The best Christmas gifts for design students

That November pay day is getting closer, so we've rounded up the best Christmas gift ideas for design students and junior designers. We've got gifts in four ranges – under $25, under $75, under $125, and (for the more generous), over $125.

Books are always a safe bet, so we've got a stack of them – about type, about icons, about the best young designers in the country. We've also got the best Moleskine design of the year. And we've got a workshop that'll get any fledgling designer's Instagram photos flying. Plus there's a little phone printer to print out ideas on the move, a portfolio cover to help them stand out in job interviews, and a first aid kit for gadgets. Let's get started.

Best gifts for design students under £20/$25

01. Keith Haring Limited edition Moleskine

A quality notebook with the coolest cover.

Renowned Moleskine quality
Limited edition

Did you know that van Gogh supposedly used a Moleskine? Picasso too? And Hemingway… Of course you do. Everyone does. But none of them had a Moley that features graphics by the great American artist and activist Keith Haring. Haring was one of the late 20th century’s most influential image makers, and this is easily the best limited edition Moleskine of the year.

02. Design School: Type

A thorough introduction to typography.

Vital design information
Comprehensive guide

Type: A Practical Guide for Students and Designers offers a thorough introduction to typography – "a crucially important skill that underpins practically every aspect of graphic design" – and is aimed at students, recent graduates, and self-taught designers. Richard Poulin, principal of multidisciplinary design consultancy Poulin + Morris, New York State, is your guide.

03. Thinking in Icons

A little symbol can have a big impact.

Everything from corporate icons to emojis

In his new book Thinking in Icons: Designing and Creating Effective Visual Symbols, Felix Sockwell (Google, Facebook, New York Times) talks you through everything from the "refined corporate visual systems" to the "ubiquitous emoji". These icons, he argues, have become an international language we're all fluent in, often without realising it: "This is the designer’s guide to creating the next great statement."

Best gifts for design students under £50/$75

04. Draplin Design Co.

A mid-career survey.

Incredible client list
Lively commentary
One of the most influential designers around

Ford Motors. Esquire. Obama. If you don't know the name Aaron Draplin, chances are you've seen his work. This book is a "mid-career survey" of the graphic designer's portfolio, which shares case studies, road stories, and advice on how he made it to the top, with loads of examples of his stuff. His commentary is lively, too.

05. Leather notebook

A luxury notebook with an important message.

Handmade
Robust
9 colour options

Handmade, Italian leather, pithy inspirational quote: Hope House Press knows the score when it comes to luxury notebooks. Its stuff has a "cult celebrity following." The Progress Not Perfection Notebook comes in nine different colours and you choose from plain, lined or squared paper for the pages. It also comes gift wrapped, with a handwritten note of your choice.

06. 21 Twenty One

Eye up the competition.

Features designers at the forefront of the industry
Includes designer interviews
Insightful commentary

Twenty One: 21 Designers for Twenty-First Century Britain looks at the biggest names in British design today. "They lead public taste and critical debate; they are the innovators and the explorers of new materials or processes; they are establishing new ways of working, and redefining what that work might be," it says. Author Gareth Williams looks at the folios of, among others, Troika, Jaime Hayon, and El Ultimo Grito.

07. Magazine subscription

From £45/$60 (1 year digital subscription)

A magazine subscription is a great option for a design student – not only is this the gift that keeps on giving all year round, it's also a great way for them to get familiar with the industry and learn all the vital info they need to master their specialism. At Creative Bloq, we represent a number of best-selling design and creative magazines, each for a different creative specialism.

For graphic designers there's Computer Arts, for digital artists there's ImagineFX, for budding web designers or developers we have net and Web Designer, and fledgling 3D artists can learn plenty from 3D World and 3D Artist. Plus, all these titles have limited-time Christmas offers on with up to 49% off the price of a subscription, so they're a bargain at the moment.

Best gifts for design students under £100/$125

08. Under-The-Jack Pack

The way we see it, the Under-The-Jack Pack has two functions. First, its "ultra-slim profile lets you carry your laptop covertly", which is ideal if you're worried about being robbed or you're a part-time spy. Secondly, a backpack looks rubbish on top of really smart clothes, so this product lets you carry everything you need to carry without creasing up your new winter coat. It's functional, too, with pockets and compartments for phones and headphones, and it's compatible with 13 and 15-inch laptops.

09. Polaroid ZIP mobile printer

Old school gadget, new tech.

Retro cool
Perfect for decorating walls

The Polaroid ZIP mobile printer prints directly from your smartphone or tablet through bluetooth. Like an old-school Polaroid, it doesn't use ink. It prints 2 x 3-inch photos, full-colour and smudge-proof. The app's free for iOS and Android users. It's small and lightweight, which is a good way of quickly getting ideas off your phone and up onto the wall.

10. Wooden iPhone speaker

Smartphone boombox.

Solid oak
No wires, no batteries
One-off
Dog not included

This solid oak wooden speaker beefs up the sound that comes from your iPhone. You slide your phone into the slot at the back – no wires, no batteries. Furniture designer Nick James makes all speakers by hand, so you're basically getting a one-off, with no two pieces of wood being the same. Ask him really nicely and he might even chuck in the dog (probably not, though).

11. Tech roll

Don't get in a tangle.

Personalised
Accessories included
Coated nappa cowhide leather

This is a first aid kit for gadget heads, a "personalised all-in-one tech roll" that includes cables and chargers and headphones for pretty much every piece of kit you could own. And it all comes in a leather, suede-lined case.

Best gifts for design students over £100/$125

12. Street food photography workshop

A ticket to Insta-success.

Snap pics around London
Great for beginners or pros
Includes food tastings

This workshop introduces the "core concepts of food photography from context to composition" before you head out into London to shoot at various locations. You can do it with a phone or a camera, and the course leaders says there's something to be learned whether you're a beginner or pro. It also includes three food tastings and a drink. 

13. Bamboo folio

A folio worthy of the best design work.

Personalised option available
Holds up to 25 sleeves
Available in landscape or portrait

If your portfolio is starting to look sharp, you should keep it in something that does it justice. This bamboo wood folder is, "Designed by designers, for designers." You can personalise it, with names laser etched onto the cover, and it's available in various sizes, with any custom sizes offered on request.

14. Microsoft Surface Book

The best laptop you can buy at the moment.

Fantastic design
Great screen
Hugely powerful

While it is expensive, if you're looking for a special gift for the design student in your life, you'd struggle to do better than a Surface Book (plus, the price of the original model is on its way down since the release of the Surface Book 2 – and there may be some Black Friday deals to be had if you're quick). This laptop from Microsoft is the first real challenger to Apple's MacBook Pro, and it's difficult to find anything wrong with it – read our Surface Book review for more info.

Related articles: