12.11.18
The Editors | Collections

Design Observer 2018 Holiday Gift List

Designers, illustrators, art directors, writers, unite! We enlisted the help of some of design’s movers and shakers from across the industry to share what they’re wishing for this holiday season. Whether you’re in the market to spend four dollars or four thousand, don’t try to think of a gift for that friend who has everything on your own. Move past that annual gift giver’s creative block with the help of the people who know.

For the friend who works from home (or is just a homebody)

Serving bowl for the ultimate host
I love this serving bowl and have given it as a gift to many friends. It’s a flawless shape with the most delicate glaze. You can use it as a serving bowl, or as I do; a bowl to hold my collection of sea snail shells from Hawaii. From Sean Adams, Executive Director, Graduate Program + Interim Chair, Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter. ($135, Heath Ceramics)
Gae Aulenti “Toast” toaster
I️ confess, this is a crazy thing and nobody in my family eats bread, but I️ think this toaster is fantastic. From Jessica Helfand, co-founder Design Observer and Faculty, Yale School of Management + School of Art. ($158, MoMA Design Store)
The Eames lounge chair (and gift of a lifetime)
Okay, so The Eames Lounge is still on my wishlist because it's pricey. That said, it's heaven on earth and will remain on my wish list until it's in my home. If you can afford to get your loved one an investment piece of furniture that's actually for them, let this be it. Designed by Charles and Ray Eames, this is a timeless classic since it was first introduced in 1956. Today, there's an option for any style and it's still a guaranteed winner. From Ashleigh Axios, Design Exponent, Automattic. ($4,500, Herman Miller)
Stelton Collar espresso maker
Just because coffee is a necessity for some people (cough, me), doesn’t mean that the coffee pot can’t look good while brewing it. I love this matte-black stovetop espresso maker from Debiasi Sandri, which marries form and function for the caffeine connoisseur in each of us. (If many a late night deadline has you thinking you’ll just want to get to the point, give the gift of efficiency with the classic single-serving Bialetti espresso maker.) From Lilly Smith, Editor, Design Observer; editorial manager, AIGA. ($80, Huset shop; $24.95, Amazon)
Puff tea set
It's winter and I've been drinking tea nonstop. This tea set by Mérida Anderson combines my love of hot beverages and all things puffy—a dream. From Jing Wei, illustrator. ($284, Mociun)
Tony Moly face masks
I like these face masks by Tony Moly. They have cute names and are filled with natural extracts and ingredients, like red wine, broccoli, pumpkin, and rice. It’s like I’m feeding my face a full meal. And what better time to do so than around the holidays? From Marcos Chin, illustrator. (~$6, Tony Moly)
Qubus Candle holder (and conversation piece)
My friend visited Prague and brought back this porcelain “Little Joseph” candle holder for me, and it’s the only crying baby I can deal with. They used to sell them in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, years ago, but you can still pick it up online for that person on your list who could mix up their staid design style with a bit of the macabre (but, make it fashion). From Marcos Chin, illustrator. (~$100, Grandpa Store)


For the friend in a 9-5 office

Tape dispenser/eye candy
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. From Perrin Drumm, founder of AIGA Eye on Design. ($80, Merge)
Colorblocked pens
While note-taking with one of a wide variety of black ballpoint pens, I sometimes pine for the pastel-colored milky pens I used with accompanying black paper as a kid. These colorblocked pens are the best of both worlds—they make your desk a bit more delightful in the dead of winter, but the black ink still reads “professional adult.” From Lilly Smith, Editor, Design Observer; editorial manager, AIGA. ($4 each, Poketo)
A happy mug
The rich, candy-colored glaze you’ll see while sipping a hot beverage from Studio Arhoj’s Chug Mugs will give you (or your giftee) the warm fuzzies inside and out. From Lilly Smith, Editor, Design Observer; editorial manager, AIGA. ($44, for U.S. shipping, find them at Huset shop)
A year of pencils with the perfect point
Let me tell you about this limited edition pencil subscription. I know what you’re thinking. But as a former stationery buyer, I’ve put a lot of pen(cil) to paper and these are legendary. A bunch of very famous writers and illustrators (like John Steinbeck, Chuck Jones) used them to write very famous books. But they don’t just have cult status because legends used them; they are so smooth it's like writing with honey, and so special that they sell point guards to keep those pencils sharp from now until December 2019. From Riian McCormick, social media manager, AIGA. ($99 annual subscription, Blackwing pencils)


