I hope you kiddos have been good all year because it’s time for the 2016 Holiday Gift Guide. You’ll no doubt want to scoop up a few of these for yourself, but remember that it’s better to give than…something-something. Check out this year’s sackful of shiny goodness and pick out something you like, or embrace the spirit of the season and gift your favorite creative with a trinket or gadget from this year’s compilation.
Art Director’s Reference Set – $48
The Deluxe Art Director’s Reference Set from Galaxy Guide is a must-have not only for art directors but designers as well. Made up of several smaller sets they offer—and with extra goodies like the newest version of their Color Map and The Galaxy Gauge 18 Imperial type measuring ruler thrown in for good measure—the Art Director’s Set has everything you need to measure and spec type and color for any project you take on.
Tattly Temporary Tattoos – $5
Remember getting fake tattoo stickers in your Cracker Jacks as a kid? Tattly brings back that fun with their well-designed, safe, temporary tats. Their design section features some of my favorites, like the art supply set, color wheels, a bike made from type, and the uber-clever Tattone. If you’re not picky about which design you end up with, check out their 3-, 6-, or 12-month subscription packs.
Slate 2.0 Lap Desk – $90-$100
This ain’t your grandma’s overstuffed, wobbly, paisley-clad lap desk. The Slate 2.0 from iSkelter is hand-crafted from bamboo—in a light or walnut finish—and fits your tech beautifully. Featuring circular channels to keep both your laptop and your lap top cool, the Slate’s build options include a whiteboard, mousepad, or iPhone slot and it comes in a right- or left-handed setup.
Fold Factory Fold Club – Free
I’m pretty sure I’m going against Rule #1, but I’m going to mention this club anyway. For producing printed materials—especially direct mail—Fold Factory’s Fold Club is the place to be. Joining the club is free and gives you unlimited access to their Template Builder, which provides customizable InDesign templates for setting up several types of folds. Be sure to check out their paid dieline downloads and the addictive “60-Second Super Cool Fold of the Week” videos on YouTube.
Color Inspirations – $26
For the color lover on your list, you ought to consider Color Inspirations. Published by COLOURlovers.com, this book is a collection of over 3,000 color palettes, with accompanying CMYK and HEX values, as well as several articles on color and color theory. And if copying down all those color values sounds laborious, no worries, as all the color palettes are available on a bonus CD.
Smoovie Video Stabilizer – $29
This inexpensive video stabilizer uses the power of magnets and gravity to take the choppiness out of your hand-held mini cam shots. The Smoovie folds up to pocket-sized and its universal grip makes it ideal for smartphones, or even that shiny GoPro you’re hoping to score this holiday! The lightweight design and natural grip make it easy to handle and manipulate to keep the shakes out of your next cinematic masterpiece.
Satechi 4-Port USB Hub – $20
Is there any first world problem more annoying than the image of a beautiful MacBook pro and sleek Apple display on your desk, only to be spoiled by the ugly plastic USB hub with its unsightly black cable? I’m sure there is, but let’s solve this crisis first. Satechi brings beauty back to the desktop with its 4-port USB hub, crafted with that eye-catching aluminum finish we’ve come to expect from our tech. The four USB 3.0 ports sit at an angle, with the device mimicking Apple’s wireless keyboard design. And the cable, while uncomfortably short, is the same pristine white as the Apple gear sure to be keeping it company on the desk.
InDesign Secrets Podcast – Free
For the InDesign user who wants to know everything about Adobe’s page layout powerhouse, InDesign Secrets is the go-to source. Though getting to the level of cumulative knowledge possessed by hosts Anne-Marie Concepción and David Blatner is a quixotic task, a subscription to the InDesign Secrets podcast is one sure-fire way to become an InDesign guru of the highest order. Or at least to learning the many Obscure InDesign Features of the Week-eek-eek.
Pencil by FiftyThree – $50+
Still one of the coolest tablet styluses around, Pencil by FiftyThree is a thing of beauty. Available in aluminum, walnut, and gold finishes, it takes its form from the flat, non-rolling carpenter’s pencil. Its precise drawing tip and edges allow you to use natural surface pressure to vary lines. And Pencil has something lacking in most styluses: a built-in eraser. When using FiftyThree’s Paper app—or other supported apps—simply flip Pencil around to erase! No need to switch to another tool within the app. Once your lines are on the digital page, you can even use your fingers to blend colors, but Pencil’s palm rejection controls will keep you from inadvertently blending while drawing.
