2010 Gift Guide

Creative professionals are tough to buy presents for. More than most folks, I think, we have high expectations of quality and even higher standards for aesthetics. The discerning eye that makes our work so successful can make life difficult for gift-givers. When we receive a scarf, for instance, we’re likely to examine closely the stitching and react strongly to its color palette.

On top of that, some of the more common holiday gifts, such as digital cameras, are essential tools of our trade. Which means we already have what we need, or we know what we want and it’s not that.

So in compiling this year’s Gift Guide, I searched out the neat and the nifty, the quirky and quizzical, the charming and cheap (mostly)–stuff that people who aren’t creative pros just wouldn’t understand or consider giving.

Note that some items are sold through the online craft market Because of their handcrafted nature, many are available in limited quantities. If the item you want has been sold, contact the artisan to see if you can order one. Special orders are routine on

Because there are so many goodies out there, I’ve divided my suggestions into six categories:

Stuff for Everyday Living
Stuff for the Office
Stuff for Your Digital Life
Stuff for Your Brain
Stuff for Your Wall
Stuff for Your Body

Stuff for Everyday Living

Tea Towels ($42/pair). When serving tea, have ready these “T” towels for dabbing a dribble or drying a cup. The font is EF Engravers.

Type Drawer Apron ($22). Because this apron imprinted with a job case comes from the best letterpress community on the Web (, I suppose you could wear this dandy apron in the print shop itself. Or just wear it by the grill to mind your p’s and bbq’s.

Oh Crop Tote Bag ($17). Tote your groceries in this heavy-duty canvas bag that tells the cashier you don’t want peripheral, unnecessary items. Swapping out one letter may reflect your outlook on the world, too.

Grayscale Clock ($42). This elegant, ultra-thin (.55 inches thick) wall clock displays time in grayscale. No color matching required.

Color Wheel Tray ($24). Serve your guests a spectrum of hors d’oeuvres with this melamine tray.

Camera Plates ($35 each). Plates are so analog–and so are the cameras depicted on these colorful handmade plates. Choose from Rollei, Rocket, or Starmite cameras. You can eat off these (they’re microwave- and dishwasher-safe) or just hang them on the wall.

Web Test Print Mug ($15). The 216 colors on this mug are Web-safe and dishwasher-safe, too! Start your day with coffee that’s approximately #996633.

Camera Wood Block Coasters ($15 each, two for $20, four for $30). Most coasters are designed to be discreet and blend in with the furniture, which means they’re often overlooked. The strong graphic design of these coasters makes them hard to miss so your tables are safe.

Camera Soap, $10. The size of a point-and-shoot camera, these glycerin soap bars are as detailed as the real thing. Even the flash icon is apparent. Available in Kodachrome-ish colors.

Design Your Own Lamp Kit ($35). A lamp that doubles as a light table! Slip photos, artwork, or memorabilia into the shade and you have a custom lamp. It’s easy to swap out art to suit your mood or whatever project you’re working on.

Stuff for the Office

Calendars (price varies). A calendar is a conventional holiday gift. But before you give 12 months of kittens playing with yarn to your design-savvy friends, take a look at Poppytalk to see the truly amazing calendars produced by independent printers.

Here are just three:

A year of nature from SusyJack* ($34).

Twelve months of minimalism from Seesaw Letterpress ($32).

A wall of weeks, months and days from You and Me and the Royal We ($89).

Computador Notebook ($5.99). Most creative pros can never have too many notebooks and journals. This notebook from Portugal is a mash-up of old and new: The letterpress-printed cover depicts a computer disk and the interior pages look like old printer paper.

Pantone Jot Pads ($7). Made from an old Pantone swatchbook, you can clip these mini notepads to a laptop bag or key ring for jotting down ideas or reminders. As might be expected, there are many color combinations to choose from.

Recycled Paper Press ($13.95). Sure, you put your newspapers out at the curb for recycling, but why not take it one step further? Learn to make your own paper from recycled printed materials. The kit includes tools and instructions–you provide the junk mail.

Reasons to Love Type Pencils ($9). If you ever need to be reminded why you’re a font nerd, chew on these pencils. Printed on them are sayings such as “You can change your type family” and “In the gutter is acceptable.”

Alphabet Tape ($15). Masking tape has many uses, from affixing a note to a door to securing an envelope. Imprinting it with the alphabet makes masking tape a bit more interesting.

Herman Zapf custom postage ($20.55 for 20 44-cent stamps). Even if the handwritten address is a mess, this postage shows that you believe in good typography with these stamps bearing letters from Herman Zapf’s fabulous Zapfino typeface. Different rates and sizes available.

StickerBooks ($9.99 for 90). Moo (of minicard fame) will print anything you want–photos, illustrations, or type–onto individual perforated sheets of stickers and bind them into a pocket-sized book. The stickers can decorate presents or be a fun small gift in and of themselves.

Da Vinci Model Printing Press ($19.95). As we fall further into the digital rabbit hole, it’s important to remember that printing was once considered revolutionary. Keep this model printing press on your desk as a reminder and a conversation piece. Too bad you can’t print tiny pages with it.

Colorforms ($32.99 list). Feeling stuck creatively? Playing with Colorforms may help. This classic toy–it’s been around since 1951–consists of basic geometric shapes in primary colors made of sticky plastic. Move, stack, overlap them–it’s creative noodling at its finest.

Stuff for Your Digital Life

Scratch and Scroll Mousepad ($12.99). This Magic Slate-like mousepad is a simple but oh-so-smart idea. Use the supplied stylus to doodle, sketch, take notes on which version you did what, and so on. Lift the mousepad’s top layer and the scrawls vanish.

CMYK Slider Case for 4G iPhones ($28). Funk up your phone with this slider case for the iPhone 4G. The graphics look straight out of the ’70s, back when CMYK was still cool, baby.

iPad case ($39.99). Janine King Designs has nice-looking cases in interesting fabrics for your laptop and camera, as well as the iPad, Kindle, and nook. I can’t in good conscience ask anyone to buy me an iPad, but I can sure ask for an iPad case.

Camera straps ($30 each). Having an unusual camera strap not only gussies up your equipment, but also makes you stand out from a crowd of shutterbugs. These whimsical camera straps satisfy on both counts.

Pop Cam ($20). Unleash your inner Warhol with this novelty film camera. It snaps four shots in the span of a second, each in a different color. The four highly saturated images are contained in a single print a la Warhol’s pop-art canvases.

Lomography Spinner 360 ($145). The Spinner 360 is an intriguing special-use film camera. It creates instant, 360-degree panoramas in one go. You pull a string in the handle–kind of like starting a lawnmower–and the camera head spins in a circle to capture the entire 360-degree scene. (The prospect makes my head spin.)

Go to page 2 to see the great gifts in the last three categories: Stuff for Your Brain, Your Wall, and Your Body.

Posted on: November 24, 2010

1 Comment on 2010 Gift Guide

  1. I can’t believe the variety of gift ideas with this article. Thank you very much! It will be hard to decide what to give as a few gifts and what to get for myself! 🙂

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