Christmas is less than four weeks away! If you haven't thought about what to give to your geek friends or put on your own wish list for Santa, it's high time you do. To help you we have quizzed some of the industry's finest designers and asked them to recommend their top gifts.
And they haven't disappointed us. In fact, they've come up with more than 50 inspiring ideas, ranging from some geeky gadgets to an owl lamp (guess who suggested that one!). Whatever the idea, you will notice our contributors' love for great design.
Here they are in alphabetical order:
Paul Boag – Headscape
Below Paul recommends his top geeky hardware and software. He successfully avoided the blindingly obvious such as the MacBook Air or iPhone 4S:
Wireless Modem Huawei E585
"One of the things I love about my job is that I can work from anywhere. At least anywhere with a WIFI connection. However, all too often public WIFI sucks or is just not available. In such cases having a wireless modem is a life saver. With this little beauty you can work from literally anywhere whether it be the beach or your gran's house."
Drobo (4 Bay FW800 and USB 2.0 Storage Array)
"Although off-site backup is crucially important, it's not easy to put everything in the cloud. If, like me, you have ripped your DVD collection, a Drobo is a must have gadget.
This magic little box keeps your data safe by sharing it across multiple drives as well as being almost infinitely expandable. When you run out of space or a drive fails, just simply pop it out and shove another one in. You don't even need to stop watching your film while you do it."
Dragon Dictate 2.5 (Mac)
"Many of us who work on the web spend far too much time writing. Blog posts, proposals, emails, the list goes on. With so much time spent in front of the keyboard, our chance of getting RSI is high. Dragon dictate for the Mac eliminates that and increases your typing speed at the same time. If you love Siri's dictation feature you will love Dragon Dictate. This technology has come a long way over the last couple of years."
Fred Boyle – nGen Works
Fred Boyle is digtal chef at Florida agency nGen Works. He's always enjoyed figuring out technology and has gotten good at discovering how things work. Fred brings a pretty well-stocked tool box to the nGen garage, with experience in programming, servers, networks and strategy.
Here Fred lists his two gadgets he put at the top of his wish list:
"The new Lytro light field camera changes the way you think about taking pictures. You don’t need to focus on getting the perfect picture, instead it lets you create the perfect picture later by grabbing a snapshot in time and space. It’s a time machine and a holographic magic box!"
Logitech Ultimate Ears 600vi noise-isolating headset
"An Ultimate Ears headset to listen to awesome tunes while creating awesomeness. The 600vi sound great and are very comfortable for a full day of kicking ass.
Since this version is also a headset you can use them with your iPhone (or other compatible device) and answer that call from the big client. Or use them with your iPad to watch a movie on your flight to your next big speaking gig. All around these are great and won't break the bank."
Andy Budd – Clearleft
Andy is a founding partner and managing director of Clearleft. He also goes by the title of user experience director depending on what mood he’s in. Andy is the author of CSS Mastery, curates the dConstruct and UX London events and is the man responsible for Silverback.
Andy has moved away from the development world over the last few years and is currently focused on the way people interact with technology. Below he proves that he is a man of many wishes:
Cast iron ampersand
Andy says: "Already miss the Ampersand conference? Don't worry as you can relive your memories with this giant, fuck-off iron ampersand, from those clever guys at House Industries." More than just a pretty shelf sitter, these heavy ligatures can be deployed in a wide variety of household and office applications such as bookends, door stops, paperweights, dumbbells for power-walking or self-defense mechanisms. Each sculpture is hand picked, numbered and signed by the artist.
Wheelie Flight Deck
"For the seasoned traveller, why not get them this cool Burton flight bag?," Andy asks. "It's fitted with skateboard wheels for extra cred." The Burton Wheelie Flight Deck also features "CRAM" zones for volume-enhanced capacity, a removable laptop bag and hideaway snakestack backpack attachment. "Add to this a handy cable stash bag and you're ready for that speaking slot at SXSW," Andy suggests.
Photojojo iPhone fisheye lens
The Photojojo store offers "only the most awesome photo gifts and gear for photographers". Their high-clarity glass mobile phone lenses are like pro lenses for your camera phone, giving you crisp and clear shots every time. Andy recommends turning your iPhone into a style camera with this fisheye lens attachment but there are also Telephoto, and macro/wide angle lenses.
