2012 Holiday Gift Guide

Holiday gift giving time is here and the clock is ticking. If you have a creative professional on your shopping list, you’ll want to read our holiday gift guide. We’ve put together a collection of gifts that includes cameras, games, jewelry, and posters for the designers in your life. And it never hurts to get something for yourself, too. Here we go!
First and foremost one my gift list is a donation to the Hamilton Type Museum. As Mike Rankin recently reported, Hamilton needs to raise $250,000 to finance a move to another building in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Without the money, the 132-year-old institution, a former sign printer that contains the most extensive collection of wood type in the United States, is in danger of closing down.

If a gift donation doesn’t feel personal enough, purchase prints or gear from the Museum Shop. I recently bought this Hamilton press apron ($25). It has a pocket for a pica pole —or wooden spoon, if you prefer.
The deadline for the move is February, so time is short. Anything you can do helps.
Now, before we move on, let me remind you that items do sell out, especially on etsy.com where many creations are one of a kind. However, I’ve found that if you contact etsy.com artists directly, they may be able to accommodate you with another similar item or through a custom order.


I’ve seen a prototype of this before, but Scrabble Typography is finally available to the public. This limited-edition version of the beloved word game features different typefaces on the letter tiles. It has gorgeous packaging, too ($199).

Here’s another game for font fanatics: Type Trumps One and Two from British design firm Face37 (£9.99 each). In this card game, you try to “one-up” other players with font facts. Face37 says: “The idea is to compare the (irrationally ranked) attributes of various famous fonts. You know, things like legibility, cost of ownership and even special powers — which, in the case of Futura, is the fact that Stanley Kubrick was a fan.”

You don’t need to know font trivia to play with Helveticards CMYK from Fab.com ($10). This is truly a designer’s deck of cards: the font is Helvetica (what else?), and CMYK is a color scheme only a graphic artist could love.

This poster entitled Alphabet of Typography from infographic specialists Pop Chart Lab consolidates just about everything you need to know about typography in one 18”-x-24” sheet. Need a reminder as to the difference between a crotch and a vertex? You’ll find it here.

For type posters with humor, check out these offerings from Scribble on Everything The Type-O-File series includes: the So You Need a Typeface decision tree ($22), Typefaces of the World ($26), and the Periodic Table of Typefaces ($22).

With 365 fonts on 368 pages Typodarium 2013, from German publisher Verlag Hermann Schmidt Mainz, is more than a desk calendar (16,80 €). This curated collection features the work of type designers from around the world. At the end of the year, imagine how type savvy you’ll be. Creativepro.com editor Mike Rankin has more.

You can also mark off the days with these Reasons to Love Type pencils ($9.00). I like “In the gutter is acceptable.”

If you know a designer who is juggling too many projects give her these Alphabet Balls, small ceramic spheres bearing letters ($2 each). Give an initial or spell out a word. Great for fidgeters, too.

Pariah Burke covered such a comprehensive list of t-shirts in his three-part series that I didn’t think I could find anything new. Then I found the 7 Deadly Sans t-shirt. Aha! Available in styles for men and women ($22.50).


People will stop and stare when they see you drink your coffee out of a Nikon lens. Photojojo’s totally realistic mug and thermos are both insulated with stainless steel to keep your beverages hot. The 16-ounce thermos ($35) has a removable handled cup while the 10-ounce mug ($30) actually telescopes as if it were a zoom lens. By the way, Canon lovers, Photojojo carries that brand as well.

I adore this cartoonish camera bag-slash-purse from Jump From Paper ($99). Don’t let its two-dimensional appearance fool you, though. Inside it has plenty of pockets and a zippered gusset on the bottom that expands its depth. See the site for a store near you.

Because of digital photography, film is becoming retro-cool. If you know someone who has a film camera in the closet (like me!) give him Photojojo’s Rare Film Gift Pack ($49). This trio of hard-to-find films – Fuji Natura 1600, Rollei Redscale Film 400, and Revolog Kolor 200 – produces beautiful images that just might outdo Photoshop. All can be developed with one-hour processing, too.