Charging the Pencil is done via USB and removable battery. Its body is made from a single piece of material, leaving no little parts to break off, and Pencil comes with an extra drawing tip and eraser. While many of the features work best with FiftyThree’s own Paper app, many of Pencil’s awesome functions are accessible in PDF Pen, Procreate, Adobe Draw and Sketch, and GoodNotes, among others. Pencil is also perfectly capable as a non-connected stylus in non-supported apps on all capacitive devices.
The Art of John Alvin – $25
Movie poster art will always hold a magical spot in my heart; my bedroom walls were covered in framed lobby posters as a pre-teen future filmmaker. And based on the existence of not one, but two, sessions discussing the art form at the most recent Adobe MAX, I’m not the only one enamored by them. The movie poster artist has “one take” to capture a film’s spirit and mood, and no one has been a quintessential force in my lifetime as John Alvin. His artwork has been collected into The Art of John Alvin, a collection that should please both designers and movie lovers on your list.
The 160-page hardcover includes his contributions to some of Disney’s biggest late 20th century releases, including The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast. Close your eyes and I’ll bet you can clearly visualize the colorful posters. The iconic and simple boy-meets-alien E.T. artwork speaks volumes and Alvin’s contribution to fantasy and sci-fi on film is undeniable. The classic Blade Runner, Willow, Gremlins, and The Lost Boys are all his creations. The Art of John Alvin includes commentary by colleagues and fans, as well as never-before-seen sketches and works in progress.
Align Detachable Stapler – $22
Nobody thinks much of their stapler, right? It sits on your desk and it does its job. But nobody ever discusses your stapler’s dark secret: It’s never long enough to suit all your stapling needs. Stapler usefulness has always been limited by the length of the arm itself. Need to staple larger sheets of paper? Forget it. Until now. The Align detachable stapler from the folks at Quirky has you covered. The genius lies in its simplicity. The stapler is made up of two pieces that attach and align using magnets. So go ahead, staple wherever you want. And when you’re done, you can even store the stapler by sticking it to your filing cabinet.
Victorinox Midnite Manager – $75
This little gadget quite literally is the Swiss Army knife of USB gadgets. Or rather, it’s a Swiss Army knife with an integrated USB stick. Made by Victorinox, the Midnite Manager contains all the gadgets you’d expect from a Swiss Army knife: blade, scissors, magnetic Phillips screwdriver, and a nail file. But this tiny toolbox is geared less towards the outdoor enthusiast and more for those with geekier pursuits. So naturally, it includes a handy wire stripper and integrated LED light. But the handiest item in the Midnite Manager special is the 64GB USB memory stick.
Dropbox Pro – $10/month
Not everybody wants a chainsaw or diamond necklace for Christmas. Some of us just want practical items to make our creative work move easier. Might I suggest a Dropbox Pro subscription to fill the needs of similarly-minded creatives on your list? As someone who once had five of the free accounts—with a paltry 2GB storage each—I am thrilled that I now have a whopping 1TB of space. And for the low, low sum of only $10 a month (or $8.25 if you pay for a year up front) your special someone could see just how much you love them. Or at least how much you know how much they love their massive Photoshop files.
The Pro version of Dropbox comes with other benefits besides all that extra storage. Sharing file links gets an extra layer of protection through password ability and expiration dates that limit file accessibility. You can also control what people can and can’t do with the files, by controlling editing permissions. One of the coolest features—and one I hope to never actually need—is the ability to remotely wipe files, in the case of a lost or stolen device. The files are removed from that particular device, but will still remain on Dropbox so you don’t lose access and can load them onto the replacement when the time comes!