Andy also recommends:
- James Perse Ping Pong Table: "For the design agency that has everything, why not buy this stylish designer ping-pong table?"
- Mondain watch: "These beautiful timekeeping devices take their design from the watches of the Swiss railway. As such it's an absolute classic and considered one of the icons of 20th century design."
- Original Star Wars poster: "For the Star Wars geek in your life, why not treat them to an original poster from the movie Star Wars?"
- Stainless Steel Sharpie: "Look the bollox at your next collaborative design session with this stainless steel sharpie. Just remember that if you wield this baby you better know how to use it."
Chris Coyier – Wufoo
Chris is lead hucklebucker at online HTML form builder Wufoo, but best known for CSS-Tricks, a wealth of tutorials, screencasts and web design tips. Chris creates websites and helps people make theirs better through writing, speaking, and working on web applications. He considers himself a lucky man.
Here Chris explains why designers need a bit of colour in their lifes:
Coloured Cups and Balls
Hurry! These cups and balls have been SO Popular that Etsy shop owner Jessica Perkins has been working hard to make them available again. Chris says: "Give a designer simple, beautiful, colorful objects to have in their home and hopefully we'll get more simple, beautiful, colourful websites."
Pantone CMYK Coated & Uncoated
"Speaking of colour, a swatch book is a fun and useful thing to have."
The new PLUS SERIES CMYK guides contain 2,868 CMYK colours, chromatically arranged for smoother transitions between colours and more intuitive selection. These guides are an ideal way to visualise, communicate and control colours for type, logos, borders, backgrounds and other graphics treatments.
Tim Van Damme – Gowalla
Formerly a freelance designer from Belgium, Tim now work as an interface designer for Gowalla in Austin, Texas. Tim tweets on Twitter, shares what he's working on on Dribbble, posts his photos to Flickr, listens to music on Rdio and collecs pieces of the internet on Tumblr. Jeffrey Zeldman is a fan.
Here are his top two recommendations for the ultimate Christmas gifts:
"The Mighty Wallet is basically a paper-like (Tyvek) sheet folded into a wallet. It's the ultimate designer wallet. If you buy a blank one (see pic) you can just doodle whatever you want on it. Geeky, right? Besides that it's just a really nice thin wallet that magically resizes for whatever you put into it."
"WARNING: HIGHLY ADDICTIVE BALLS
Well, that's not what the label says, but it should. These bastards are hard to put down once you start playing with them (twss). I have them within reach at all times when I'm working. Whenever I need a break from pushing pixels to sit back and contemplate, there's a big chance I'll be playing with them."
Meagan Fisher – MetaLab
Meagan is a web designer living in Brooklyn. She makes websites, eats food and loves owls. In her seven year career, Meagan has partnered with legendary design firms such as SimpleBits, Happy Cog West, and Hoefler & Frere-Jones. She currently makes up the entirety of the New York branch of MetaLab.
Surprisingly, Meagan's wish list only features one owl-based gift:
A Map of the Known Universe
To adequately orient travelers of any expertise, the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co has prepared this fine and detailed “Map of the Known Universe.” It includes regional, galactic, and universal maps, useful particulars, and attractions sure to intrigue. Meagan says: "This handy map is not only awe inspiring for its gorgeous design, but also for the perspective it provides. When tackling Internet Explorer bugs gets overwhelming, take a step back and realise we're just a tiny blip in the universe!"
Educational mug set
"Nothing keeps a web designer warm on those cold winter nights like your hot beverage of choice. As you sip your cocoa, why not quiz yourself on the noble gases?" These half pint mugs are available for weights and measures, the periodic table, solar system, human skeleton, Fahrenheit and Celsius conversion, countries of the world and geometry.
Owl table lamp
"I would be remiss I didn't recommend at least one owltastic gift, and who better to keep you company on those late night web projects than this friendly-looking owl lamp? Now the glow of your computer screen won't be the only light you see." It's available with a gunmetal resin mold base and natural linen shade or a white base and shade, at contemporary furniture and home decor store west elm.
