Last minute gifts for creatives

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There's always someone for whom Christmas Eve sneaks up like the fog on cat feet. And invariably, that person wants to give something nice to a creative friend, colleague, or family member who really means something to them.

But now that the clock has nearly run out, will you really have nothing to offer except an apology and a lame excuse? Will Christmas now be a guilt-ridden drag? Of course not!

Not only do the following gifts offer instant inspiration and pleasure, they're quick and easy to procure. And for good measure, they'll make you look so cool and on top of it that it'll seem like you planned it this way all along. Come to think of it, maybe you did.


Not the font—the movie. Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture. It looks at the huge adoption of this typeface (which turned 50 in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way we all interact with type. The film also features discussions with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and their choices behind their use of type.

The movie is available instantly from iTunes for $10. Just click the arrow of the Buy This Movie button, and you'll see the option called Gift This Movie. Buy Helvetica or any other gift of your choice from the iTunes Store and the recipient will get an e-mail containing a download link to their iTunes library. Presto!

myPantone for iPhone

If your creative friend has an iPhone, there's plenty of apps you can give, but myPantone for iPhone one of my favorites. It's a great way to put a variety of major Pantone color libraries right into your pocket. While at $10 it's easy on the wallet, it's truly the gift that keeps giving.


The thing about fonts is that they're really personal. So while I have my favorites, I'll refrain from specific recommendations. However, most sites that sell fonts can make them available for immediate delivery. Giving a font as a gift is thoughtful, smart, and fun. Check out these font Websites for immediately available downloads.

FontSite While there’s no way to have a font sent specifically as a gift directly from the FontSite, you can easily purchase and download the font yourself and then forward the fonts to the recipient. You can even enclose the package in an Apple Mail stationery message (New Message->Show Stationery) to make it look festive.

P22 P22 offers handy gift certificates ranging from $20 to $80 that you can use to buy up to four fonts for your favorite designer. Place an order online for a gift certificate and you can either send a printable gift certificate or a preformatted e-mail to the recipient, which can then be redeemed via e-mail or phone.

Veer With Veer, you can purchase a gift certificate for $25, $50, or $100 (and any combination of the three) or you could simply register your friend on the Veer site and then purchase the font for them. If you do the latter, make sure to let your friend know to expect an email from Veer—maybe send a holiday e-card as notification.

Subscription to

No matter what your creative friend is into, there's something for him or her at, the premiere Web site for online tutorials covering digital photography, graphic art and design, Web development, motion graphics, and much more. You can give your friend anything from a month to a year's subscription ranging from $25 (for one month) to $375 (for a premium year's sub that includes the exercise files). Gift subscriptions are also available for three months ($70), six months ($125), and 12 months ($250). Photoshop fans, be sure to check out the Photoshop CS4 tutorials, including numerous In Depth courses published this year, which cover complex topics such as layers, layer masks, selections, and image adjustments. Lynda’s handy gift center is the ultimate in ease of use. Your friend will absolutely adore you for this.

Subscription to Design Tools Monthly

This graphic design newsletter provides up-to-the-minute news, tips, bug fixes, fonts, and software and hardware updates compiled from all the design industry's best magazines and Websites. Subscribers can receive a printed version by mail, or a download in PDF format from the Design Tools Website. Printed subscriptions also include the quarterly archive CD, which contains the three most recent newsletters and monthly Software Closet items. A free sample is available immediately. Subscribers get an e-mail every month giving them access to the electronic PDF and the Software Closet, which contains updates for major design software, goodies such as free Photoshop actions, and free fonts. Prices range from $99 to $129 a year for 12 issues (for freelancers, teachers, and students). The $99 price is for the all-electronic subscription, while the $129 price includes the printed and mailed newsletter and quarterly CD. Place your order via the Design Tools gift URL.

Send an e-book

O’Reilly has a huge selection of e-book titles. O'Reilly's ebooks offer lifetime access to the book and when possible, in several DRM-free file formats—PDF, .epub, Kindle-compatible .mobi, and Android .apk ebook—that your creative pal can use on various devices. O'Reilly's ebook files are fully searchable, and you can cut-and-paste and print them. They'll also send alerts regarding updated files. I've included just a few of my personal recommendations below, but be sure to have a look at the vast, exhaustive list yourself.

For photographers:

  • The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS/1000D Companion
  • The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi/450D Companion
  • The Digital Photography Companion
  • Flickr Hacks: Tips & Tools for Sharing Photos Online
  • For Web designers:

  • Creating a Web Site: The Missing Manual, Second Edition
  • CSS Cookbook, Third Edition
  • CSS: The Missing Manual, Second Edition
  • Designing Web Navigation: Optimizing the User Experience
  • Dreamweaver CS4: The Missing Manual
  • HTML & XHTML Pocket Reference, Fourth Edition
  • Other favorites:

  • The Creative Digital Darkroom
  • Digital Video Pocket Guide
  • iMovie '09 & iDVD: The Missing Manual
  • iPhoto '09: The Missing Manual
  • Mac OS X Snow Leopard Pocket Guide
  • In the e-book category, don’t forget the TidBits Take Control Series (which is currently on sale for 50 percent off). Publisher Adam Engst says it best: “Want to give one of our ebooks as a gift? Since we don't use DRM of any sort, you can buy the ebook just as you would buy it for yourself and then give the PDF file to your recipient using the technology of your choice, such as a funky USB thumb drive or nicely labeled CD-R if you need something physical to wrap. For last minute gift-giving, you can just attach one of our PDFs to an email message or drop it in an iChat window while you're wishing the recipient many happy regards.”

    Christmas shopping can be stressful, but these last-minute offerings provide intriguing gifts and instant gratification. So why wait? You still have three days left, which as you can see, gives you plenty of time.

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