Holiday gifts for designers

Paddi Macdonnell.
December 13, 2012
Holiday gifts for designers.

ThumbThere are just 12 days until Christmas! If you're still struggling to find that perfect gift for the designer/developer in your life, or if your loved ones could do with a few helpful hints, here are some suggestions sure to earn you (or them) that kiss under the mistletoe.

We've put together a list of presents worth finding under the Christmas tree this year. Whether it's something to make work life more enjoyable, organize the office, or blow off steam after hours; there's something to suit every pocket, and not a jumper or pair of socks in sight.

Let's begin with some stocking fillers to get started.

Tria markers (from $7.30)

Every designer likes to make their mark and the Tria marker from Letraset can help with that. It has 3 nibs built in and is available in 300 colors. Sets are also available.

Paper watches ($12)

Finding the perfect watch can be tricky, so how about letting them design their own? Or you could decorate it for them to add a personal touch.

Leaf cable ties ($7)

For as long as we need cables, we'll need cable ties to keep them tidy. These little ties are not just useful, they look good too.

Origami sticky notes ($3.25)

Remember folding paper aeroplanes when you were bored in school? Well, here's the 'grown-up' version; turn dull memos into cranes, penguins and butterflies.

Maple letter tray ($25.50)

Keeping paperwork and admin organised means less distraction from actual work. These danish designed document trays in european maplewood are beautifully minimal and perfect for a modern design studio. There are additional products in the same line.

Muji skylines pen stand ($21.50)

Less minimal but more fun is this skyline pen stand from Muji. New York, London, Paris and Tokyo skylines are all available.

Converge universal docking station ($39.99)

Having lots of devices charging from separate plugs can get messy and usually means extra outlets. With this rather sleek docking station, 4 USB devices can be charged at the same time. And there's no more 'now where did I put my phone? I know it's here somewhere.'

Lexon Around clock (approx $44)

All computers have clocks, but there is something pleasing about a clock that simply tells the time, and looks good. This one from Lexon ticks both boxes, and isn't wildly expensive to boot.

House plants (various prices)

We've known for some time that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen; and indoor greenery has been used for decades to brighten up offices and workspaces; but studies have shown some plants work harder than others to purify the air. One study in India found that the right plants in the workplace could increase productivity by as much as 20%. Top recommendations from NASA include Areca Palm, Mother-in-Laws-Tongue, Boston Fern and Japanese Peace Lily. Sgt Angel would be very pleased.

Website stencil kit ($26.95)

This stencil is a ridiculously handy tool for wireframing. Anything that makes life easier and lets you concentrate on the ideas part is a must. Also available for various tablets and smartphones.

Browser sketch pad (from $13.95)

And if you go for the stencil kit, why not add these browser sketchpads? Designed to work with the stencil, or for drawing freehand.

Moleskin notebooks (from $9.95)

For those who prefer the old school approach, you can't really go wrong with a Moleskine notebook. There is a wealth of choice: hardcover, softcover, ruled, squared, plain, storyboard, sketchbook, even music manuscript. And various sizes. My personal preference is the large cahier notebook, plain or squared.

Evernote Moleskin (from $24.95)

A new addition to the Moleskine family, and worthy of a separate listing, is the Evernote Smart Notebook. This could be the perfect combination of two great tools. Being able to make notes by hand, then digitizing them and making them searchable by keyword with one click of a button really would make life so much easier.

Massaging lumbar support rest ($14.99)

Sitting hunched over a computer all day can get pretty uncomfortable so a good lumbar support rest is worth its weight in gold. This one from Homedics massages too. Bliss!

Font Me mug (from $21.30)

A mug may not be the most original gift idea, but that doesn't make it a bad choice. And this one does more than just contain tea/coffee/weird herbal brew, it has some pretty useful information for designers too.

Jelly Belly mini bean machine ($19.99)

Who doesn't love jellybeans?

Tankbot ($24.99)

Taking boredom busting to the next level is the Tankbot. It self-navigates around obstacles, or you can use its smartphone app to control it. Build obstacle courses for it on the desk, or get two and race them.

black+blum box appetit (approx. $25)

Make brown-bagging a pleasure with a sleek lunchbox, like this one from black+blum. It has a sauce pot, fork and separate inner dish, and even a sauce dipping area in the lid.

Thermos travel mug ($32.99)

For those who prefer hot soup on cold days, or those who like to take their morning coffee with them, a good thermos is ideal.

Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World's Great Graphic Designers (from $37.80)

How about something to inspire creativity during the lunch hour? This book is not a design guide, but instead provides a fascinating insight into the minds of the featured designers.

Muji touch screen gloves ($21.95)

For the way home in the winter cold, or if the heating's bust in the office, these gloves can stay on even when playing Angry Birds.

Bose AE2i ($179.95)

Sometimes shutting out all other distractions and getting into the mood with the right music is the only way to work. These Bose around ear headphones have an inline remote control for iPhone/iPod and an inline mic for hands free calling if you do get interrupted.