Katy Garrison – nGen Works
Katy is smartist at Florida agency nGen Works and responsible for finding the perfect balance between the art and science of web design. Katy loves design in all of its forms – graphic, web, apparel, advertising and illustration. She's been accused of being a source of renewable energy for the shop, which comes from her enthusiasm about attacking new challenges and perfecting the details, no matter the size of the task.
Katy has more than 40 items on her wish list (greedy!) but she's narrowed them down a bit for us:
Ray Solar Charger
"Ray is a solar powered charger for your electronic gadgets. Its tilting kickstand and suction cup support multiple positions to soak up the sunlight (for example, it can be mounted to your windscreen), allowing its compact battery to easily store up enough energy to fully charge your cell phone. It could really come in handy for a person on the go that doesn't always end up near an electric outlet."
2UNFOLD Laptop Bag
"Hard Graft make the best computer cases IN THE WORLD. This bag is just plain sexy, there's nothing else like it. Handmade in Italy, this versatile bag has multiple uses, making it perfect for anyone who lugs their laptop around. The 2UNFOLD can be used as a shoulder bag, briefcase, or backpack for your larger laptops or folded into a courier bag keeping your smaller computers or tablets safe from harm."
Pop + Shorty You are the CSS to my HTML tee
"I've always loved this Pop+Shorty shirt, it would make any web designerd swoon. From designer Ashley Dailey of Atlanta Georgia, this shirt's simplicity makes it an instant classic."
All shirts are screen-printed by hand on American Apparel Tri-blend tees, giving them a vintage, one-of-a-kind feel and making them super soft and comfy.
Katy also recommends:
- Moleskine Folio Tablet Cover: "These covers are combined with classic Moleskin notebooks. Perfect for referencing notes, sketching wireframes, and viewing comps in one convenient location."
- MagicWand: "The keyboard of the future, it connects Magic Trackpad to your Applewireless keyboard. Genius."
- D-Link Boxee Box Digital Media Player: "A device that finds your favourite TV shows and movies on the web and puts them on your TV. You can buy a Boxee from a store or make your own with their free software."
- All Occasion Cards: "Because sometimes it would feel so great to mail someone a card thatsays 'fuck you'."
Jon Hicks – Hicksdesign
Gentleman designer and icon artist. Jon is one half of the creative partnership Hicksdesign, based in the Cotswolds, UK, and best known for his part in designing the Firefox logo, but he's also had his hand in Shopify, Silverback, Thunderbird, Mailchimp to name but a few. Jon has just finished writing The Icon Handbook, soon to be published via Five Simple Steps.
Jon is a keen cyclist, which you may notice below:
Limited Edition Star Wars Moleskine
"This shouldn't need any selling. The plain notebook has an X-Wing on the cover, and the inside pocket contains a reproduction of the original 1977 poster by the Brothers Hildebrandt. We all love Star Wars and need to draw, right?"
Mobee Magic Charger for Apple Magic Mouse
"This clever little pad provides induction charging for your Apple Magic Mouse. A really neat solution that means you don't have to keep on buying new batteries. The pad is USB powered, so you might find it easier to use with a USB plug – the kind you get with iPhones – to ensure it charges overnight." A full charge takes approximately five hours and provides up to six days of autonomous power.
Specialized Allez Triple 2012 Road Bike
"As our jobs are so sedentary, we need exercise, not just to keep us fit, but also to stimulate our minds. While £650 may be a bit of a stretch for a present, you won't regret the fun and freedom of riding a bike. The Specialized Allez Triple is a great first road bike (its what I ride) and the light aluminium frame is worthy of upgrades in the future (which I've done too)."
Jessica Hische – Freelance
Jessica Hische is a letterer, illustrator and designer working in Brooklyn. You may already be familiar with one of her side projects such as Daily Drop Cap or her Should I Work for Free? flowchart. Jessica is also collaborating with Russ Muschmayer to demystify coding and teach HTML and CSS to the non-web-savvy in Don't Fear the Internet.
