As designers, we can’t help but be particular about the gifts we give and receive. We’ve put together a list of beautiful and useful gifts at varying price ranges to help you satisfy everyone on your holiday shopping list this year, including yourself.
Wishing you and yours a happy, safe holiday season filled with love, gratitude, and connection.
Aarron and Eli
Gregory [Gourdet] himself has a background from Haiti, but he cooks international foods and the recipes are very involved because it's all fresh ingredients and healthy, but I have not made one thing in there that hasn't been fantastic. So highly recommend that one.
With younger kids, it's hard to get them engaged in a game sometimes, and my mom actually got us started playing this game called Rummikub…it's this tile based game, and there's a little bit of math involved…my son Dash is 8…my daughter Phoebe is 12, almost 13…they're both able to play and it's a little bit educational and competitive, and I recommend [it].
My folks gave me this vacuum sealer a number of years ago, and I kind of thought, “Oh, am I ever really going to use this thing?” But I use it all the time. This one happened to be a Wirecutter budget pick, and they have a slightly more expensive one.
Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer ANVS01-US00 $66.00 (Wirecutter budget pick)
We recently got into pickleball as a family and I'd heard a lot about it, and I've never been very much into tennis, but we thought we'd give this a try…it's sort of like mini tennis, just a little easier to pick up and play. And it's pretty hilarious and fun.
Pickleball paddles: $99 (Wirecutter pick for beginners)
The [James Brand] is all about everyday carry items…they make a liner lock knife, just super well made. I got Aarron the orange version for our Secret Santa. 🎄🎁
This is a clothing brand called Roark that I really love. They're kind of like an outdoor, surf-oriented brand. This particular item is a flannel— I'm actually wearing it right now, it's a partnership between Roark and Pendleton, which is another really cool brand. So Pendleton supplied the fabric, they did the design, and it's just a really nice warm wool flannel.
Roark: Nordsman X Pendleton Flannel: $189 (on sale now for $133)
Le Creuset is the brand and it's this enameled cast iron Dutch oven…you'll have it forever. You can pass it down to your kids. It's a beautiful object. We actually keep ours out on our stove top because it's just such a nice looking thing.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven (5.5 Quarts) $419 (Wirecutter upgrade pick)
It's a water bottle, Ringo, and the cool feature on it...oftentimes I'll take a water bottle to the gym, and then I'm also like maybe doing a workout that's on my phone…and this actually has a little stand on it that works with magnetic connection on your iPhone.
Ringo Water Bottle, $68.99
So for designers, anyone who's... writing, drawing on a regular basis. I love these pens and pencils. They are wonderful. Kaweco is a German company…they have mechanical pencils…they have these big fat pencils as well. They're wonderful. They're beautiful objects. They feel good in your hand.
Kaweco pens and pencils, CLASSIC SPORT mechanical pencil Red 0., $33.86
Many people have seen Slaughterhouse Five, read it maybe in college or high school, as did I, but there's a graphic novel version of it that's out that I recently picked up, and I've enjoyed so much because it helped me understand that book and kind of see that narrative with different eyes.
Slaughterhouse-Five: The Graphic Novel, Ryan North (Author) Kurt Vonnegut (Author), $23
We recently had Llisa Demetrios, the granddaughter of Charles and Ray Eames, on the show. And I've been a big fan of [them] for a very long time. This book is wonderful. It's colorful. It's a big folio type of book that fits into a box…it's got all these bright colored triangles that are interlocking in a pattern wrapped around the box of the book. It's a beautiful book.
Bonus Eames Gift: Eames Hang it all, $325
So the specific journal that I use that works great for me is the Moleskine Daily Planner. These moleskins you can find all over. What I like about it is, at the top, I write a headline. Not unlike David Sedaris, who, you know, keeps a journal religiously. Although I think David probably writes a lot longer than I do.
It's called Red Breast Whiskey. So, it's getting cold out. I always like to have a nice warm drink on the shelf. You know, that you could pull out and enjoy in the evening, maybe sit outside by the fire. with a friend or just by yourself and kind of enjoy some peace and quiet. [Aarron chose this for Eli’s Secret Santa gift 🎄🎁]
Red Breast Whiskey, $65 to $500
Hatch Show Print is a company that's been around since the late 1800s doing letterpress posters for lots of different types of people and organizations, but they're most famous for doing posters for Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, lots of different types of bands…And these are historical objects. They're objects that are reproductions of these early posters that were made in the 60s, and they still are very influential in design today.
Hatch Show Print posters, Holiday cards, prints, special limited edition prints, $20 to $300.
Brewmetric watches: These watches are designed for timing your espresso shots. So, they're quartz watches, most of them, or quartz and some sort of automatic movement. They are relatively affordable in the realm of, of watches out there around 400 to 450. I love the retro dial. It's a beautiful, beautiful watch.
