2011 Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again, when we sally forth to search for interesting gifts for our colleagues, clients, friends, and family who work or play in design, photography, and other creative fields. Thanks to online marketplaces for individual artists and crafters, the gift options are plentiful, and I’ve included quirky one-of-a-kind pieces as well as mass-produced studio staples.
The beauty of the Internet, of course, is that you can visit virtual shops all over the world without leaving the house. As a result, you’ll see some gifts with prices in currencies other than U.S. dollars. No problem. The easiest way to pay for wares from the global marketplace is to use PayPal.
A few things to note: I cite list prices, but that’s not necessarily the best selling price from the vendor (especially true of amazon.com). Second, online boutique sellers like those on Etsy and Felt and Wire often can do custom orders, so don’t despair if an item appears sold out — email the seller for more info.
Here are this year’s categories:
• Stuff for Everyday Living
• Stuff for the Digital Life
• Stuff for the Office or Studio
• Stuff for the Wall
• Stuff for Personal Style
• Stuff for Fun
Stuff for Everyday Living

Tattle Tale Cups (39.95 €). These charming tea cups are made by hand in the Netherlands, so each one is unique. The name of the cup refers to a Dutch saying that the “ear of the cup” hears the gossip and stories shared while drinking tea with friends. Each lettered handle, then, can contribute to the conversation.

Arne Jacobsen cups ($21). These elegant cups are based on the lettering of architect and designer Arne Jacobsen. He designed the type in 1937 for one of his more controversial buildings, the Aarhus City Hall in his native Denmark. While not originally meant for this purpose, the letters’ proportions feel right for these coffee cups.

Tea Towel (£9). Dry the above cups — or any mug — with this sweet tea towel from England, a country that really knows its tea. The alphabet is screen-printed on organic cotton; highlighted letters spell out a subtle reminder.

2012 Letterpress Coaster Calendar ($18.95). Each month of this calendar is letterpress-printed on a thick paper coaster. The front of each coaster features a design corresponding to a product by original client New Belgium Brewing, while the back bears the dates. When the year is over, use the full set of coasters at a New Year’s party.

Alphabet Ice ($29). Words will melt when drinks are served with letter-shaped ice cubes. Letters A to Z are distributed across three trays made of silicone, so it’s easy to pop out the frozen characters.

Stainless Cookie Cutters ($33.25). This set of cookie cutters gives new meaning to the phrase “eat your words.” Stir up a batch of sans-serif sweets for type-minded friends or give the cutters to someone who likes to bake a statement.

Alphabet Pillow ($48). Its design is simple, but this pillow makes an impact. Hand-made of natural hemp, the pillow’s front is embroidered with the alphabet in a steady progression from A to Z.

Alphabeasties Pillows ($100). Each animal-shaped pillow is printed with the first letter of its name: Elephant, Alligator, Dog, Giraffe, Lion, and Penguin. The fonts underscore the nature of the beast and provide graphic shading. Each is one-of-a-kind and individually numbered.

Pixel Pillows (80 €). Chunky pixel patterns are a current design trend, as reflected in these pillows. Think of them as a digital image blown up, like, 2000x. They’re available in six colorways.

Creative Sleep Pillows ($15 each). Anyone who lives and breathes Adobe applications will chuckle at these fleece pillows, each emblazoned with a product icon. As with the software, you can buy the pillows individually or as a suite. The 10-pillow suite — the master collection, if you will — is $130. When frustrated, toss a pillow instead of the software.

CMYK Quilt ($400). The design of this handmade quilt is simplicity itself. Strips of fabric have been hand-dyed in cyan, magenta, yellow, and black to replicate the process colors used for printing. The price quoted is for a small quilt, suitable for hanging on a wall, although bed sizes are available.
Stuff for Your Digital Life

Tryx ($249). This point-and-shoot digital camera from Casio has a novel form factor that makes a lot of sense. The controls, sensor, and viewfinder are contained in a case that’s surrounded by a moveable frame that gives users flexibility in how the camera is held and how a shot is taken. For instance, tilt the frame away from the body and set it on a surface for hands-free self-portraits. A wave of the hand triggers the shutter from afar, so no frantic running to get in the scene before it clicks.