"Compiling a list of only three great designery gifts is difficult," Jessica says, "but the ones I've decided upon cover a few important bases:"
Booze. I don't know many designers that couldn't geek out over a good bottle of booze, especially over the holidays when we're all running around playing therapist to our crazy family members. These three not only taste yummy but make for excellent shelf candy:
ROOT by Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (from $29.99) is made from an 18th century recipe and tastes like root beer! As a former Philadelphian, I've also got a bit of hometown pride for this one.
Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey
This is a delicious addition to your bourbon collection, and will definitely look nice on that mid-century credenza. Knob Creek and Bulleit are also wonderfully designed and tastey, but the little baby bourbon bottle always wins me over.
Auchentoshan Single Malt Scotch
I was recommended this scotch (£24.57) after asking for something "smooth and not peety in the $70 range". The end-recipient, a friend, couldn't help but finish half the bottle in one setting – it went down that smooth. I'm new to the world of scotch, and this was way too easy to drink.
An awesome scarf
"Buy now Scarves are the classic holiday gift for the impossible to buy for. You can never really have enough scarves in my opinion. This silk number is hilarious and beautiful for the ladies but this one (see pic) would be loved by men and women alike.
I picked up one for myself this week, it's heavy and awesome and the sweater-armness is like wearing a hug around your neck all day long."
The Jawbone Jambox
"Russ and I bought one of these as a stand in speaker while we waited for a bigger airplay speaker to hit the market, but we were so impressed with this little guy that it's still our prime-time "TV" speaker (we have a projector). It's bluetooth, which means a clean desktop, and is definitely great for laptop users to boost their out-loud-listening abilities."
Inayaili de Leon – Canonical
Inayaili de Len is a web designer, working at Canonical (the company that delivers Ubuntu) in London. She makes websites both beautiful and easy to use. In May, she published a book, Pro CSS for High Traffic Websites, and she speaks frequently at local and international web conferences and meetups. The smell of melon makes Yaili nauseous.
Here are her top five wishes for Santa Claus:
"I love the idea of customising your documents in a very elegant and clear way; having my own personalised embosser just sounds like the perfect solution and a wonderful concept. This has been on my wishlist forever!"
There are four designs to choose from.
Tad Carpenter posters
"I don’t think designers can avoid to like beautiful prints. I already have too many artwork that still needs to be put up on the wall, but I keep getting and wanting more and more. Recently I found Tad Carpenter’s illustrations and just loved them."
There are posters for Conan O'brien's summer concert series, Bob Dylan, Franz Ferdinand, Beck, Passion Pit, Sigur Ros, Flight of the Conchords, Deerhunter, Vampire Weekend, The Shins, Arcade Fire and many more.
A good desk
"As a web designer, my desk is where I spend most of my time. It has to be perfectly organised and, of course, to look great. The Remix Desk (see pic) just breathes design, it’s so beautiful and playful, but at the same time so elegant. As an alternative, I also love CB2’s Architect desk (£133.06) or Made.com’s gorgeous Fonteyn desk (£279)."
Shane Mielke – 2Advanced
Shane is creative director at 2Advanced, FUX architect, designer, developer, photographer, husband, father and Cyberdyne Systems Model 101. He has been very fortunate to have designed, developed or animated six Adobe sites of the Day, 27 FWA Sites of the Day, and two FWA Sites of the Month.
Shane is a real fitness freak, which you can tell from his choice for Santa this year:
Incipio iPhone 4S Boomproof Silicone case
"Started by a grade school friend, Incipio's gear covers and protects iPhones, iPads, iPods, Macbooks, Blackberries, Tablets, eReaders, Smartphones and much more. There's a style or case for everyone and everything. My iPhone is currently rocking the Bombproof case (see pic) and it has never felt safer or cooler looking."
GoPro HD Hero2
"Whether running a Tough Mudder race, biking through the mountains, or driving your car at high speeds to document your drive to work this is your gadget. They even make waterproof versions for surfing and accessories to mount your GoPro anywhere."
"The Nest learning thermostat learns your temperature preferences, keeps you comfortable, saves you money and has an amazingly simple design and interface that lets you look cool to all of your non-geek visitors. Wi-Fi enabled so you can change the temperature, adjust your schedule and check local weather from anywhere."
Veerle Pieters – Duoh!
