Arty holiday suggestions perfect for creatives everywhere - plus fans of Neil Gaiman, Joker and disco dancing Santas (as above, created by Hsinping Pan.)
Do you have a creative you're looking to impress with an artsy present? Perhaps a crush, colleague or beloved someone?
Or are you a creative yourself and you want friends and family to find inspiration for your gifts? Or you’re someone who simply appreciates creative and bespoke gifts – something with a little more thought than John Lewis socks or a Primark Christmas jumper? Then you’ve come to the right place.
This Christmas gift guide is made specifically for designers and artists, including the latest design books, children’s illustrated books and badges with wonderful designs relevant to trends from the year.
Best Design Book: Web Design. The Evolution of the Digital World 1990-Today by Rob Ford
No, it's not a UX design book, but instead an illustrated guide to influential web pages from the moment Tim Berners Lee switched on the internet to our current era of apps, VR and Pokemon Go.
Almost 700 pages long, there's a different highlighted website per every two page spread; you'd think that would mean diddly screenshots and little amount of context, but instead you get high-res images dating back to the early 1990s with words of insight from the seminal makers behind these websites big and small.
It's enough to make you miss the days of Flash, and the book is greatly designed itself, making a perfect addition to the coffee table that ain't too hard to lug around.
Best Illustrated Book: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Illustrated Edition) by Neil Gaiman with Elise Hurst
A Neil Gaiman triumph returns with triumphant illustrations by Elise Hurst.
Originally from 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane follows an unnamed man who returns to his hometown for a funeral and remembers events that began forty years earlier - to say any more will spoil the show.
Elise's textured, evocative spreads suit Gaiman's wondrous world making, so much so we interviewed the illustrator for an upcoming feature on her work on the book for Digital Arts.
If someone's been especially good this year then purchase a Deluxe Signed Limited Edition Hardcover at Forbidden Planet for £60.
Best Children's Book: Circle by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen
A beloved series of quirky kids classics came full circle with this third release of Barnett & Klassen's shape-based saga.
Following Triangle and Square we now focus on the titular Circle, a rule that she makes, and how they have to rescue Triangle when he breaks that rule. Children will love the story and its moral, while everyone can admire Jon Klassen's minimal mastery of light, scenery and character. His figures are simply shapes with eyeballs, yet they convey so much page by page in the same way Barnett's eliptical narrative is one that speaks for the ages.
Best Graphic Novel: Joker by Brian Azarello & Lee Bermejo
So imagines there’s a Know-it-all who just loves the new Joaquin Phoenix Joker film, but refuses to read any Batman-related comics as they’ve heard the movie wasn’t based on any and therefore not worth their time. What do you with such a tool?
Well, sneak a graphic novel by the same name beneath their Christmas tree, one over a decade old with no crossover between it and the movie, as re-released this year on DC Comics’s R-rated Black Label line.
Where Arthur Fleck is a man railing at the world and Heath Ledger’s Crown Prince of Crime an anarchic terrorist, Azarello’s Joker is a piece of shit gangster, perfectly suited to the gorgeously down and dirty Gotham evoked by master comic book artist Lee Bermejo.
Like the movie, Batman is barely a presence in this realist nightmare of a book, which will satisfy the snobby Know-it-all who prefers a self-pitying white male over one trying to move on from their trauma.
If they’re not so difficult, then also consider this year’s Damned by the same creative team, which featured Bats investigating the death of his archenemy against a backdrop of occult forces.
Best for Japanophiles: Vend: Notes on the Silent World of Tokyo's Vending Machines by Tim Easley
What do you get the Japan lover who has everything? Well, we bet they haven’t got a book devoted entirely to the country’s charming and bountiful vending machines.
Illustrator Tim Easley has channelled his equally topnotch photography powers for this labour of love, featuring over 50 full colour photos spread over 120 pages.
This first edition comes as a numbered hardback with a limited edition A2 poster featuring a collection photos from the book.
Best for vinyl lovers: Norman Fucking Rockwell! by Lana Del Ray
Or NFR as it’s called by more prudish vendors, this was probably the most-talked about album of the year, and one of the most critically acclaimed.
On top of that, the cover to Lana Del Ray’s latest sophisti-pop masterpiece has a pop art feel which any creative will appreciate, so best buy it on vinyl for maximum effect.
Best for gamers: Death Stranding
This year’s most talked about game is also its most contentious, meaning your beloved creative may not have taken the plunge yet on buying Hideo Kojima’s prog-game oddity.
Save them the money then and buy it for them, preferably with a lavish cover they won’t see it in the shops courtesy of Amazon and their Higgs variant, as pictured, which comes based off of the game’s mysterious masked figure of the same name. Why? Well,if they hate it, at least they’ll have something nice and unique looking on the shelf as a future icebreaker.
Best Tech: iPad 2019
The latest model of the Apple tablet favourite is their best yet, making a breeze out of multi-tasking with split-screens, handy shortcuts and - finally - a way to save and access local files on your device.
Whilst the battery life needs working on, we still feel this is the best tablet around and a nice way for Wacom users to see if the iPad is for them when it comes to digital sketching instead of blowing your load on an iPad Pro.
Best Watch: Mr Jones Watches
Mr Jones is a unique London watchmaker specialising in uniquely illustrated timepieces.
Our favourite this year is this gem known as A Perfectly Useless Afternoon, as designed by Kristof Devos (who we interviewed here about the making of the watch.) While it does have a summery feel, we still feel it makes a nice gift with versions for both men and women, and there are plenty of other eye-grabbing designs to choose from.
Best creative tech: Instapick
We saw this handy little contraption in action at Adobe MAX, a device that ‘reads’ the colour of any object in real life or on screen that you place it on. Immediately after you get the corresponding colour swatch generate in Photoshop, meaning instant translation of real colours into digital.
While it isn’t made by neither Adobe or Pantone, the Instapick works with PS, Illustrator and InDesign, and draws its results from the full Pantone colour library.
Art membership gifts: House of Illustration
London’s House of Illustration has hosted amazing exhibitions on anime storyboards, North Korean graphic design and Posy Simmonds to name a few since its 2014 inception.
Plenty for lovers of illustration and design to enjoy, then, and on their site you can choose membership gifts for one person or one person plus, meaning you also get something out of this gift should you go pay 15 quid more.
Stocking fillers: David Shrigley Pencil Gift Set
Onto smaller gifts now, starting with this perfect gift for creative misfits or anyone with a dark sense of humour.
With messages on their side like ‘I draw naked people’, this seven pencil set is instantly recognisable as a David Shrigley creation, ideal for any fans of the irreverent British artist superstar.
Stocking fillers: The Best Badges of 2019
Digital Arts editor Neil Bennett helped to judge the winners of this year’s Best Button Badge Design competition, Stereohype’s annual competition which recognises individual and series designs, all of which can be purchased online as either a badge or print.
Take a look at all the new badge designs on sale here, selling for only £2 each.
Stocking fillers: Disco Santa Christmas Card!
With art by Taiwanese illustrator Hsinping Pan, this card specially made for London’s South Bank Centre can’t help bring a smile to our face, and will make do as a gift to send to someone who doesn’t merit too much of your money, but still deserves a special something imbued with the Christmas spirit.
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