CHOBi Cam ($206). This miniature digital camera is for the secret agent who lurks in everyone. Measuring just 1.7″ wide x 1.1″ high x 0.5″ deep, it takes JPEG images at 2048 x 1536 and AVI video at 1280 x 960 with 30 fps. It’s a James Bond fan’s dream.

Memory Card Reader ($20). This USB memory card reader is top-loading, making the slots easily accessible. The tiny cube (1.5″ high x 1.5″ wide x 1.5″ deep) accepts 44 types media cards, so compatibility is ensured.

The Happy Helmet Bike Camera Mount ($22). Riding a bike is fun. What could make it even more fun? Recording your ride as you pedal. Attach this tripod-like mount to your bike helmet, hit the record button on your camera, then go. Wheeee!

Personalized Camera Neck Strap ($80). Before they were made of synthetic materials, camera straps were crafted out of leather. This classic hand-stitched neck strap is adjustable and flares at the shoulder to provide extra support. It’s a personal statement, too: Add a name or initials to the strap and watch the leather develop character from use over time.

Camera Split Strap ($39). Lugging around a camera can be a pain in the neck – literally. This split strap is designed to help alleviate the strain on your neck and shoulder. Because the strap splits into two pieces at the neck area, it adjusts to the slope of your shoulder. Its neoprene fabric makes it both comfy on your back and grippy on your clothing.

Cloak Bag ($49). The concept of this camera bag is smart and practical. Instead of fumbling around to get your camera out of its bag when you want to take a photo, just leave it in the bag and shoot. The Cloak Bag opens at the top where the viewfinder is and at the bottom where the lens is, but the camera body is encased, so it’s less obvious to outside observers. When ready to shoot, open the flaps and snap away. (Note: The manufacturer says the bag will be in stock by Christmas.)

Pixbags (54.90 €). When you want the opposite of stealth snapping, these DSLR camera bags boldly proclaim your photographic intentions while making a kooky fashion statement at the same time. Fun and funky Pixbags are handmade in Germany and are available in a mind-numbing array of eye-popping colors, patterns, and fabrics.

Duchess Case for iPad ($89). Here’s an iPad case that would make Coco Chanel proud. This ladylike bag features gold chains that dangle from a gold frame (check with the designer about chain usage) and a lining that protects iPad glass. It doubles as an analog purse, too.

Port Case ($165). On the opposite end of the iPad case spectrum is this manly bag from Jack Spade. It comes in black, navy, and the shade you see here, called “Tank”. Now that’s a macho color.

Kahler MyLife USB Ceramic Necklaces ($72). These cute and colorful ceramic pendants are also 2GB flash memory sticks. Choose from several shapes and colors.

Pantone Flash Drive ($12.99 to $49.99). Choose from 14 Pantone colors and five capacities (up to 16GB) when ordering one of these flash drives. These brightly hued memory sticks can be engraved with text of your choosing at no charge.

LaCie XTreme Key ($39.99-$199.99). This flash drive is sleek in appearance and tough in performance, standing up to heat, cold, and water. All flash drives in the LaCie’s Key line are cool, but the design of this one is particularly stunning.

iPhone/iPod charging station ($52). Books are repurposed into USB charging stations for iPhones and iPods. The Hobbit is just one of several titles. Wonder if Gollum is in Bilbo’s contact list…
Stuff for the Office or Studio

Typeface Clock ($48). The hours march around the frosted-glass face of this wall clock. Numbers are set in different fonts, so you can tell the time by its typeface. It’s half past Times Roman!

Fotoclips ($10). Even though photographs are two dimensional, how they’re displayed doesn’t have to be. Add depth with Fotoclips, plastic clips that connect photos together to form a dense mat of images or, cooler yet, a three-dimensional object. The kit includes straight connectors for 2D surfaces and joint connectors for making angles in such 3D shapes as boxes and cylinders.