For the friend that craves an experience over material goods

Make a donation
Make a donation in a friend’s name to the UN Refugee Agency, and make a difference in the lives of others during this season of giving. From Jessica Helfand, co-founder Design Observer and Faculty, Yale School of Management + School of Art. ($ up to you, UN Refugee Agency)
Explore an antiques market (trip to France, optional)
I wish a flea market akin to the Paris Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves or market for used books on the scale of  Marché du Livre Ancien et d'Occasion would open in New York City. Barring that impossibility I'd like to got to the markets mentioned for the holidays. Steven Heller, co-chair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Design / Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program. (Price subject to how badly you want to fly to Paris)
Subscription to Criterion Channel
As someone who does a lot of graphic design work for the film world, I'm constantly looking back to old movies for inspiration. The Criterion Channel is a new streaming service just for classic cinema. It doesn't launch until sometime in 2019, but you can subscribe now—just in time to gift the film buff in your life for the holidays. From Teddy Blank, co-founder of CHIPS, a Brooklyn-based design studio, specializing in film titles.($100 annual subscription, Criterion)
Use of Windsor typeface
Windsor—Cooper Black’s literary cousin, the typeface that opens every Woody Allen film, and can be found on everything from soda cans to 1970’s McDonald’s ads—is my all time favorite typeface. Hands down. No competition. I catalog its usage. I’ve written about it. But I’ve never actually used it in one of my own projects. Don’t think I haven’t tried. (I even tried it on my wedding invitations!) But it’s never right. All I want—all I’ve ever wanted—is a project where I can use Windsor myself. (Hint, hint clients.) From Jarrett Fuller, editor and designer, PODCAST HOST< EDITOR OF OUR BOOK. (Priceless)


For the reader/writer friend

Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design
Anyone working in social innovation will want this new book on Victor Papanek, from the Vitra Design Museum. From Jessica Helfand, co-founder Design Observer and Faculty, Yale School of Management + School of Art. ($60, Amazon)
The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games
90’s adventure game nerds behold! This beautiful book full of your favorite childhood games (Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, King’s Quest…) and interviews with the designers who made them. Beyond the nostalgia of childhood gameplay, it’s eye-opening to gain an layer of understanding with the creative direction that went into them. From Mara Lecocq, creative director; co-founder, Secret Code & Where are the Boss Ladies. (~ $40 including shipping, Bitmap Books)
Learning from Las Vegas
The reissue of Muriel Cooper's out-of-print masterpiece, Learning from Las Vegas, authored by VSBA, tops my holiday gift list. This facsimile book exists like the original as a fearless object, is a testament to Cooper's brilliance, and will now save design book connoiseurs thousands of dollars. From Forest Young, Global Principal, Wolff Olins. ($100, MIT Press)
P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever
I want this book to validate my terrible, terrible spelling skills. Whether for you or for someone with fewer years under their belt, this books justifies that the english language is hard! From Betsy Vardell, Executive Producer, Design Observer. (~$10, Amazon)
Subscription to The Baffler magazine
Give the gift of a lazy Sunday morning to the smartypants in your life with a subscription to The Baffler magazine. With a redesign by Pentagram, focus on illustration, and indie feel, this mag will clue you in to the political and cultural crit of the day and satisfy that design itch. From Lilly Smith, Editor, Design Observer; editorial manager, AIGA. ($40 print and digital annual subscription, The Baffler)


For the friend who wears design on their sleeve

Custom tee with your favorite headlines from The Cut
The Design Observer team is dedicated to their “Criticism Never Sleeps” t-shirts from The Cut Shop, New York Magazine’s online store. You can get a message to wear in every conceivable situation, each custom printed in Miguel Reyes’s elegant typeface, Canela. From Michael Bierut, Partner, Pentagram; Co-founder, Design Observer. ($24.99, Amazon)
The Tripp bag
I'm a big fan of my friend, Lindy McDonough, and the bags she's designing. I'd love to build my collection with The Tripp bag, made in America and designed for the modern woman (or man, 'cause you do you) in mind. It's guaranteed for life with leather-lined leather which means you can enjoy it fully and then pass it to the next generation. I like all seventeen colors, but can't take my eyes off of that dynamic electric blue or fresh magenta.  From Ashleigh Axios, Design Exponent, Automattic. ($540, Lotuff Leather)
Wouf tech case
While my laptop has a lot of stickers on it to make it personal, and hopefully indicate “this doesn’t belong to you,” it could use some personality while traveling from point A to point B. Keep your laptop safe in style on the way to all of those pitch meetings with these highly saturated, moody, patterned tech cases from Spanish label Wouf. From Lilly Smith, Editor, Design Observer; editorial manager, AIGA. (~ $50, Wouf)



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