Veerle is a graphic/web designer living in Belgium. Her career began in print, in 1992, focusing on logos, stationery, and brochures – and using the name Duoh! She then added website design, user interfaces for intranets, and multimedia development. In 2000, she officially founded Duoh! with Geert Leyseele and three years later discovered web standards after seeing the CSS Zen Garden, and the work of Douglas Bowman.
Veerle has a key eye for design and on her blog covers graphic and web design as well as modern home design. Her love for beautiful (and practical) design becomes apparent on her wish list for Santa:
"A clever organisation tool for traveling. Available in 7" tablet, iPad, and MacBook Air (see pic, $49.99). I love this because it keeps all your accessories such as cables, mouse, earphones,… organised. Instead of putting all of this in a bag together, they are nicely organised and it'll makes it much easier to find your stuff fast."
Brussels Herbs plant pots
"Brussels Herbs plant pots because I like to use fresh herbs as much as I can when I cook and these are good looking pots that are pretty handy as they come with scissors hanging on the side."
Designed for Dutch pottery firm Elho by Studio Bas van der Veer. Each Brussels Herbs pot contains a pair of multi-blade scissors that was specifically designed for cutting herbs in small pieces to add flavour to a meal.
The Brussels Herbs series will be available soon in garden centres, DIY stores and webshops across Europe.
"Stelton Press coffee maker, because I really love its design, and it seems like a handy press coffee maker to have. It's just such an easy way to make great coffee, and unlike the traditional press coffee makers, this one keeps your coffee warm for a while."
The coffee maker brews up to eight cups, its double walls and simple open/close function keep coffee hot for a long time and it has been awarded the iF product design award 2011.
In addition to their role as lecturers in interactive design at the University of Ulster at Belfast, where they have been active in promoting a web standards-based curriculum, Christopher Murphy and Nicklas Persson aka the Standardistas are practicing designers and digital artists.
Their work has featured in a variety of design books and magazines alongside numerous internationally respected designers and they are regular speakers at design conferences and workshops worldwide.
Last year they wrote their own 'Ask Santa' list and here's their top three for this season:
Muji Touchscreen Gloves
"With the long winter nights drawing in and the temperature plummeting outside, Muji's Touchscreen Gloves are the perfect gift for the touch sensitive technologist in your life. With a conductive material interwoven into the thumb and forefinger they're touchscreen friendly whatever the weather. Fashionistas will be delighted to discover that they're available in any of eight colours so you can colour coordinate them to the devices you happen to be carrying."
"Our fondness for Dieter Rams' minimal aesthetic, and its considerable impact on Braun, is well known, so it should come as no surprise to discover that Braun's elegantly designed timepieces are high on our list of Christmas gifts. We'd really appreciate if Santa could pop down the proverbial chimney with a pair of Braun watches. We'll take one in black (£140) and one in white (£120). We're not being greedy – we just want one each, of course)."
Impossible Project cameras
"Working hard to keep the dream of instant film alive, The Impossible Project doesn't only manufacture film, but also refurbishes cameras, rescued from the golden age of analogue photography. What could be more exciting to discover in your stocking than a good, old-fashioned Polaroid camera and a fresh cartridge of film? Time to perfection to record all those Christmas Day antics in all their anachronistic glory."
Jon Tan – Analog
Jon Tan is a designer, and co-founder of Analog, where he works with friends doing things like the upcoming app, Mapalong, the Brooklyn Beta conference, and running the Mild Bunch HQ. He's also the co-founder of web fonts service, Fontdeck.
Jon is also a member of the International Society of Typographic Designers, speaks at conferences – most recently at Ampersand, and eating a Granny Smith apple makes unmentioned parts of his anatomy itch.
As you can see from Jon's wish list, he still really likes paper:
Midori Traveler’s Notebook and Polaroid PoGo
"Offline, analog, and beautiful. Made by Japanese stationary and paper company Midori, these notebooks are minimalist in concept, and beautiful in execution. A naturally dyed plain leather cover made in Chiang Mai in Thailand. Simple bands to hold the inserts which are multifold, from paper to pockets to everything in between. It has one of the world’s best notebook papers that is a delight to write on, especially with fountain pen ink. I combine mine with a Polaroid PoGo printer (£29.95) which needs zero ink and produces lovely little sticker prints. Truly, a notebook and offline journal system for life."