Ballpoint Brass Pen (£75). While the price of this pen is high, consider it a lifetime purchase. It’s cast from brass without any lacquering or plating on it. The unadorned surface means that the metal reacts to the hand over time, giving it a lovely patina that’s uniquely its owner’s and making it a personal and enduring gift.

Woerther 5.6 mm Lead Holder Pencil ($38.90). There’s something nice about a mechanical pencil — the satisfying click when advancing the lead, perhaps? This hand-assembled aluminum pencil is made in Germany, where precision is a way of life. Best of all, it can’t be chewed to a nub.

Stainless Steel Sharpie ($7.29). Sharpies rock, so what could be cooler than a stainless steel Sharpie? Don’t leave this lying around — while the ink is permanent, your possession of it may not be.

Faber-Castell 250th Anniversary Limited Edition set ($1,700). Yes, you read the price correctly. To commemorate its 250th anniversary, Faber-Castell put together an astounding assortment of artists’ media in one set, including color pencils, watercolor pencils, pastels, erasers, even a china water cup for blending colors. It’s definitely a splurge for the special artist, illustrator, or designer in your life, but what the heck.

PITT Artist Pen Gift Set ($86.40). If the 250th commemorative set is a little too rich for your blood, this set of 24 India ink pens, also from Faber-Castell, may be easier to swallow. The nibs give you the flexibility to draw strokes from broad to narrow and anything in between.

Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Art Markers, Set of 24 with Carrying Case ($103.70). If you’ve read Gene Gable’s “How Many Markers Were On Your Taboret?”, then you know the allure of a fresh set of color markers. Delight the seasoned graphic artist or educate the Manga-obsessed youngster with a set of Prismacolor markers. Because they’re double-tipped, it’s like having two markers in one.

Vintage Camera Pencil Sharpener ($18). Show appreciation for simpler times with this pencil sharpener that looks like a vintage camera. In harmony with the analog camera it’s modeled on, the sharpener is hand-cranked.

Moleskine Drawing Gift Box Set ($39.95). Moleskine blank books are the standard for designers, illustrators, writers, or anyone who wants to jot down creative ideas. This boxed set includes essentials for illustrators, like an embossed hardcover sketchbook, two rectangular-shaped drawing pencils that don’t roll off the table, and a special sharpener.

Small Pine Wooden Coptic Journal ($35.95). What distinguishes this handmade journal from others at the usual craft fair is its lightweight pine cover. The book’s hand-sewn Coptic binding opens flat so it’s easy to scribble and scrawl on its pages. It’s rustic and elegant at the same time.

Pantone Chip Journal ($9.95). The cover of this blank journal features Pantone chips laid out in a grid. The interior pages look like graph paper and as such mimic the orderly pattern on the cover — a nice touch that shows the attention to detail expected from Pantone.

Icon Notebooks (19.95 €). Any nostalgic nerd would enjoy this three-pack of notebooks that look like bitmapped document icons.

Type Sketcher notebooks ($12). Practice your typographic skills with this three-notebook set. It consists of one book each for Upper Case; Lower Case; and Numerals, Punctuation, and Symbols. The interior pages are pre-lined with columns for Baseline and Cap Height and boxes for X-Height, Ascender, and Descender. They’re small enough to tuck in a pocket — perfect for taking inspiration from signage while sipping at a cafe.

Things to Make and Do journal ($16.95). Created by cut-paper artist Nikki McClure, this journal prompts you through illustration and type to explore your creativity, contribute to your community, and dream.

Today Is the Day ($14). Designer Jessica Hische created this day planner that encourages people to “write every day.” Interior pages feature Hische’s typographic illustrations of quotes from authors like Emily Dickinson. The pages are undated, which means it can be tailored to your schedule.

Pocket Calendar/Sketchbook 2012 ($19.85). This no-nonsense pocket calendar includes just about anything you’d want to track — holidays, events, full moons, you name it — then it’s filled out with sketchbook pages.

2012 Laurel Denise Day and Month Planners ($35). While it’s certainly convenient to use the calendar function on your phone, there’s something satisfying about having a paper planner, especially one as well conceived as this one. It shows the month and week simultaneously and includes plenty of room for to-do lists and other notes.