Marc by Marc Jacobs 13" laptop case ($118)

I love this. I want one. That's all I have to say on the matter.

Mandarina Duck alphaduck clipboard ($165)

Making the right impression when meeting clients out of the office or going for interviews is essential. This tablet case is just about as sleek and stylish as you can get while still being very practical and professional looking. It is the ultra modern briefcase.

Nespresso U ($199)

Coffee fiends will brave all sorts of weather to get their particular fix, but wouldn't it be nice to have a proper coffee machine right there in the office? The most recent addition to the Nespresso family is small enough to fit on the average desk and it looks gorgeous too.

Sodastream Pure (from $129.95)

If cold and fizzy is the preferred style of beverage Sodastream fizzy drink makers are a lot more fun to use than the vending machine down the hall.

Philips Hue starter pack ($199.95)

Any designer worth their salt knows how key lighting is to mood, that we have an unconscious response to different kinds of lighting. These lightbulbs can be tuned to different shades of white and a wide variety of color to achieve the perfect custom setting.

Atari Arcade for iPad ($59.95)

Playing reproductions of old school games on modern devices is fun, but it feels like there's something missing. Not any more: with a joystick and four buttons all that's lacking from the Atari Arcade for iPad is the coin slot.

Wacom Inkling ($199)

The next generation of drawing tablet, the Wacom Inkling clips to any old sketchbook, letting you draw naturally. It records every line and lets you import to your machine. Possibly the most intuitive and easy to use tablet device on the market.

Danese Milano perpetual wall calendar (approx $98)

Just like they have clocks, all computers will show the date. And just like clocks, a calendar that is an attractive object in itself is a pleasure to own.

Pantone cufflinks ($67)

No gift list for designers would be complete without something from Pantone. You can get mugs, iPhone cases, notebooks, luggage tags, storage boxes, even messenger bags by Pantone; but these stainless steel and enamel cufflinks just stand out as a classy detail for anyone's wardrobe.

Woodblock type (various prices)

Usually purely decorative nowadays, letterpress wooden type sets are an attractive reminder of the development of typography. And just because they tend not to be used now, doesn't mean they can't be.

Elsa Peretti for Tiffany paper weight ($80)

This is an object so beautiful it's worth finding some random loose paper (from the trashcan if necessary) just to have an excuse to use it. It's also worth keeping in mind as a Valentine's Day gift.

Charms (various prices)

Charm bracelets have become a modern and fashionable way of expressing what is important to the wearer and there are a wealth of different charms available these days. There are dozens of sites selling web-related charms. Alternately, commission a bespoke design from a specialist jeweller for that personal touch.

Artemide Tolomeo lamp (from $300)

To make sure they are working in good lighting you could get your special designer/developer a $20 desk lamp from Ikea, or you could get them a timeless design classic that they will love forever.

Experience days (various prices)

Everybody needs a break from work, no matter how much they might love what they do, and experience days are a great way of trying something new or unusual. Whether it's driving a Ferrari supercar at a Grand Prix track, skydiving in over the Grand Canyon or a pampering package at a spa. There are lots of experience packages for two so you can make a date out of it too.

Swimming with dolphins image via Shutterstock.

Solar Gorilla laptop kit (approx. $462)

If getting out of the office for a bit longer than a day or two is appealing, then a portable solar charger can really increase your travel options. The Power Gorilla gives a laptop up to an extra 5 hours of power, and can charge smaller devices at the same time. It in turn is charged up from the Solar Gorilla which can be put anywhere in sunlight, even attached to a backpack. As long as you have sunlight, you have power.

Libratone Live ($699.95)

Headphones are all very well but sometimes you want to be surrounded by your music. These Libratone speakers are, in a word, gorgeous. And cuddly.

Vitra Headline chair (approx $1000)

Working at a desk means sitting in the same chair for hours at a time, so it makes sense that the chair should be as comfortable and supportive as possible. Looking good doesn't hurt either.

Bang & Olufsen Beocom 5 (from $360)

The humble landline phone doesn't have to be second best to a fancy smartphone. Bang & Olufsen have paid a lot of attention to how this phone sounds as well as how it looks, using the same design principles they use in their audio speakers. Each phone can take up to eight handsets and accommodates two separate phonelines.

Pinarello Treviso (over $1000)

Cycling to work can be a real pleasure, or it can be a real drag depending on the weather, the traffic, and how much time you've got. With a ride made by the manufacturers of Team Sky's bikes, you won't need a sophisticated doping program to get to work on time.

What are you hoping to find under your tree on Christmas morning? Any suggestions you'd like to add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

Featured image/thumbnail, Gift image via Shutterstock.

Paddi MacDonnell

Paddi MacDonnell is a designer and entrepreneur from Northern Ireland, follow her on Twitter.

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