10 brilliant Christmas presents for designers and artists – creative Christmas gift guide

Here's the must-buy gifts for the designers and artists in your life (or, of course, for yourself).


Christmas is swift approaching and most of us have still got our present shopping to do. I'm blaming that it's only just been my daughter's fifth birthday, so I've not been able to think about Christmas yet – you've probably got your own excuse. So to help you find those perfect gifts to your family, friends and colleagues, the Digital Arts team has brought together the best things we've seen come through our doors or at events around the country. Aren't we great!

Apple iPad Pro

A quick straw poll says that the iPad Pro is the tech-related thing most of us want for Christmas. It's not just the tablet itself we want, us greedy buggers, it's the £100 Pencil too.

The reason being is that – as we discovered when we gave an iPad Pro to artist Pete Fowler and filmed his reaction – it's the nearest to drawing with a pen or pencil that we've ever felt, with all of the advantages of a digital device too. For best results, you'll also need a copy of Procreate too.

We also fell in love with its beautiful screen, as it's just as good for watching The Walking Dead in bed on Christmas night while your parents are downstairs watching something awful on BBC1.

Price: £566 plus VAT (32GB WiFi model), £749 (128GB WiFi + Cellular). Pencil £66. Smart Keyboard £116.

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

I've only had a short change to try out Surface Pro 4 – so expect a full review soon – but already I'm won over. It's a tablet about the same size and weight as the iPad Pro, except it runs the full Windows 10 – so you can run the likes of Photoshop and Illustrator on it.

The Surface is powerful enough that you can run those tools on it as long as your needs are moderate. It's also noticeably more powerful that it's predecessor, the Surface Pro 3, which blew our minds a year ago – though I'm not giving up my iMac any time soon.

Against the iPad Pro, two key hardware differences are obvious: the Surface Pro 4's keyboard is much better than Apple's own (and has a £ key) – but Microsoft's Pen is like a cheap biro next to the Blackwing 602 of the Apple Pencil.

Buy the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft


Variations on a Rectangle

This year's choice of 'big design book you'd reach for to stun a burglar' is DJ Stout's monograph. Subtitled 30 Years of Graphic Design from Texas Monthly to Pentagram, the books is as much a personal biography as a revelation of DJ's creative process and reflection on past work.

DJ's voice and personality comes through in his words as it does in his work, allowing the book to entertain as well as inform.

Buy Variations on a Rectangle on Amazon

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Sphero BB-8

It's a remote control BB-8 from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that you control using your phone. It rolls along at a fair old pace as you direct it, with the ball underneath spinning while – because of magic, ok, magnets – it's adorable little robot head stays aloft.

Do you really need to know any more? Go buy it.


DxO One

The DxO One is a unique camera that slots into your iPhone to let you take amazing photos without lugging a proper digital SLR around.

The DxO One lets me take really good shots in places where I'd never take a digital SLR but for which my phone's camera would deliver less appealing results: parties, private views, weddings, theme parks, anything last minute (because I've generally got it in my coat pocket), anything involving my kids (because I've got enough to carry, thank-you-very-much) – you know, the properly fun stuff in life. I can then quickly Facebook or Tweet a couple of photos for the here-&-now, and edit the Raw files back at home for something more memorable.

At £450, it's pricey – but worth it.


DIY Gamer Kit

I don't often spot things for our Christmas Gift Guide at the Design Museum's Designs of the Year show – what's on show there is usually a bit broader in range or aspiration, like this year's winner that put human organs on computer chips. But the DIY Gamer Kit has lofty aims too – to teach anyone aged 12 or higher how to program through practical experimentation.

The DIY Gamer Kit is a solderable, programmable circuit board that you can learn to build your own games with. You can buy the classic edition, a gift box, a cheap version if the recepient already has an Arduino or even one for everyone in your studio.

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Aeroskull HD

The AeroSkull HD is our I've-had-such-a-good-year-I/my studio-deserves this gift. Created by Jarre, this is the most rock-n-roll looking speaker I've ever seen. It's big and skull-shaped, with two speakers in its sunglasses and a subwoofer at the back. And the remote control is a bone.

It's available in 11 colours, either painted or with a chrome finish – I've plumped for the shiny copper. The sound quality is reasonable - favouring volume over quality - and the price is high (£350 to £400, depending on your choice of colour, though you can pick up the smaller AeroSkull XS for about £170), but it's the looks we love.

Get the AeroSkull HD

Photo: by Dominik Tomaszewski, at Play Deep Studios.


Get Shit Done

This little gift of a book avoids the usual trite motivational phrases in favour of quotes inspiring you actually get out there and make something.

The quotes are split across six chapters: Get Shit Done, Think, Plan, Build, Lead, Sell, Persevere, Evolve. They are drawn from the current start-up builders made good from Tesla Motor’s Elon Musk to Biz Stone (Twitter), to authors like Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, Steve Jobs and Pixar’s John Lasseter. Even Yoda an appearance makes.

Buy Get Shit Done


B&O BeoPlay H6 Bronzed Hazel headphones

Copper and rich browns are clearly this season's colours of choice. They evoke the comfort and warmth of a country house study: gently crackling open fires, mahogany furniture and brandy.

These tones and themes are found in the design of the bronzed hazel version of Bang and Olufsen's B&O BeoPlay H6 headphones – though as you can see they're also just as much at home with the look and feel of a modern recording studio's bricks and vinyl.

The H6 headphones are good all-rounders – they're not as bass-heavy as some would like, but are just as comfortable with the sub-bass and falsetto parts of James Blake's Limit To Your Love (my usual go-to tune for checking out the range of headphones).

The B&O BeoPlay H6 Headphones cost £329. Buy them here.

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Pantone Colour of the Year 2016 mug

Looking ahead for colour trends, Pantone has chosen two colours as it's 'colour of the year' for 2016. Rose Quartz and Serenity are a pastel pink and blue respectively – or the colours of the checks of that shirt we all bought from H&M last summer (ahead of the trend, aren't we).

The infant-like colours are supposed to symbolise compassion and calm, which we can only hope will be the abiding emotions of 2016 after some of the horrors of 2015. So give someone you love a mug with them on.