Patterns and Colors Washi Tape ($30). Tape may not seem very gifty, but this set proves otherwise. Eight rolls of tape made from Japanese paper (called washi) are printed in color or black-and-white stripes, dots, and patterns that will dress up any package or add to any project.

Graphic Tape ($10). Photographers and designers alike will appreciate this tape’s colorful grid that looks like zoomed-in pixels.

Felt Yard Stick ($15). On the desk or tucked in a computer bag, this handcrafted felt yardstick is a fine choice for anyone who needs an impromptu measurement or two.
Stuff for the Wall

Fabien Barrel (Mr. Cup) Calendar (39 €). This limited-edition calendar is striking and inspiring. Below an intricate illustration, a design-related maxim appears on each page. The calendar is designed in France and printed letterpress in Poland on recycled paper.

A Year in Caps: 2012 Typographic Calendar ($32). Printed on birch veneer, this calendar features different fonts for each month; each page is designed to look like a type specimen for that font.

Cats Let Nothing Darken Their Roar calendar ($45). This fun calendar features seemingly nonsensical text that cleverly hides the month’s name within.

Language of Flowers calendar ($31.75). The flora illustrating this calendar relays a love letter from a boy to a girl written in the language of flowers. A great gift? Give a book about the meaning of flowers along with the calendar and try to decipher the letter.

Smock Calendars ($8 each). Four single-page calendars boast lively colors and natural elements of flowers, raindrops, and peacocks. Each is letterpress-printed on bamboo paper.

Into the Calm Calendar ($44). This serene calendar harmonizes its illustrations with the months on each letterpress-printed page. A quote regarding peace and quiet appears at the bottom.

Perpetual Calendar ($15.60). While scoping out new calendars every year is a lot of fun, opt for this perpetual calendar and you’re set until 2030.

“Birds of Sadness” poster ($40). This stunning poster bears a Chinese proverb that reads, “You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from passing over your head, but you can prevent their making a nest in your hair.” Running fingers over the tangle of letterpress-printed lines must be a wonderfully tactile experience.

“The Process of Print” art (£120). Artist Evelin Kasikov combines her career in graphic design with her passion for craft in amazing hand-stitched embroideries. Her knowledge of the printing process is evident in her layering of CMYK color threads. While print reproductions are available, purchase an original embroidery for a very special gift.

Kate Spade Artist Portfolio Prints Holiday Series ($45). If one of Evelin Kasikov’s original embroideries isn’t in this year’s budget, consider this set of three prints by Kasikov, Katie Evans, and Anthony Zinonos produced for designer Kate Spade. The prints represent three very different styles and it’s interesting to ponder their connection to the holidays.

“Tools” print ($8). The subject is digital, the printing is letterpress. For the right creative pro, this print could serve as an imprint of honor, a pixelated purple heart. The bitmapped tools shown represent an era when digital publishing was performed only by the brave.

Print vs. Pixel ($5). Give this broadside to a designer who’s feeling trapped in the ring. Just don’t ask which corner he or she is in or you may need a cut man.
Stuff to Read and Watch

Typography Sketchbooks ($55) and Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World’s Great Graphic Designers ($60). The prolific Steven Heller and co-author Lita Talarico look into the sketchbooks of typographers, illustrators, and designers to let us see the doodling and diagrams behind the creative process. Nice to know that the caricature of your freshman biology teacher may lead to something other than detention.

Drawn In: A Peek into the Inspiring Sketchbooks of 44 Fine Artists, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, and Cartoonists ($24.99). Julia Rothman’s book reveals the scrawls and experiments of top creatives.

Finish this Book ($15). Keri Smith’s journal with guided exercises will shake loose your creativity. Within its pages are “missions” that you complete to finish a mysterious “found” journal. There are no right or wrong answers — it’s your book, after all.

