Gift Guide: IDEO’s Favorite Things for 2023

Gift Guide: IDEO’s Favorite Things for 2023

Our best ideas for the design-savvy on your list.
Elise Craig
Alicia Duvall
read time:
5 minutes

Wondering what to get the design-obsessed in your life this holiday season? We’ve been there. To make gifting a little easier, we’ve pulled together a list of IDEOers’ favorite things, from the best pens for drawing to our favorite pottery, and even a superior garbage can. We asked our Play Lab to weigh in on their favorite toys, too. So make your list, check it twice, and take a stroll through our 2023 Gift Guide.


Pentel Sign Pens, $8 for a box of 12

Offering amazing ink flow with tips smaller than Sharpies, these pens are one of our designers’ favorite drawing tools. 

Culture Hustle: Black 4.0, $49.99

According to the company, it’s the blackest black paint “in the known universe.” 

Stanford Book Collection, $128

We’re big fans of this collection of 10 design guide books, which is “designed to help you adapt to change, see things in new ways, work well with others, and peer into our collective future.” Give the whole set, or break them up—You Need a Manifesto is helpful for anyone navigating change, or running their own practice, while Design Social Change is a great guide to meeting the current moment.

Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information by David Byrne, $98

EEEI not only shows that PowerPoint can be art, it contains one of our designers’ favorite definition of knowledge management

Manufactum Notebooks, $18

These are small enough to fit in a pocket, but with enough pages to last you for months. 


Magformers, $54

The fun, fidgety way these building blocks snap together makes them perfect for kids of all ages to build all sorts of things with—and of course, smash apart! Magna-Tiles may be more popular, but we prefer Magformers with their rounded edges.

Books from Ashay by the Bay

This black-owned bookstore specializes in African-American and multicultural kids books, from baby board books all the way up to novels written for teens. It’s based in Vallejo, California, but ships across the country and to Canada. 

Bitzee, $25

This interactive Tamagotchi—like toy with a techie twist includes 15 cute little pets for kids to discover, nurture, evolve, and play with.

COOKEEZ MAKERY Cinnamon Treatz Oven, $51

Mix the ingredients into dough, mold it into a pet, pretend to bake it in the oven, and surprise! Out pops a plush pet. The trick here is finding it—it’s incredibly popular, and comes highly recommended by the Toy Lab.  

Twister Air, $15

The one toy on our list that we helped make, Twister Air is an active, digital take on the classic game. Challenge your friends to move their hands and feet to the beat—or play solo! For an app-based game, it’s a great way to get moving. 


Block Shop Textiles, $145-$195

The Southern California textile, art, and design studio run by two sisters has such big fans at IDEO, we actually interviewed them to learn more about their craft. Gift ideas range from a bandana printing kit to beautifully patterned bathrobes.

Monastery Skincare, $48-$293

This brand is a big favorite in IDEO’s skincare lovers’ Slack channel. Fans love it for its beautiful, luxurious texture and scent. 

Anecdote Candles, $26-34

An IDEO alum is behind these scented candles that also “spark a conversation.”

Casio Men's Casual Classic Digital Bracelet Watch, $22

Missing the features of a smart watch, sure, but this Casio is a classic favorite that won’t have your emails popping up on your wrist.

Concha Coin Purse, $7

A sweet gift with a sweeter price point, this coin purse would make a great stocking stuffer. But if you’re looking for something bigger, Chicago’s Mestiza focuses on Latinx artisanal products, and ships around the country. 


Sichuan Chili Crisp, $17

At this point, Fly By Jing’s perfectly savory, spicy, crispy condiment needs no introduction from us, so consider this a gentle reminder that delicious gifts make the best gifts. 

Yes, Chef Gift Box, $46

Thrill fans of The Bear with four of Oaktown Spice Shop’s favorites, vadouvan, urfa biber, umami sea salt, and kampot peppercorns. Bay Areans can visit the store in Oakland or Albany, but it ships across the country, too. 

Kinto’s Travel Tumbler, $34

One IDEOer is a big fan of Kinto’s minimalist and refined design aesthetic, and the tumbler in particular, which has held up over the years with just a few dings and dents. “ As a product designer, you really can’t argue with any detail on those products,” he says. 

Mill, $33-$45 per month

Composting. Great for the planet, not always great for the smell in our kitchens. Mill is something different, a bin that dehydrates and shrinks your food scraps, and a service that picks them up. One of our designers calls it “life-changing.”


Herringbone Outdoor Scraper Door Mat, $31

This doormat is a serious defender of the cleanliness of your floors, and won’t cause a wood deck to discolor or rot.

Rubbermaid Defenders Step-On Trash Can, $217

If it’s good enough for infectious waste, hopefully it can handle whatever is going on at your house. One IDEOer recommends these garbage cans for their clean, classic lines, robust construction that can handle kids and dogs, and their ability to contain smells. 

Daxue Folding Garden Lounge Chairs, $265 for two

Folding chairs aren’t known for their looks, but these wooden numbers have an attractive design, don’t hold water, and are easy for kids to climb on. 

East Fork Pottery, $40-$94

The Asheville, N.C.-based ceramics company makes pottery with clays from the American Southeast, crafting everything from mugs and plates to vessels that hold candles. Check out gifts under $100, like a four-pack of bowls in panna cotta, or a mug in Henri’s red. 


AI Against Humanity, $40

Made by a former IDEOer, this dystopian take on Cards Against Humanity puts the future of the world in your hands. It comes complete with 200 cards of technological turmoil and venture capitalist wild cards. “Get ready for a dystopian deck where Silicon Valley fantasy gets a reality-check.” 

Session Bong, $185

IDEO alum Vinh Pho’s Session Goods has created award-winning glass bongs and other smoking essentials for the well-curated home. 

Actually Curious Cards, $25

The original version is less a party game than a deck of cards with questions that are designed to spark conversations that help people get to know each other better. Want something more light-hearted? Go for the Happy Hour edition.

Pluto Pillow, $160

Part travel pillow, part sensory deprivation tank, this product IDEO helped design will get you to your destination as well rested as anyone on a plane can be.

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Elise Craig
Editor, IDEO Blog
Elise Craig is editor at large for the IDEO blog. She has written for Wired, Marie Claire, and the New York Times magazine, and loves stories about ordinary people doing interesting things.
Alicia Duvall
Design Lead
Alicia is a jack of all trades and has actually managed to master quite a lot of them. She combines concept, design, illustration, lettering, motion and strategy to tell beautiful stories.
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