15 Practical Designer Gift Ideas for the Holidays

With the holidays fast approaching you may be wondering what to get for that special someone. Here are 15 practical designer gift ideas to get you started.

Welcome to Rose’s favourite things holiday guide, otherwise known as 15 Practical Designer Gift Ideas for the Holidays.

What do you get a working designer for Christmas?  I came up with these ideas to please any designer in your life. I prefer the practical over the trendy so it doesn’t matter if it’s a production designer, set designer, graphic designer or art assistant, I think anybody would love the following gifts for the holidays this year. Take a look below.

15 Practical Designer Gift Ideas

1) Moleskine Notebooks and Smart Products

You can’t go wrong with a Moleskine notebook. I already own too many but I couldn’t resist these. I definitely prefer the soft cover notebooks to the hard cover notebooks but I’m hoping to try the Moleskine Smart Writing Set soon which automatically transfers your notes and drawings to an app on your phone which can then be transferred to your other software.

For kinesthetic people it’s hard to replace the love of writing in a proper notebook rather than on your phone, tablet, or laptop. I’ve tried a lot of different notebooks but I haven’t found anything that matches the quality of the paper in a Moleskine with the softness of the smooth covers and the practical nature of the elastic bands that enclose them. Also the envelopes at the back of their notebooks are great to hold those last minute receipts when you don’t have your petty cash pouch on you.

My Picks:

#1: Moleskine Limited Collection Time Notebook, Large, Ruled, Black, Hard Cover (5 x 8.25)

#2: Moleskine (Red) Classic Notebook Large Ruled Hard Cover

#3: Moleskine Limited Edition Blend Collection Notebook, Large, Ruled, Black (5 x 8.25)

#4: Moleskine Limited Edition Keith Haring, Notebook, Large, Ruled, Black (5 x 8.25)

#5: Moleskine Smart Writing Set

2) MasterClass Teaching Series

MasterClass is a series of online classes taught by the best. After watching the Aaron Sorkin and Shonda Rhimes MasterClass I decided I had to watch the Frank Gehry lectures on architecture and design. It did not disappoint. If you’re looking for some creative inspiration, I can not recommend these classes highly enough. If you’re looking for a thorough understanding of a subject then these classes may not be for you and you should sign up for a degree program which will cost significantly more.

MasterClass is a teaching series of short videos from leaders in their fields that comes with homework assignments and paperwork as well as private forums to help you understand the lessons in each video. Each MasterClass will give you a general understanding of how the instructor, or ‘master’, thinks and how that helped them succeed to where they are today.

I am very much looking forward to the upcoming Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard MasterClass. It’s never been a better time to purchase since you can now gain access (for the time being) to the entire MasterClass library for the price of only two courses where before you had to purchase them all separately. Due to the price change I now intend on watching the Werner Herzog, David Mamet, Hans Zimmer, Marc Jacobs, Steve Martin, Samuel L. Jackson, Annie Leibovitz, and the Diane von Furstenberg MasterClass series just for fun, if and when I get enough spare time.

3) Unique Mugs

To change it up and show off some personality in the office, coffee mugs are a great gift. The coffee mug is an art department staple. As production offices try their best to do away with plastic bottles, coffee mugs can be a fantastic eco-friendly gift for a co-worker.

My Picks:

#1: Antique Copper Barrel Shaped Copper Mug with Patina Finish – 16 oz

#2: Contigo Autoseal Transit Stainless Steel Travel Mug, 16 oz, Polar White with Grayed Jade Lid Accent

#3: Zwilling J.A. Henckels Sorrento Plus Double Wall Latte Mug Set – 450 ml

#4: Bob Ross Heat Changing Coffee Mug – 11 oz

#5:  ‘Oh Crop’ Coffee Mug- White

#6: Pantone Universe P10102017 Classic Cup

4) Present Day Gifts

Present Day Gifts was created by Sophia Pierro, a set decorator for film and television in Toronto. While seeking out pieces for the films she was working on, Sophia kept finding unique and beautiful local goods made by highly skilled craftspeople and artisans. Her desire to continuously create something beautiful and cohesive out of many small elements led her to build Present Day – a customizable gift box service – with a modern edge and a strong focus on locally made goods.

Sophia’s gift boxes also carry many goods made by others in the film industry and I’ve found they make the greatest crew gifts ever. What really sets them apart is not only the carefully curated aesthetically pleasing products but the artfully packaged gift boxes themselves. I’m a sucker for beautiful gift wrapping.

Present Day Gifts ships to both Canada and the US.

5) Production Design Books

I don’t think there is a better gift than an educational gift. No matter how long you’ve been working in the art department I believe any of these books will give you something to think about differently than you currently do and inspire you to do your best work. These books are just a handful of the books that I personally love and have gifted to others over the years.

For more production design book ideas, click here.

My Picks:

#1: Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction

#2: The Architecture of Image: Existential Space in Cinema

#3: The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop

#4: The Dramatic Imagination: Reflections and Speculations on the Art of the Theatre

#5: Filmcraft: Production Design

#6: If It’s Purple, Someone’s Gonna Die: The Power of Color in Visual Storytelling

6) Harold & Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story

You will love Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story. This documentary about the late storyboard artist and production designer Harold Michelson and his wife, a researcher in Hollywood, Lillian Michelson will make you smile. This is one of my favourite documentaries this year and I believe it is worth owning for repeat viewing. I fell absolutely in love with this film. Harold and Lillian’s marriage, creativity and joie de vivre is inspiring and their attitude is infectious. How can you not love working in film and television after watching these two for 94 minutes?

7) MOO Luxe Business Cards

Give the gift of professional contact giving! I’m obsessed with MOO Luxe Business Cards. Especially the coloured seams. I think they’re the best quality business cards on the market and I love that they’re so customizable, affordable, and can be delivered quickly.


