Slavka Eberhart-Garah

The Craft of Giving

’Tis the season for gift giving, and if you are anything like me, you’ve been losing sleep over how to delight your loved ones for weeks. Looking for gifts is one of my favorite things to do year round, with or without an occasion.

The reasons I like looking for gifts are similar to the reasons I like my job: the research, the creative approach, the design, the execution, and the presentation. The process of giving a gift is not unlike the process of designing an experience. Both involve telling a story, communicating a message, and making someone feel special.

Here’s how to approach gift giving like a designer — and do it well:

  • The most important thing is LISTENING! It involves empathy, responding to a need, or — even better — reading between the lines and identifying an unspoken need.
  • The value of the gift is related to your INVESTMENT in finding or making it. Interestingly, when people around the office recalled their most memorable gifts, almost all of them talked about gifts that took time to think of or create — not the amount of money they cost.
  • The most rewarding of these ingredients is the MEANING that gifts hold, both for the giver and the giftee. Good presents are thoughtful, serve a purpose, create a certain mood, strengthen relationships, and enrich people’s lives.

So, with that in mind, make some fresh coffee, get your creative juices flowing, and go track down those last-minute gifts. And if you need a little inspiration, here are some of the gifts that the Drawn team has most enjoyed throughout their lives:

Slavka's foldable bike was presented in response to a need, as a solution to a problem. Photo: Trask Bedortha/Drawn

Slavka Eberhart-Garah, Brand Manager

Received: A foldable, black bike — the city cruiser type — from my husband. It was much needed and very well researched, but completely unexpected and without an occasion. Just a brilliant surprise.

Given: My sister and I each wrote a list of the top five favorite objects we own and we bought them for our mom's 60th birthday. Every object was accompanied by a poetic note explaining why we thought that she'd love to have it. There were lots of laughs and tears of joy as she unwrapped them one by one.

Bryan Taylor, Founder & Creative Director

Received: On my 40th birthday, my best friend from college gave me a salvaged metal trunk with 10 books inside that I was to read before I turned 50 — each chosen because they included character relationships that reminded him of our good, old days together.

Casey Harwood, Brand Writer

Received: When we bought our house, there were two design elements that I absolutely loathed. Shortly after moving in, my husband spent an entire day alone, behind drop cloths, demolishing the first: a super dated (hideous) rock wall around the fireplace. The following May, he did away with the second: On my first Mother's Day, he presented me with a TV room that had been freed from espresso-colored, faux wood paneling and re-painted a beautiful, warm color. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts that I've ever received.

Given: I recorded an amateur audiobook for this guy I was dating who was about to embark on a motorcycle journey from the northeastern U.S. to the very bottom of South America. I delivered it on a tiny, rugged flash drive so that it wouldn't take up space in his bags or get broken along the way. I figured that it was a good way to share my favorite book (One Hundred Years of Solitude) and help him pass the roughly billion hours of road time. 

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Photo: The University of Texas/Ransom Center Magazine

Bridget Jevning, Content Strategist

Received: When I left my last job, of 11 years, my team presented me with a photo book filled with pages and pages of funny, fun, awesome pictures of all of us over the years. It was such a sweet gesture and really captured those years together, and the camaraderie we had. I pull it out every now and again and get a good laugh.

Given: A printed and framed picture of the night sky (stars and constellations) captured on the day I met my fiancé. He was so surprised and touched.

Bridget's all-time favorite gift is incredibly meaningful. Photo: Bridget Jevning/Drawn

Kristen França, Content Coordinator

Received: In college, I used to walk a mile to yoga twice a week. I always struggled with finding an easy way to carry my mat comfortably because drawstring bags were too small, but a backpack was not much better. So one day, my boyfriend went out and surprised me with a yoga mat bag, for the sole purpose of making my life easier. It was such a thoughtful gesture, and it is now something that I still use every week.

Given: Every year for Christmas, for as long as I can remember, all my dad has ever asked for is a picture frame and an updated picture of us. So, one year, I decided to get him a digital picture frame that scrolls through photos. Now he doesn't have to wait until the end of the year to see new photos of him and his daughters. I am particularly proud of this gift because now that he is a grandpa, he can look at pictures of his grandson whenever he wants, as well as other photos he loves, and it can be updated all year round.

Garrett Stollar, Assistant Content Coordinator

Received: A brand new PlayStation 2 in 2002 was pretty rad.

Given: A delicate, little bird feeder I brought back from Senegal for my dad (who loves birds). 

This gift ticks all of the boxes mentioned above. Photo: Mary Flatley/Drawn

Mary Flatley, Brand Manager

Received and given: A dear friend and I started a tradition where we gift each other a favorite cookbook. Usually, it's gifted "just because," without a specific holiday or birthday in mind. When I use a cookbook a friend sent, it always prompts a check-in and a fun conversation about recipes that we’ve tried. And who doesn't love a good excuse to talk about food?

Thea Albright, Brand Manager

Given: One holiday season before I became a mom, I decided to learn how to make quilts and made six quilts to gift to my family that year.