Brew Metric watches, $450
My wife and I are collectors of Nelson clocks. We don't have any super original ones, but George Nelson designed a lot of very well known pieces, lighting, benches, beds, and his clocks in particular from the 50s. You'll recognize these. You'll see lots of different versions, and they're just amazing. We think they're beautiful objects.
Nelson Spindle Clock, around $500
I've had a pair of shoes that I bought in Berlin in 2006. So I've had them for 17 years. They're made by a company called Trippen.They make men's shoes and women's shoes. And for ladies, the shoe designs are just incredible. They are handmade leather. They last forever.
Trippen shoes for men and women, prices vary
Gift ideas that support our sponsors and the show
Eli: I'm kind of a coffee heathen, and tend to like really dark roast coffees, old school…and so I was a little skeptical because a lot of Methodical’s coffees tend to be a little lighter or medium roast. But this one that Aarron picked out is just great and I drink it all the time. My wife likes it, too. She's also sort of a darker coffee person, but it's just got the right depth to it and it tastes like a good strong coffee, and also has these subtle notes to it.
Aarron: If you wanted to give kind of a cool little gift to somebody for the holidays, Design Better coffee and a Chemex or an AeroPress, something like that for 50 bucks, maybe just a little bit over you could give a really lovely, thoughtful gift that people would appreciate.
Design Better coffee, $22
Eli: You've probably heard us talk about American Giant. They're a clothing company based here in the US. They're all manufactured here in the States. We actually had their CEO Bayard Winthrop on an episode that got a really good reception from folks.
Aarron: It was one of our more popular episodes this year. Bayard's an amazing person. And the company is just so cool.
Eli: And their mission is great about revitalizing manufacturing here in the U. S., and they make great clothing.
Aarron: One of the Standards Manuals that really caught my attention is the NASA Standards Manual, because NASA's design guidelines are pretty famous, really great example of a very thorough series of specifications for how to use a brand. And things like shirts, stationery, how to put it on the side of a giant rocket ship that you're going to send to the moon. It's just inspiring. It's fascinating design history. The object itself is really beautiful. It ships in a Mylar silver bag.
Standards Manuals, NASA manual $84.00
Eli: Heath Ceramics is another brand that we're really close to. A few years back we had on Robin Petravic who's the current co-owner of Heath ceramics. He and his partner took over the brand from Edith Heath who founded it back in the 1940s, and it's very much a seminal mid century modern brand. Their brand is rooted in the Bay Area, another local manufacturer and just make these beautiful, very handmade feeling dinnerware, tableware, vases, and we'll link out to [their] small modern cup. My parents have some of these that we drink coffee from. They're beautiful.
Aarron: We’ve been talking with our friends over at Vestaboard, and in this list of awesome gifts, this is like right there at the top. If you're familiar with a split flap display: when you go to an airport, a train station, and you see those [mechanical] displays that show what time your departures and arrivals are, that’s a split flap display.
And there's a lot of logic that happens behind to be able to flip between the different letters and numbers and characters and so forth, but it's beautiful. And it's not only beautiful to look at, it's also that sound and that interaction, seeing that whole thing. It's very tactile, tangible, it's emotionally engaging, and Vestaboard makes a split flap display for your home or your office.
This is a great office thing as well, and could be a holiday gift to the office. So what's cool about VestaBoard is there's a mobile app that's associated with it. You can connect it to different data sources. You can send messages into the VestaBoard, like amazing quotes, latest scores in a game that you're watching.
You can send just a simple message to people. It's wonderful for families to be able to communicate with each other. If you're not at home and you've got a kid that's just gotten home, you can send them a quick message on this. There's so many different creative and cool things you can do.
Eli: Some people can't listen to any kind of music while they're writing or focusing on a task but, brain.fm has actually done the scientific work to create soundtracks for your creative or focus work, and it's really great. I've been using it all the time, especially if I'm having to have deep focus and write something.
Aarron: DB+, if you haven't heard about it already, it's our subscription service. We've got a really good discount going on it right now through the holidays. You can get ad free versions of the show. You can get episodes of the show early and get invited to our exclusive AMAs, that stands for Ask Me Anything, with some big names in design and technology. We have one coming up with Meredith Black, who's probably the foremost authority on design and ops.
Also, Brad Frost, well known expert and author in design systems, and we have so many other folks. The former CMO from Nike will be joining us, and Steve Johnson, who's VP of design at Netflix, is going to be joining us as well. It's an impressive group of people that you would get to talk to and ask questions of.
So again, as we were thinking about gifts and the value that you could get to stretch the value of your dollar. So that's kind of on everyone's mind right now. That's what we want to create with DB Plus is just a way for the community to get more, to learn more, and we're adding more to that subscription service as well.
DB+ subscription, $3.75 (ad-free episodes 1 week early) or $8.75 (monthly AMAs with design luminaries).