I’ve written before about the effort to keep Polaroid instant film alive thanks to the Impossible Project. I can think of few photography gifts cooler than the Vintage Polaroid 600 Camera Kit ($180). It includes an original Polaroid Sun 600 camera and two fresh packs of film.

For another old-school photographic experience, give your photography minded friend a Holga camera. Built around a single plastic lens, these inexpensive cameras yield images that are decidedly low-tech but high-style. There are lots of models to choose from, but the Holga 120N Camera and Lens Kit Bundle is a good place to start. It takes 120 film, so you’ll get to experiment with medium-format film, too.

Get similar results on your iPhone 4 or 4S with the Holga iPhone Lens & Filter Kit ($23.99). Select one of nine filters by spinning a dial much like that on a rotary phone (remember those?). It includes a crazy bunch of filters such as 60mm macro lens, color filters with effects, and split-image filters to produce two, three, or four identical images in one photo. A version for the iPhone 5 is also available ($26.99).

What’s the point of a camera accessory for your iPhone if it’s bigger than the phone itself? The tiltpod mobile tripod from Gomite fits on your key ring, making it a compact companion to your iPhone 4 or 4S ($14.95). Perfect for those impromptu photos.
Creativepro.com contributor Sharon Steuer has a different take on a tripod for her iPhone. I’ve been looking for the right tripod for quite some time now. I recently discovered the iStabilizer Flex ($29.95). It works not only with all iPhone models, but most every smart phone out there (and some phones that aren’t even that smart). The tripod legs are those groovy ones that wrap around things. But if you already have a tripod, the company also sells just the bracket as an iMount, so you can mount your iPhone on any standard tripod ($19.95). You can also buy a telescoping (up to 3 feet) monopod (with the same bracket) that you can hold up to photograph large crowds or turn toward you for bigger portraits ($34.95). If you don’t have long enough arms to trigger the shutter, iStabilizer also sells a companion Bluetooth remote by Satechi ($39.99).

Cool stuff is happening in App-land for photographers, but can you give an app as a gift? Yes, you can, says Creativepro.com contributor Sharon Steuer. The screen shots above show what to do in iTunes. Now having said that, Sharon shares a few an app she thinks would make any photographer happy.
The camera in the iPhone becomes more powerful with ProCamera ($.99 for iPhone, $4.99 for iPad). Like the Apple Camera app, with ProCamera you can touch the screen to lock focus and exposure, but then you can (unlike the Camera app) freely, and separately, drag around the points for focus and exposure. Once done, it’s hard to imagine not having it available when you need it. ProCamera also lets you set shutter timers, shoot RapidFires bursts of continuous photos, and it includes anti-shake, steady light, and a few other advanced manual camera features.

Wear Ansel Adams’ photography credo on your wrist with this bracelet from the Etsy shop Always A Memory ($19). It’s hand stamped with the phrase “You Don’t Take A Photograph You Make It.”

Photographers will love this soap in the shape of a camera ($8.50). Take a picture of I first, though, before its details get worn away in the shower.


Be like Seurat with this Vintage Dot Paint Set available from Amazon. The kit includes 20 pressed watercolor cakes, 15 colored pencils, 2 porcelain mixing pots, 2 paintbrushes, and one eraser, which should make it a tad easier to create your own Pointillist masterpiece.

Carving linoleum blocks is one of the easiest ways to get into printing. A fun hands-on gift is a block printing kit. Here are two, from the low to the high. First, take a look at the Speedball Super Value Block Printing Starter Kit ($25.99 list, available from Amazon). This introductory kit contains all you need to get started – or just mess around – in linoleum block printing. You get a carving tool with multiple blades, a linoleum block, a brayer and ink. Other people on your gift list will appreciate the Block Printing Kit from Twenty Twenty Gallery (£89.99). Printmaker Angela Harding handpicked the tools in the set, which includes such pro-level tools as Swiss-made cutters, Japanese vinyl, high-quality paper, water soluble ink, and more. Even the box it comes in is handmade.

