Every year Alex Isley Inc., designers in Connecticut, bestows an end-of-the-year gift to clients and friends of the studio. They are the best gifts I receive each year. At a time and age when most gifting is superfluous, it is a joy to receive something so functional that it is design perfection and life enhancing. I don’t think Isley would care for these grandiloquent words, since the objects speak for themselves. So, let’s hear about them in Isley’s own voice:
Why did you choose this method of bestowing gifts?
I decided some time ago that I wanted to try to send out objects that were personalized, perhaps a little unusual, and that might give some insight into what we believe constitutes good design. (And people have enough calendars, anyway.)
how do you decide?
We spend a lot of time looking for items that are classic, simple, well made, do their job well, are economical to source, and are pleasing to use — and that perhaps are overlooked in the course of everyday living. (They also need to be relatively inexpensive to personalize and mail: as much as I really want to, I know we won’t be sending out bowling pins any time soon.)
How do you make something like a scissor or horsehair brush, well, sexy?
An important part of each gift lies in the way the object is presented. There’s always some sort of wrapper, insert card, or tag where we talk about what we think makes the object worthy, satisfying, and beautiful. Perhaps there’s a story with some history involved or some fun facts along with instructions for use. On occasion, a haiku might be called for.
What do you hope to get in return? Or is better to give than receive?
This gives us a chance to demonstrate a variety of things: How presentation and exposition are important components of what designers can provide; that one need not spend a lot of money in order to connect with people; and that a new perspective can perhaps make the commonplace more interesting.
I know why I love these, especially the scissors, but what has been the overall response?
What I often hear back when someone receives one of these is “I can’t decide whether to display it or use it.” My vote is for use.