Wrong Color Subway Map – $180
I love a good subway map and this one’s beauty lies in its awkwardness. The Wrong Color Subway Map poster from Triboro takes the NYC subway map and flips the colors with unexpected results. The print— which measures 45 x 58—comes in CMY or RGB styles (actually printed in 5 and 6 colors, respectively). Don’t use the poster to actually navigate the sub-terranean lines, since none of the colors correspond to the actual subway line colors. In addition, natural features like rivers and parks are inappropriately colored. For the lover of all things New York or the fan of (nearly literally) eye-popping color, the Wrong Color Subway Map could be a welcome addition to their wall.
Create Something Shirt – $24
Sometimes as designers, we need a reminder to just keep moving and creating. The “Create something today even if it sucks” mantra is boldly (yeah, it’s a type joke) emblazoned in this simple t-shirt design. I’m a little distracted by the fact that I want to insert a comma after the word “today,” but no one asked my opinion when creating the shirt. Other items from the designer, Words Brand, include laptop sleeves, clocks, and a mug with this particular saying on it. Other designer-centric witticisms include “I would kern you so tight,” “I’m very font of you because you’re just my type,” and “Artsy design slogan in tightly kerned Helvetica.” And is it just me, or should “tightly kerned” have a hyphen? Not that anyone asked my opinion.
Cyber Clean Goo – $5 and up
This is perfect for the person who spends way too much time at their computer and has a keyboard full of crumbs to prove it! Cyber Clean is a gooey slime-like compound for getting those crumbs out of every proverbial nook and cranny. Cleaning up tech gear is as easy as powering down, unplugging, and squishing the goo into the crevices. By all accounts, seeing what it picks up is rather alarming, as it is able to get into the tiniest of spaces to gather crumbs and dust bunnies. The gel is re-usable, non-toxic, and even kills bacteria. Plus, who wouldn’t want to find neon green slime in their gift bag this year?
Pantone CAPSURE – $385
For the designer of any type that needs to capture color out in the real world, the Pantone CAPSURE is ready to go! This portable colorimeter device displays and matches color to its PANTONE equivalent. Capturing is done via a simple one-button operation and the CAPSURE is pre-loaded with PANTONE libraries for fashion, interior design, and graphic design. When pulling color from a patterned surface, the device lets you choose up to four dominant colors from the pattern to match. CAPSURE can store up to 100 colors and adding a timestamp and optional voice memo helps in easy identification of those captures later. Back at your desktop, sync the CAPSURE with your design software’s color libraries.
Foot Hammock – $15
It’s okay to put your feet up from time to time. In fact, I’d like to do it all day long. This handy under-the-desk foot hammock is a perfect item for those of us that have to sit all day in an office chair. Being able to rest your tootsies slightly elevated gives you another option for sitting and can keep your body happy. Made from sturdy canvas and suspended by rope and wood fasteners, the foot hammock by SMAGREHO adjusts to a “work” and a “rest” mode. It attaches to the desk with silicone-coated metal clips. Not just for the office, take the portable foot sling with you and attach it to your patio furniture or kitchen counter.
Wacom Bamboo Slate – $130-$150
If you know a creative that enjoys working on actual paper, but still needs to work in the digital space, why not gift them with a Wacom Bamboo Slate Tablet? The Slate comes in two sizes—letter and half-letter—and uses any paper to capture notes and drawings and convert them into digital files. It works in conjunction with the Inkspace app on an Android or iOS device via Bluetooth, and syncs using the Inkspace cloud service. And even if their device is (gasp!) nowhere nearby, they can still save and store files for syncing later on.
The Bamboo Slate comes with a pressure-sensitive pen and exports finished notes and drawings in the PNG, PDF, JPG, and WILL formats. Exporting of those files aren’t limited to Wacom’s cloud service, as the Bamboo interacts with Evernote, OneNote, and Dropbox. All this interaction happens via a required Inkspace subscription—the basic version is free—which gives you 5GB of storage to start. The paid version costs $2.99 a month and ups the storage to about 60,000 pages worth and allows for SVG export.
Creative Market – $20-$100
Creative Market is one of the first places I go when I need a creative asset, whether it’s an InDesign template or a set of several vector images that fit a specific theme. One of the main reasons is that you can shop by price, and only see items that fit your set budget. I’m always pleased with what’s available for under $20. Creative Market offers fonts, vectors, brushes, actions, templates, WordPress (and other CMS) themes, as well as photos and other assets. Offerings are created by independent creative folks, so it makes it a great place to sell your wares, as well. I would never suggest you try to actually pick out a specific font for the designer on your list, but I would suggest gift cards! Creative Market sells gift cards in $20, $50, and $100 denominations and the lucky recipient is left to happily wander Creative Market’s virtual aisles. NOTE: You have to have a free membership and be signed in to purchase gift cards.