8) Adobe Creative Cloud or Adobe Stock Subscription

This is probably the most practical of all of the gifts on here. Who doesn’t need Adobe Creative Cloud for work? If my mom decided to buy me an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription for Christmas I would A) be really shocked she suddenly gets which software I use but B) think it’s very sweet that she cared enough to purchase something I actually need every year. You can’t go wrong with a software subscription and it will definitely arrive on time!



9) Stand Up Desk

It seems to be THE trend of the year but the stand up desk has taken over production offices the world over. I don’t blame anyone who opts for a stand up desk. You will suddenly have the option to sit or stand and keep much more fit during those long working hours in the art department office. I have not loved the stand up desk because most of them that I’ve seen haven’t been all that aesthetically pleasing and didn’t work all that great. After much research though I have found these 3 options to be the best available on the market. The UpDesk being the most adept at moving from a sitting to standing desk.

My Picks:

#1: Homestar Furniture Height Adjustable Desk in Reclaimed Wood

#2: UpDesk Elements Standard Adjustable Standing Desk

#3: Adjustable Standing Desk for Home Office by Jaswig

10) Ergonomic Office Chair

The biggest problem I’ve found when moving in and out of production offices are the uncomfortable office chairs. At this point I’d like to start bringing in my own office chair every time I take on a contract. After much research, these are my personal choices. Ergonomic office chairs are always ideal.

My Picks:

#1: Liam Office Chair Black

#2: LexMod Articulate Black Mesh Office Chair

#3: EverKing High Back Mesh Ergonomic Office Chair, 360 Degree Swivel Executive Computer Task Chair with Adjustable Headrest and Armrest

#4: Eames Style Executive Leather Office Chair, Black

#5: Cooper Mid-Century Saddle Leather Swivel Office Chair

#6: Herman Miller Classic Aeron Chair

11) Laser Measure

I’ve been meaning to get a laser measure for a long time. I’ve tried out a whole bunch of them and I particularly love the Leica measurer for its intuitive functionality and bluetooth capability. However, all of my tools are Makita because they are so lightweight which makes them easier for me to lug around. I ultimately decided to purchase the Makita measurer but I also recommend these other brands. It beats carrying around a heavy 100′ measuring tape in your bag during a tech scout.

My Picks:

#1: Makita LD050P Laser Distance Measure, 164-Feet

#2: STANLEY STHT77343 TLM99s Bluetooth Laser Distance Measurer

#3: Leica Geosystems 838725 DISTO D2 New Laser Distance Meter with Bluetooth 4.0 and up to 330′ Range

#4: Bosch GLM 35 Laser Measure, 120-Feet

#5: DEWALT DW03050 165-Feet Laser Distance Measurer

12) Pantone Guide

I love the ease of having accurate coated and non-coated Pantone colours at my side while designing and matching colours. There’s something so inspiring about looking through the colour decks while working with so many possibilities. These make a great present for a colour fanatic and every graphic designer in your life.



13) Portfolio Website Subscription

If you don’t have an online digital portfolio, you are doing yourself and your work a huge disservice. I’ve seen people starting out move towards the free services that don’t look that great as the free templates lack some necessary customization so I fully recommend asking for a portfolio website subscription for Christmas. Subscribe to an easy to use drag and drop portfolio building website creator.

If you don’t know HTML I highly recommend subscribing to Wix and Weebly paid services. I do not recommend their free services because they tend to put their logo on your website which you can’t remove unless you pay for the service. I personally think leaving a corporate logo on your personal portfolio website looks absolutely terrible plus the theme template options aren’t great with the free services. Once you start paying for service however (which is a rather minimal fee) it opens up so many options that you won’t regret asking for the subscription for the holidays.

I personally use Cargo, but Cargo requires you to learn quite a bit of HTML and is fairly complicated with a large learning curve. If you know HTML then I think there is no better platform than Cargo.

14) 3D Printer

For a great splurge I recommend buying a 3D printer for your creative tinkering loved one. The design possibilities are endless. I’ve wanted one for years but haven’t yet bought one (or received one). My preference goes to the Form 2 and the MakerBot Replicator+. If you’ve seen the quality of the pieces they create, you’d want one too.

My Picks:

#1: Formlabs Form 2 SLA 3D Printer Complete Package

#2: LulzBot Mini Desktop 3D Printer

#3: XYZprinting 3F2JWXUS00D da Vinci Jr. 2.0 Mix 3D Printer

#4: FlashForge 3D Printers, New Model: Finder

#5: MakerBot Replicator+

#6: Ultimaker 3 3D Printer

15) Personal Assistant

While this is definitely in a slightly higher price range I really think this is a great idea. Hire a personal assistant for 5-8 hours once a week for a month or every other week for two months. Sure, you could spend $500- $5000 on a 3D printer but why not give that special someone the gift of stress-relief during a busy pilot season? Nobody has time to do laundry, dry-cleaning, dishes, research, scheduling, travel organization, and other small tasks when working 12-14 hour days in the office or on set. The added benefit to this is that the money doesn’t go to a corporation with tax shelters in the Cayman Islands, it goes to someone who could really use that money and needs a part time job.

There are plenty of websites to help you find a personal assistant. If you can’t find any specific website with locals in your area, Craigslist will likely get you a decent amount of applicants to interview.

Now, can someone hire me an assistant? Thanks.

What do you want for the holidays?

Posted by Rose Lagacé

Rose Lagacé is a production designer for film & television by day and an emerging filmmaker by night. Rose is also the creator and editor of Art Departmental where she celebrates the art and craft of production design.

  1. Brilliant, thanks for that!


  2. Great suggestions…mainly as gifts for myself!
    Thank you 😉


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