Just Design: Socially Conscious Design for Critical Causes ($40). To be released December 8, Christopher Simmons’s book features more than 140 design solutions by designers — both established and up and coming — who aspire to not only do good work but also do good for the world. The list of featured designers is quite impressive.

Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People ($34.95). This book by Emily Pilloton, one of the designers featured in Just Design, promotes the beliefs that designers should be activists and that design can solve global issues. Her call to action? “Be changemakers instead of ‘stuff creators.'”

Letter Fountain ($69.99). Described as “everything you could ever want to know about printing letters and numbers,” Letter Fountain by Joep Pohlen and Geert Setola is an in-depth examination of type, its history, design, and usage. It pays special attention to the aesthetics and development of digital type. The book is nicely bound in linen with three sewn-in ribbon bookmarks.

“Helvetica” ($24.95), “Making Faces: Metal Type in the 21st Century” ($24.95), and “Typeface: Great Characters Both Wooden and Human” ($24.99). These three documentaries make a great trilogy for not only the font fanatic but also for anyone interested in design history. “Helvetica” explores the eponymous font on its 50th anniversary; “Making Faces” goes behind the scenes as Jim Rimmer creates a digital font and hand-set metal type simultaneously; and “Typeface” visits the town of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and its unlikely attraction: the Hamilton Type Museum. Fascinating subjects, intriguing characters, and engrossing narratives — watch them on a winter’s night.

Pantone: The 20th Century in Color ($40). See how color trends reflect history and how history creates color trends in this richly illustrated review of the past century. Authors Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker connect the dots between the events and objects of the era with Pantone colors.

Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills ($25). Written by David Sherwin, the senior interactive designer at frog design, this book features 80 timed exercises designed to improve your skills and bust through blocks. For example, create a typeface from your immediate environment in 120 minutes or less. Expert solutions and advice contribute to each exercise.

Never Use More Than Two Different Typefaces: And 50 Other Ridiculous Typography Rules ($18). Part of a series entitled “Ridiculous Design Rules,” this amusing volume by Anneloes Van Gaalen both debunks and confirms the rules governing type usage. Illustrations depict type used well — or not. A companion book might be Never Use White Type on a Black Background: And 50 Other Ridiculous Design Rules by the same author.
Stuff for Personal Style

Air Quote Mittens ($65). It’s tough to make the two-fingered motion for “air quotes” when digits are encased in mittens. These Kate Spade mittens solve that problem by placing quotation marks on mitten palms. Graphic designers can appreciate that these are real quotation marks, not inch symbols.

Touchscreen Gloves ($24.95). Another winter hazard is not being able to use a touchscreen device with gloves on. Screen-sensitive gloves that let you use a touch-screen device in winter aren’t new, but these no-nonsense gloves are made by the beloved Japanese design firm Muji. The red ones are especially nice because the treated areas on the fingertips don’t show.

Art History Scarf ($95). Based on a poster of the same design, this scarf provides a concise history of art by listing influential artists and their methods or subjects. For example, it begins with “Mondrian Owns Geometry, Pollock Owns Drippings, Hockney Owns California…” It’s clever, fashionable, and serves as a cheat sheet at gallery openings.

Placeholder necktie ($30).When he’s not sure what tie to wear, he can put on this placeholder. Printed with the immortal words “Lorem ipsum dolor…” it’s a cravat that can be used over and over in any situation — like the text itself.

Threadless 12 Club ($200). Instead of wine-of-the-month, give your guy or gal a subscription to the Threadless 12 Club, an annual t-shirt subscription service. Threadless is a community t-shirt design site where creatives submit graphics that, if accepted, are produced as limited edition t-shirts. As part of the club, a new t-shirt is shipped each month for a year (pictured is December 2010).

Film Roll Purse ($45). She may be shooting digital, but film canisters never go out of style, especially when it’s a faux leather handbag shaped and colored like a roll of 35mm film. Carry it by the structured sprocket handle or on a shoulder strap, and be sure to stash your point-and-shoot camera inside for irony.

Letterpress Type Pendant ($70). From a distance, this pendant looks like a tiny abstract collage. But on closer inspection, letterforms emerge. Constructed of random type lying around the print shop, it shows that type doesn’t have to be cast into words to be beautiful.