Nomad Key Charger – $20
How many times have you left the house with very little charge on your phone and no way to actually power it up? Lots, I’ll wager. And how many times have you left the house without your keys? Hardly ever, right? Since you almost always have your keys and almost always need a charge on-the-go, the folks at Nomad have come up with the Nomad Key for Android and iPhone. The device is about the size of a key, fits on your keychain, and provides USB connectivity for your smartphone. Genius! Choose from three types of connectors: Apple Lightning, Micro USB, and Pebble. Made from strong polycarbonate, flexible rubber elastomer, and scratch-resistant metals, the Key is made to withstand any punishment you might put your housekeys through.
Creative Workshop – $16
Every artist should strive to grow and improve in their art, and designers are no different. The Creative Workshop book by David Sherwin presents a set of 80 challenges to sharpen your skills and expand your creativity. Within its 250+ pages are exercises pulled from different creative fields to get you into different and challenging mindsets. In addition to the individual challenges, the book highlights other designers’ background stories and examples of how other designers dealt with the specified challenge. The Creative Workshop sets out to get one’s creative juices flowing, not just through beautifully-designed examples, but by forcing the reader to take a hands-on approach with creating the finished piece. Think of it like a fitness plan for the creative side of your brain.
Big Big Cursor Stylus – $13
Add a little bit of whimsy to your recipient’s tablet usage with a fun stylus. Though probably impractical for artistic usage, the Big Big Cursor Stylus designed by Mike Mak gives a slight nod to its older relative, the mouse cursor. Look, not all gifts fill a great, lingering void in our life; some just bring a smile to our face. This stylus—which comes in arrow or pointing finger varieties—brings joy not in its usefulness, but in the amusement it is sure to bring. And if the idea of using a giant cursor to doodle on your iPad isn’t enough to convince you, know that it’s magnetic, so you can stick it to your fridge or tablet’s Smart Cover.
Pantone Backpack – $64
I think it’s written somewhere that every designer must have at least three Pantone-branded novelties at all times. If your favorite designer is lacking in this department, the Pantone X Redland Large Backpack should fill that void nicely. Large enough to tote around a 15″ laptop, the backpack comes in eight tasty PANTONE colors (though eBags currently only carries the pink, indigo, and purple). The design is simple, with fleece-lined laptop section, large interior space, two front zip pockets, and a headphone port. Of course, the iconic PANTONE color chip is emblazoned on the front so everyone will know you’re a designer. And isn’t that WHY we love to keep so many PANTONE products around?
Apple Watch – $369 and up
It just wouldn’t be a complete gift guide without at least one drool-worthy Apple product, so why not add an Apple Watch to your list? I mean an iPad Pro would be way more practical, with its 12.9- or 9.7-inch screen. And the Apple Pencil (not to be confused with Pencil by FiftyThree, where do they GET these names?) makes drawing a pleasure. But, but, a watch! From Apple! Its screen may only be 42mm, but it makes a great companion to that shiny new iPhone you’re probably sporting. Whether the lucky recipient on your list needs a way to plan their drive to the nearest Apple store or know how many steps they aren’t getting in because they’re on tight deadline, the Apple Watch has an app for that. Its built-in GPS and integrated health apps make the most of any creative’s time away from the computer. Well, their desktop computer anyway.
Does the lucky person on your list already have an Apple Watch? Maybe you could get them a custom band for the shiny on their wrist. From the sporty Nike+ band made from the fun-to-say fluoroelastomer material to the well-apportioned Hermes leather straps, there’s a band for all tastes. We creative type like shiny things and Apple is good at making shiny things that make us drool.
That’s a wrap on this year’s guide; I hope something caught your eye (that subway map, am I right?) and you’re able to finish up the shopping for all the creatives on the list. Remember, kids, if you get any of these items monogrammed, it’s Erica with a “c.” Happy Holidays!