"I love everyday things made beautiful. Leaf Ties are just that. Who doesn’t need a few cable ties? They might as well draw attention to themselves for the right reasons rather than need to be hidden for the wrong ones. Leaf ties are a super-simple idea that gives heaps of pleasure for very little money."
Available at Suck UK, the Leaf Ties have all the functionality of normal cable ties (strong, permanent, secure, weatherproof, easy to remove ties) plus a leaf design top. Each box contains 12 cable ties.
"Bridging the gap between analog and digital, Whitelines paper has a reverse grid: White lines on very light grey paper. It means you can draw on the grid, but the grid doesn’t show when you scan. Neat as neat pie."
The idea of having writing paper with white ‘non-conflict’ lines occurred to Swedish designer Olof Hansson. Why would you not choose to use paper without distracting lines, if you could? The lines don’t show up on photocopies, there’s less glare in strong light, and people with dyslexia are helped with it, and more…
Trent Walton – Paravel
Trent is founder and 1/3 of Paravel, a small web shop based out of the Texas Hill Country. Trent believes in progressive enhancement, spends all of his allowance on fonts, wears a calculator watch, has more grey hairs than brown, and kinda wants to be a farmer.
For Christmas Trent suggests we should splash out on a proper desk:
Standing or adjustable height desk
"Humans weren’t made to sit all day, but for many of us, it’s the nature of the job. One way to counteract this and reduce chair time is to look into a standing or adjustable height desk. If you’re looking to do this on the cheap, you might consider Christmas-listing the materials to build your own with the help of Life Hacker. The next step up would be the Fredrik desk from Ikea (£95.99). You can mount it at different heights to suit your needs. And if you’re ready to go all-out, I’d recommend the height-adjustable power you get with the Geek Desk (from $749) or this one from ConSet. To top things off, be sure to snag a cushioned footpad ($19.29) as a stocking stuffer to help you stay committed to your new working posture."
Samantha Warren – Phase2 Technology
At SXSW in March Samantha is going to talk about Faster Design Decisions with Style Tiles, which help you to communicate with your client, establish a visual language and work iteratively with developers.
Samantha is a real type geek and toy is her middle name. Really. Here she explains how you can give type this Christmas:
"Typography is the foundation of web design and one of the best gifts you can get a designer for the holiday season. There are lots of different options for giving type but I really enjoy giving actual letters. Edie's Lab on Etsy will allow you to choose a wood cut letter, colour, and in some cases a certain font to gift your favourite typofile (from $18). Choose an initial or a glyph (you can never go wrong with an at symbol or ampersand) or spell out an entire word. Vintage letterpress blocks also make great gifts but are a far more rare find. If your local flea market or antique store fails, try Preserve Cottage on Etsy to see if you can assemble a meaningful word or phrase for the designer of your choice (from $4)."
"Promote the inner doodler in your gift recipient with a pocket sketchbook. A place to jot things down makes a great gift for designers and web geeks alike. Scoutbooks are the perfect pocket notebook. Letter sketcher? The Type Sketcher has gridded pages to guide you through the trickiest of letterforms. If letters aren’t your thing, there are lots of Scoutbooks designs that make a great home for quick wireframe sketches, to-do lists, and ven diagrams for taking over the world."
Custom logo embosser and stamp
"For the DIY design geek in your life there are loads of make-it-your-own gadgets that can provide hours of fun. A custom logo embosser (from $42) or rubber stamp (from $6.90) can add a touch of personalisation to envelopes, cards, and even sketchbooks. Want your embosser or stamp to be a surprise yet still personal? Snag a business card or print their logo off of their website. The effort will make it a one of a kind gift that will allow for hours of creative fun."
Thanks to all of our contributors: Paul Boag, Fred Boyle, Andy Budd, Chris Coyier, Meagan Fisher, Katy Garrison, Jon Hicks, Jessica Hische, Inayaili de Leon, Shane Mielke, Veerle Pieters, the Standardistas, Jon Tan, Tim van Damme, Trent Walton and Samantha Warren.
If you know of any must-have gadgets for designers, please let us know in the comments.