super fabulous “magazine for architectural entertainment” has been around since 2006, but it’s only gotten better with time. A thoroughly different take on the traditional (staid) architecture magazine, with always-on-point design from art director Erin Knutson, this’ll work for any designer on your list. Kick it off with the “comfort” issue.
- The Smudge, by Clay Hickson (~$45)
If you’re lucky enough to have a mate who’s not only hip but also really fucking WOKE then you could do a hell of a lot worse than signing them up for a subscription to The Smudge. Created by Clay Hickson of Tan & Loose Press, this is a monthly newspaper with a radical bent, and a design language and overall ethos inspired by the underground presses of the 1960s and 70s. Sales from each issue also contribute to various charities: so far hefty donations have been made to Planned Parenthood, Earthjustice, American Psychiatric Association Foundation, Houston Food Bank and more.
- Eye on Design magazine (price TBD)
Shameless? Maybe a little. But we’re excited about our first issue (not to be confused with our pilot issue) dropping next March, and we hope you are, too. Subscriptions for the quarterly mag haven’t opened yet, but sign up for our newsletter, and you’ll be the first to know when they do.
- MacGuffin ($50)
A magazine named after a Hitchockian MacGuffin, ie. an otherwise meaningless object that spurs a knotty narrative? Yes please. This alluring design gem from Amsterdam focuses on one humdrum household furniture item per issue, and so far has unravelled the fascinating life of the bed, window, and rope. What better way to begin your mag-love affair than with the latest sink themed issue (who knew the humble drain pipe could be so fascinating?) MacGuffin will take you down quite the whirlpool; you’ll never think about doing the dishes in the same way again.
- 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. 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 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 desk, 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:
- Desk pad set in rose, by Poketo ($45)
At least when you attempt to organize your life this year, you’ll look on-trend with this cheery pink set of trompe l’oeil memo pads and to-do lists.
- Space Stand pen, designed by Steven Haulenbeek ($75)
Two words: solid steel, because the amazing things you’re likely to write with this deserve nothing less (or lighter). Treat yoself with the fancy-looking version of the classic 1960 Fisher Space “Bullet Pen,” made for actual astronauts, so it’s damn well good enough for you.
- 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.
- 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.
- Typodarium 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?
- Monthly Planning Book, Present & Correct ($15.50)
Not everything needs to be complicated. Some proof: this paperback planner. You know exactly what you’re getting with this calendar. It says so right on the cover. The months are laid out clearly and simply. In the back there’s a yearly layout in case you’re looking for something a little more condensed. It’s not fancy, but that’s exactly why we like it.
- Color Me Calendar, Julie Joliat ($27)
Calendars can be a source of stress. Too much to do, too little time. But this planner from illustrator Julie Joliat deflects some of that anxiety by doubling as a coloring book. Joliat assigned each week a hue—from jade to vanilla to red—for no discernible reason other than it’s pretty damn fun. Use a colored pencil to doodle on the stark white paper. Or use it to scratch off your to-do list. With enough planning, maybe you’ll have time to do both.
- 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 ($60) 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.
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:
- Brutal, by Benoit Bodhuin ($150)
Read more about the typeface, plus more about the designer’s Breaking Rules collection.
- Galapagos, by Dinamo ($107-716)
Chuck out the Monopoly, this typeface based on a game will keep the font (enthusiastic) family happy from Christmas eve to new year.
- MD Maya, by Moby Digg (Free)
For the gift-giver on a budget, there’s Maya (no one has to know you got it for free). Read more about the dancing, ancient-inspired letterforms that are sure to set the modern music lover’s heart on fire.
- 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:
- The British Underground Press of the Sixties ($50)
Amongst those railing against the monoculture of mainstream media in the supposedly swingin’ 60s were Barry Miles and John “Hoppy” Hopkins, who started the first British underground newspaper, the International Times (IT) , in 1966. Other magazines soon followed, including Oz, Friends (which became Frendz), Gandalf’s Garden, Black Dwarf, and Ink. The book The British Underground Press of the 60’s showcases every single issue edition of every significant underground publication dedicated to counterculture. Bet your know-it-all mate hasn’t seen ALL of them, surely.
- 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.
- 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.
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):
- Barbara Radice’s Memphis ($250)
Recently come into some money? Forgot to plan ahead for a gift for that special someone? You can’t go wrong with Barbara Radice’s rare tome on the Memphis movement—the maximalist antidote for any minimalist IKEA bookshelf—or any of the books included in Alexandra Lange’s piece on vintage design books over at Curbed.
- Antoine Cossé’s Showtime ($20)
French illustrator Antoine Cossé published a new book this fall with the themes of trickery, subjectivity, magic, and illusion, and his signature dreamy monochromatic illustrations to match. As one EoD staffer poetically describes it, his works “often look like reflections in a puddle or mascara stains gathering around teary eyes.” What? Not every gift needs to be bursting with holiday cheer.
- Artists Who Make Books ($125)
Pure eye-candy for anyone who makes a beeline for the gallery shop, or ends up unexpectedly broke after visiting art book fairs.
- 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.
- 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, $12) 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.
- 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:
- Dymaxion Folding Globe, Brendan Ravenhill/Areaware ($15)
Buckminster Fuller designed the dymaxion map projection in 1954, and to this day, it’s considered one of the most accurate projections of Earth ever created. Not that your kid will care once they get their hands on this globe. Designer Brendan Ravenhill reimagined Fuller’s seminal work as a foldable globe that connects via magnets. It’s part geography lesson, part puzzle, and a heckuva lot of fun to build.
- Kano Computer Kit ($150)
Technically, Kano is a DIY computer that’s meant to teaches your kid to code. But that’s only half of it. Once your kiddo has programming basics down, she can use her newfound skills to do all sorts of things, from building video games to making art projects.
- 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.
- 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?
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.
- 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.
- Design For America
Northwestern University’s Design For America teaches human-centered design to students and helps develop innovative solutions to address challenges in education, health and environment. Donations support a grant that helps students carry their projects through to implementation, or setup a DFA studio on another campus.
- Design that Matters
This non-profit brings human-centered design to rural and poor communities and develops life-saving products that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
- 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.
- 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.