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2014 Impact Design Gift Guide: Maker Edition

December 10, 2014

For Impact Design Hub’s first holiday gift guide, we partnered with the team at Makeshift for a special maker-version to infuse a bit of the unexpected into your gift giving this year. 

You’re not the traditional holiday consumer, and we bet you won’t be jostling for a parking space at your local mega-mall. At Makeshift, we constantly dig for stories of hidden creativity, ingenious makers in unlikely places. We know what makes makers tick. We’ve put together a few of our favorite things, all designed to equip the creatives in your life with tools to make the world a better place—even if it’s just a really good (sustainable) cup of coffee.


For the HACKER: Membership to a hacker space

Give a hacker a kit, and s/he’ll hack for a week. Give your Hacker access to big, expensive tools and a supportive community, and the projects will flow for months. Plus, the open, skill-sharing nature of most hackerspaces means members end up giving as much as they get.


For the LITTLE MAKER: Makey Makey

The Makey Makey turns anything that conducts electricity into a computer input device: bananas, pencil graphite, or alphabet soup. With its super-simple alligator clip setup, your Little Maker will be creating in no time.


For the LITTLE MAKETTE: Goldie Blocks

Reject the “shrink it and pink it” philosophy that governs most toys for girls. Goldie Blox is part story, part engineering toy that walks a Little Maker through constructing simple machines to solve problems.


For the ARCHITECT: 3Doodler

If the desk belonging to the architect in your life can’t accommodate a full-sized 3D printer, give the 3Doodler a shot. The plastic-printing pen lets you draw and build into thin air at a price that won’t break the bank.


For the ETHNOGRAPHER: Subscription to Makeshift

Ethnography isn’t something that exists inside a classroom, it needs to be experienced out in the world. Makeshift is designed to be your Ethnographer’s field guide to hidden creativity: the backpack-sized magazine is designed to provide direction and inspiration through stories of Mumbai’s train hawkers, fuel smuggling in Venezuela, and electronic bike hackers in China. A digital version, viewable on mobile and desktop devices, is available for those who prefer ebooks to tree books.


For the INVENTOR: Sugru

In the old days, you just needed duct tape and superglue. Now Sugru is an essential part of any toolkit. This Play-Doh-for-grownups sticks to almost anything and hardens into durable rubber, making it perfect for repairs, prototyping ideas, and adding features to existing products.


For the ENGINEER: Kano

It’s a media center, a programming platform, a learning tool, and a DIY project. Kano, the build-it-yourself computer can be whatever you want – and if your favorite Engineer hacks the software a little too vigorously, just re-image the SD card and you’re up and running again.


For the HANDYMAN: iFixit Toolkit

If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it, says iFixit. And with an all-in-one toolkit, your devices are eminently openable. Need a helping hand along the way? iFixit also has plenty of guides to show your Handyman exactly how to disassemble everything (and thankfully, how it all goes back together) to keep your electronics in use, not in the landfill.


For the WRITER: DBA Pens

Your words are forever, but your pen shouldn’t be. This biodegradable pen is made from potato-based plastic and is filled with non-toxic ink, meaning your Writer will only leave a mark on the page and not the planet.


For the KNITTER: Wool and the Gang

Wool and the Gang transforms knitting from frumpy to fashion, with patterns and kits for hats, sweaters, and snoods. If your Knitter prefers wearing to crafting, there’s an option for one of thousands of Gang members to create the product for you.



Putting designs on fabric no longer requires a messy, bulky screenprinting setup or lame iron-on transfers. Lumi is a UV-activated dye: just rub on, mask, and let the sun’s rays do their thing. Designers can produce one-of-a-kind garments, or use the provided app to produce a stencil for consistent production runs.


For the PHOTOGRAPHER: Lomography Konstructor F

Most photographers are unabashed gear nerds.  For the ones on your list, why not satisfy their cravings for new toys with something they can build themselves? Lomography’s build-it-yourself Konstructor SLR runs on still-common 35mm film and delivers the pleasure of using something your Photographer assembled by hand.


For the CYCLIST: Revolights

Most bike lights are great from the front and rear, but not the side. Wheel-mounted revolights give 360-degree visibility, plus grant your Cyclist the ability to see the road ahead even in pitch darkness. They use rechargeable battery packs as well, eliminating the need to toss coin cell batteries in the trash — as if ditching the car wasn’t environmentally friendly enough.


For the GARDENER: Aquafarm

A complete ecosystem on your Gardner’s desk. The included betta fish produces waste as it digests food, which feeds the plants as they clean the water. Humane pet care bonus: the 3-gallon tank is roomy enough for a betta, unlike many 1-gallon designer tanks.


For the CHEF: Leafware

Hosting a party and don’t feel like doing dishes? Disposable plates are the go-to, but they’re both tacky-looking and contain an enormous amount of embodied energy. Leafware is made from fallen leaves that are cleaned and pressed into shapes. After the event, they go right in the compost pile.


For the CAMPER: BioLite Stove

A roaring campfire is lots of fun on the trail, but cooking is much easier over a small burner. Unlike most campstoves that run on gas cylinders, the BioLite uses a fan and gasification to burn wood cleanly, plus the hot air drives a turbine that can charge electronic devices. Your Camper won’t be the only one enjoying the stove, either: BioLite uses a buy-one-give-one model.


For the INVESTOR: Kiva Gift Card

Kiva, one of the original microfinance companies, specializes in small loans to local entrepreneurs around the world: farmers, hairdressers, and weavers. When they get their businesses off the ground, they repay the loans. There’s no return on investment in the traditional sense, but from a broader perspective your Investor’s $25 will go a very long way.


For the BARISTA: Aeropress + Kaffeologie Filter

Coffee doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. The Aeropress makes a great cup, is small enough to travel, and tough enough to be nearly indestructible. The Kaffeeologie filter takes it to the next level by eliminating filter waste: just brew, rinse, and repeat tomorrow. Or this afternoon. Or maybe at 10:30, just a half cup…


For the MUSICIAN: LittleBits Synth Kit

A synthesizer isn’t a complicated piece of hardware: some oscillators, filters, and a keyboard. Why should the deeper appreciation that comes by building an instrument be reserved for guitarists? This kit by LittleBits, produced with renowned synth maker Korg, will bring beeps and boops to any Musician on your gift list.


For the SCIENTIST: Lapka

Scientists are generally data nerds by trade. But most gear looks, well, scientific, prioritizing function over form. Lapka’s Personal Environment Monitor kit keeps tabs on radiation, electromagnetic fields, humidity and organic produce while looking stylish on the desk. Data is easily downloaded to an iPhone.

Justin Levinson is the Director of the Makeshift Institute, president at Hack Manhattan, and a design-nerd-in-training.  

Steve Daniels is the Executive Director of Makeshift, passionate about systems design, ethnography, and magazines.

Makeshift is a media and consulting company that uncovers hidden creativity. We work with clients to help them improve the way they make, as well as publish the Makeshift Quarterly in print and online.

Image sources from product manufacturer’s websites except Kiva Gift Card image courtesy of Breaktech and Wool and the Gang image courtesy of Ella Etcetera

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