Vintage Letterpress Bracelet ($95). What’s interesting about this bracelet made from metal type slugs is its subtlety. From the side, its silver rectangles look chic and modern. But viewed from the top, it reveals itself as well-worn and well-loved pieces of type history.

Type Necklace ($35). Curse this necklace for planting 1970s balladeer Jim Croce’s song “Time in a Bottle” in my head. It’s type in a bottle that swings from this necklace. The bottle contains multiples of two glyphs, which you specify when ordering.
Stuff for Fun

LomoKino “video” camera ($79). This analog camera combines 35mm film with home moviemaking, and it’s seriously cool. The LomoKino captures 144 frames in sequence on a roll of 35 mm film; the speed of action is determined by how fast you crank its handle. When played back, the stills run in quick succession so it looks like a homemade film in all its herky-jerky glory (see example below).

USB Typewriter ($799). In the category of “everything old is new again” stands this typewriter that connects to any USB-capable device. Peck away on the typewriter keys and watch your text appear on the iPad screen. It’s a quirky thing, made for people who like the clackety-clack of a typewriter but need the ease of a digital device. A DIY conversion kit is also available for $74.

William Caslon Experience audio CD and font package ($14.95). William Caslon the type designer didn’t play synthesizer, but The William Caslon Experience musical duo does. P22 brings together type and tempo in a “discfolio” that not only features sounds from the band but a font from the 18th century typographer as well. Both tunes and typeface have been remixed for this special CD: Just as the music was reengineered for a different sound, so was the font redrawn for a different era.

Getting Started: Artist Trading Cards ($29.95). Here’s everything necessary to start creating artist trading cards: original artworks the size of baseball cards exchanged at special swap meets or through the mail. Faber-Castell provides the pencils, pens, brushes, and cardstock to make 18 cards. Buy packs for friends, keep a set for yourself, and then start trading!

Hardcover Bookbinding Kit ($25). Build your own journals with this bookbinding kit that includes materials — paper, book cloth, backing, needles, bone folder, etc. — for making three hardcover books. Instructions are included, of course.

Naef Colorem Chalk Cubes ($59.95 to $99.50). These chalkboard-covered cubes provide lots of options for creative expression. When held together with the included elastic band, the blocks form a tiled tableau for drawing. But when pulled apart, each cube has a life of its own. Picture an Exquisite Corpse-type drawing game.

Crayola Crayon Maker ($34.99). Chances are that creative giftees have mixed paints for new color combinations. Now there’s another outlet for their color experiments: crayons! By melting the crayons provided with the package or rescued from a drawer, they can create uniquely colored crayons that could become their signature statement. More than that, playing with crayons is just plain fun.

A Coloring Book: Drawings by Andy Warhol ($19.95). There’s no better way to try out your new crayon colors than with an Andy Warhol coloring book. Here’s hoping your crayons enjoy at least 15 minutes of fame.

Sandee Cohen is a New York City-based instructor and corporate trainer in a wide variety of graphic programs, especially the Adobe products, including InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat. She has been an instructor for New School University, Cooper Union, Pratt, and School of Visual Arts. She is a frequent speaker for various events. She has also been a speaker for Seybold Seminars, Macworld Expo, and PhotoPlus conferences. She is the author of many versions of the Visual Quickstart Guides for InDesign.
  • Anonymous says:

    just some real dang cool stuff here…i’d say that these would fit into anyday gifting as well as the upcoming holidays but nice research work here pamela, many kudos your way!!

  • Anonymous says:

    What? Faber-Castell 250th Anniversary Limited Edition set costs that much? OMG… who can afford that, really? Funny…

    Anyway, good stuff here! I might have to send this link to my family and friends ;) Thanks for the post!

  • GeneGable says:

    I want it all. Thanks for finding so many cool things, Pam.

    Happy Holidays!

  • Anonymous says:

    We can appreciate that they’re real quotation marks, but the fact that one set of them are upside-down would drive me nuts.

  • >