13 Designers On The Best And Worst Gifts They Ever Received

Stefan Sagmeister, Abbott Miller, Mark Rolston, and more top designers dish on gifts they’ve loved and gifts that befuddled, plus what they really want for Christmas this year.

13 Designers On The Best And Worst Gifts They Ever Received
[Image: Wrapping paper via Shutterstock]

Mark Rolston, chief creative officer at frog design

What I want for Christmas: Simple: I want a drone. I can’t wait to use it with a GoPro camera to get some beautiful and really unique footage of my family and my racecar.


Best gift: When I was 12, my father bought me a Commodore 64 computer. I learned to program in those early years. I created an oil and gas production tracking application for my dad’s small business when I was 14. That machine changed my life. It gave me a taste of creating software and got my career in design off to an early start.

Image: Commodore 64 via Wikipedia

Weirdest gift: A gift pack of sausages [also from my father]–seriously. To his credit, my father has given me some of the best gifts in my life.

Joe Gebbia, cofounder of Airbnb

What I want for Christmas: The +/– 0 Air Purifier, Thelonius Monk Paris 1969, which was just released in November, this print from the Eames Foundation, to support the preservation of the Case Study house.

Best gift: The hospitality of Hosan, a Japanese monk who I had the pleasure of staying with and learning from over the last year.

Weirdest gift: For the record, I love weird. These pink RISD socks were created by the school’s cycling team and are special hit with the TSA.


Stefan Sagmeister, founder of Sagmeister & Walsh

What I want for Christmas: An iPod, engraved and with my favorite music collection on it.

Weirdest gift: An air mattress.

Sebastian Chan, director of digital and emerging media at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum

What I want for Christmas: At my age it’s the happy faces on my children as they unwrap their own super nerdy Christmas presents–some of which are from Kickstarter projects that should have been delivered last Christmas.

Best gift: Either the Commodore 64 in 1984 or the original Space Lego sets in 1979, both of which expanded my imagination and interest in the future and its possibilities.


Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, Warby Parker cofounders

What I want for Christmas:
Blumenthal: The Big Picture: America in Panorama has 100 duotone photos in panorama from the early 20th century. Also a Subscription to McSweeney’s Quarterly, and Karlie’s Kookies [from Momofuku Milk Bar and Karlie Kloss].

Gilboa: The Foundation and Daily Good from Aloha, the [fuseproject designed] August Smart Lock, and Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams.

Best gift:
Blumenthal: My wife Rachel gave me a papier mache pinanta shaped like a penguin for our first anniversary (which is the paper anniversary).

Gilboa: A custom Lisa Swerling shadowbox.

Weirdest gift:
Blumenthal: I recently attended a conference were attendees were gifted a Cleopatra DVD and a $10 McDonald’s gift card. It seemed like a weird combination of items.

Gilboa: A sparkly spandex Siamese twin two-sie (like a onesie but for two people).


Tim Leong, designer of Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe

What I want for Christmas: The book Magic. 1400s—1950s, from Taschen. It’s 544 pages of the visual history of magic, including vintage posters, playbills, and photographs.

Best gift: The original Nintendo. I never played Atari, so this was a transformative experience. And it also started a decades-long primal hatred of that dog that laughs at you in Duck Hunt.

Weirdest gift: My grandma once gave me a blue vinyl sombrero that collapsed into a little pouch. Can’t make this stuff up.

Abbott Miller, partner at Pentagram

What I want for Christmas: The Jawbone Up wristband. My wife has become addicted to the steady stream of data it generates. I suddenly feel completely in the dark and have to get one too.

Weirdest gift: A baby alligator from my mother when I was about 12 years old. I saw it in an exotic pet store and became convinced that my burgeoning menagerie was not complete without it. We returned it a few days [after Christmas], once I realized I was…truly afraid of it, and that it was going to become very large.


Image: Baby alligator via Shutterstock

Jens Martin Skibsted, designer and founder of Skibsted Ideation (and a Co.Design contributor)

Best gift: For my 30th birthday my mom gave me a gold [Ikepod] Hemipode Chronometer [wristwatch]. They don’t make this model anymore. It’s a beautiful collector’s piece, and I worked with Marc [Newson] back then, so it had personal value too.

Weirdest gift: For a mid-20s birthday, I was celebrating at my grandma’s futuristic summerhouse with some friends. My first present [was] cereal boxes cut out so they could be used as slippers (they never really served their purpose). My grandma gave me an old used bicycle rear hub, and my friend Pawel gave me a live chinchilla. I don’t know why; it soon escaped.

Gadi Amit, president of New Deal Design

What I want for Christmas: I would rather get a gift of a cherishable moment with a good friend or loved one, rather than a physical thing. If I’d need anything it’s running or fitness gear—or a good roast for the New Year.

Best gift: My first big bicycle: red and white, at age 10.

Kim Rees and Dino Citraro, partners at Periscopic

What I want for Christmas:
Rees: A 3-D printer. I think my six-year-old would crank out some really amazing stuff.


Citraro: Peace, love, and understanding for everyone who needs it. After that, a late 1960s Fender Mustang bass guitar with matching headstock.

Best gift:
Rees: When I was six or seven my mom bought me a Little Professor TI calculator. Just the beginning of a long history of Texas Instrument calculators.

Citaro: A hand-knitted scarf that displays two proofs for the pythagorean theorem. I wear it every day, lately.

Weirdest gift:
Rees: We all got very festively patterned Snuggies. Even one for the baby. We stopped at Goodwill on the way home to promptly give them a loving home.

Citraro: Purple rollerblades from my father when I was living in New York and playing in a punk rock band–simultaneously horrifying and hysterical. Never actually used them.


Laurene Leon Boym, Boym Partners Inc

What I want for Christmas:
EVERYTHING from the Louis Vuitton’s s/s 2014 Icons Collection that has been inspired by Modernist furniture designer, architect, urban planner and photographer, Charlotte Perriand.

Best gift:
My best holiday gift, came from my worst college ex-boyfriend Jean-Luc. Jean-Luc gave me a Sottsass Enorme telephone.

Weirdest gift:
The weirdest holiday gift I’ve received had to be a present from my Stepdad. He gave me a set of 5 used IKEA Allen wrenches, in the original plastic safety bags with the warning labels on them.

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.