This set of 12 color markers, 12 triangle crayons, and 16 hexagon colored Pencils isn’t just for children. The P’kolino Playful Art Set will appeal to anyone who likes to sketch and doodle with non-toxic drawing tools ($19.99). The marker ink is even colored with low-odor food dye.

Pencils are my favorite writing tool, so I like this Pop-Up Pencil Cup that’s available from Stylus Fine Pens ($38). Like a old-fashion soda fountain dispenser for straws, pull up the center know and your pencils pop up, making it easy to grab the one you want. This will be perfect for retrieving the pencil stubs my dog left for me.

Because I’m a pencil lover, I’m also a big fan of erasers. Coolhunting.com alerted me to this nifty Knock Type Eraser from Muji that looks and functions like a pen ($1.95). Easy to hold and easy on the wallet.

Jot down your ideas or sketch out concepts in notebooks from . A perfect choice: Designers I Met and Liked blank book ($11). A book for photographers is available, too.

Kids are creative because they have time to play. Take back your playtime with Miller Goodman ShapeMaker blocks ($75, available from Amazon). These 25 wood cubes have simple shapes drawn on each side. Mix them up to make a nearly infinite number of people, places, things, or whatchamacallits.

Print your own designs on fabric with Inkodye from Lumi ($36). Using Inkodye pigments, you can paint graphics or transfer photographs to natural fibers and then seal the colors using only natural sunlight (colors develop in less than 20 minutes when exposed to strong sunlight or UV lamps). The results are nothing like those ink-jet iron-on transfers you find at office supply stores.

Are you an Instagram fan? Then you’ll love Stitchtagram, a service that transfers your Instagram photos to a variety of items like pillows and tote bags ($28-$82). Upload your Instagram photos and lay them out using a Stitchtagram template. Your photos are then printed onto fabric and hand made into a pillow for mom or coin purse for sis.


Visitors to your living room — or boudoir—will know where your heart lies with this I love typography pillow ($49, on etsy.com).

This has got to be the perfect container for Alpha-Bits cereal: A bowl decorated with the names and designs of computer fonts ($48, on etsy.com).

It’s the designer’s dichotomy: RGB or CMY? With this mug, you have both. One side is painted with the CMY color wheel and the other with RGB ($13, on etsy.com). Perfect for black coffee or milky-white tea.

Read the writing on the wall with a poster of your favorite book created entirely out of type. NovelPoster uses text as both subject and medium for its literary posters ($40). The type provides the background and defines the shape of the picture element. Shown above is The Great Gatsby.

Another visual type trick: Axis Maps makes city maps out of type that’s been individually placed ($30). Each street, park, river, and lake is replicated in Illustrator using the place names themselves. Letterpress versions are also available ($95).

Plan for a colorful 2013 with the Moleskine 2013 Daily Planner Box Set ($39.99). Twelve notebooks are color-coded for each month.

I’m not sure if this calendar is for designers, per se, but it sure is creative. Each day of the Bubble Calendar 2013 is covered with a plastic bubble, like those used for packaging ($21.99, from Perpetual Kid). When the day is done, pop the bubble (given the sound it makes, maybe popping it the next morning would be better). It’s fun and annoying!


What do you give a restless soul who is stimulated by change? A subscription to Tattly, the hip temporary tattoos created by designers for designers ($60). You get 8 tattoos each month for six months, or 56 in all.You can’t choose what comes each month, but with 250 (and counting) Tattly designs, how can you go wrong?

Remember when lockets held photographs of your loved ones? Even with digital photography they still can, that is if you buy a USB Locket from Emily Rothschild ($198-$250). Store your images on the USB drive and tuck it safely in the 24-carat-gold plated locket. Snap it shut to keep your data close to your heart.

When it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes fewer pixels is better. Take this sterling silver 8-bit heart necklace, for example ($38). It’s got all the pixels in the right places.

What to give someone whose heart isn’t yet spoken for? How about a placeholder? This copper Lorem Ipsum necklace fills in the empty frames until the real thing comes along ($27).

If your circle of friends includes a Photoshop fanatic, consider the gift of a necklace of Photoshop tools ($39, from etsy.com). (How long would a necklace have to be to hold all of Photoshop’s tools, I wonder.)

If your designer friend uses more of the Creative Suite than just Photoshop, perhaps this necklace of file extensions is a better fit ($29, from etsy.com). You choose the three file types that you want — .psd, .ai, .indd, .fla, .html, or .erb – and Afloat Studios will make you a necklace. Note that you can also necklaces with only one charm, too ($24). An .indd necklace would make a lot of people I know very happy.

Paper beads hand made by women in Uganda are strung together to form necklaces and bracelets. Non-profit Because of Hope (BOH) helps women and orphans develop a sustainable livelihood, so you can look good and feel good about it ($10-$12 from Felt and Wire).

When most people hear the word “matrix,” they probably think of the Keanu Reeves movie. But some folks—graphic artists and printers especially—know that a matrix is an essential part of a Linotype machine. As most Linotype machines are already in the scrapheap, salvage a piece of printing history with these Vintage Linotype Matrix Earrings ($18, from etsy.com).

Be sure to check out the DashDotDash etsy store to see rings, pendants, and pins made from wood type ($38-$60).

Not just an ink color formula guide anymore, Pantone products pop up everywhere these days, including on your make-up table. Now you or your friends can have Pantone toes (and fingers) with Pantone Universe Nail Lacquer ($5, from Sephora). You can also sign up on Sephora’s web site for an exclusive eye-shadow palette inspired by Pantone’s Color of the Year, Emerald.

An alternative to a real bottle of nail polish is this triptych depicting imagined Pantone nail colors ($68). Better yet, supplement the real polish with the faux bottles. Not only does the poster play on the Pantone color palette but it also flirts with pop art a la Andy Warhol.

Batter up with these fabulous prismatic baseball bats from Warstic Wood Bats ($79). Made of sugar maple, these beauties are designed for display, though, not play.


Back in May I wrote about the introduction of a new stylus for touchscreen devices. Since then, I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from artists about the Sensu Artist Brush and Stylus, a two-fer with a brush on one end and rubber tip on the other ($39.99). Using a brush is better than finger painting, right?

The Jot Touch from Adonit is the first pressure sensitive stylus for the iPad to include Bluetooth connectivity ($99.99). It also has a tiny plastic disc at its tip to provide enough surface area for pressure while keeping your fingers out of the way. A number of apps already support the Jot Touch, including Photoshop Touch, Procreate, and Zen Brush.
Sharon Steuer adds another app she thinks should be on your holiday gift list. Here’s what she says: Walking Macworld the year before last with Sandee Cohen and Cookie Seigelstein, they both told me I had to try out Omni Focus, an app for auto-syncing lists and reminders ($79.99). OmniFocus gets installed on all your devices and syncs invisibly between my Mac computer, iPhone and/or iPad. I can keep all my lists easily accessible wherever I am, complete with nested sets of sublists, start and finish deadlines, and categorizations beyond anything I can conceive of. What do I need to do before my trip? I’m downtown, what was it I needed? I have a few minutes before the conference call, what emails do I need to attend to? In short, just about everything for work and beyond is at my fingertips, and all syncing without thinking about it.

The Bow on the Package

Think you know design? You may want to think again after playing DESIGNerd Trivia Game. Each of the three card volumes has 100+ questions for graphic designers ($60 each). The questions for Volume One were written by Kevin Hill, the Australian designer who devised the series; the Second Volume by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico; the Third Volume by Stefan Sagmeister. Fast Company Designposted some sample questions, among them: “Tobias Frere-Jones designed a typeface for FontBureau based on type used on roadway signs. What is the name of this typeface?” (Volume 2) and Which company published U&lc (Upper and Lower Case Magazine)? (Volume 3). I think these were pretty easy. Did you? The answers are Interstate and International Typeface Corporation (ITC).
A tip of the Pen Tool to Cool Hunting, Fab, and Swiss Miss for pointing some stuff out.