Strategy: The Office Holiday Gift Exchange

If you work in an office, around this time of year you'll probably be participating in some sort of gift exchange. If you don't do Secret Santa, it's probably some variant of the White Elephant theme — everyone spends 20 bucks on a present, you draw numbers to determine the order in which you choose your gift, yadda yadda.

 Almost everyone wants a nap afterward. And, possibly a cigarette.

Almost everyone wants a nap afterward. And, possibly a cigarette.

But then eventually theft becomes involved, as part of the game's rules state you can "steal" the present you really want from someone who got it before you did.

This name suggests to me that some shit went down after those nights at the Regal Beagle. And, that television reference makes me feel old.

And, this, dear readers, is where shit just gets real. In order to score that Pottery Barn gift card and pass the Three Way Poncho onto some other chump, I learned today that you gotta play by some rules. And, much like Fight Club, the first rule is that you don't talk about the rules.

That one's unwritten and not really true, so, like, here's the rest:

#1. Do you like your gift? By absolutely NO MEANS TELL ANYONE. Stare down at that really practical gift card or those baddass fingerless gloves that are just SO TOUGH and resist the urge to do anything but maaaaaaaybe kinda smile and describe it as light and matter-of-factly as you possibly can. Be all like "Oh, gloves. <show everyone> And they don't have fingers." <weak smile> Then sit your ass down.

Avoid statements about how the lack of such a joyful, fun present might literally make you cry  in attempts for mercy on your godforsaken soul with the belief that people might let you keep it. It's a cruel, cruel world we live in, and the reality is that if you, say — hypothetically, go on and on at length about how boss, let's say, a flask is (not that any of this happened) — your, say, COO or something, might swoop on in and mercilessly steal your joy for a loved one.

(Wait. Forget that last line. I might get fired* and it was truly a really sweet sentiment.)

Of the same genus as the Pocket Snake.

Should you violate rule #1 and get that Pocket Hose, don't flip out just yet, because the inverse of why this works, works too. Which brings us to...

#2. Got something you don't particularly want? Pretend you're just pretty cool with it, until it's time for someone close to you in proximity to steal something. There will be silence for a second as they decide — and this is the perfect time to drop that this gift is never leaving your cold, dead hands. It will then almost immediately be snatched. (Heh heh...snatch.)

I'm pretty sure the psychology of office gift exchange hasn't been extensively researched, but I just said it on the internet, so boom. It works. Feel free to cite me in your thesis.

#3. This shit is war, people — all's fair. Collusion is absolutely kosher. So build alliances and strategize early in the game once you figure out what you want.

 Was exactly like this, but with a bitchin' high five. In relation I have failed at life.

Was exactly like this, but with a bitchin' high five. In relation I have failed at life.

Today, two of my coworkers executed a steal-and-swap so beautifully that if it wasn't choreographed beforehand I'm going to go ahead and consider it an act of God. If you could genetically create a being with the grace, precision and stamina that lives within both Mikhail Baryshnikov and Michael Jordon, that might get close to what I saw today. And their victory high-five made me realize I haven't truly lived yet. I'm pretty close to the brink of existential crisis right now because of it.

#4. If you really just want to enjoy the spirit of the holidays or whatever, then I guess you could just remind yourself that this is all in good fun. But, better yet — remember to take comfort in the fact that it takes about an hour and a half or so to complete with an average-sized office, which is a pretty sweet ticket out of actual work for close to two hours that Secret Santa just doesn't offer. So choosing this gift exchange is really all the miracle we need. Isn't it? Isn't it?

 This Hello Kitty rice cooker should kill several offensive birds with one stone in regards to Asian-named gift exchanges of most sorts.

This Hello Kitty rice cooker should kill several offensive birds with one stone in regards to Asian-named gift exchanges of most sorts.

So, there you go.

On a related note, in my office history past this game has happened with several different names, the origins of which I'm way too lazy to Google. "Dirty Santa" seems rather common but makes it sound way more salacious than it actually is, and on a racist/politically incorrect note I have to tip my hat to "Chinese Gift Exchange." I'm actually curious about the origins of that one, because I don't know any stereotype jokes about the Chinese stealing. Should I? Is this some sort of historical reference that happened in a war? Eh. I went to public school in South Texas. I don't have all the answers.

So, like, happy holidays and junk. See ya next year, office gift exchange.

 I totally scored this year. I'm sure we're all very happy for me.

I totally scored this year. I'm sure we're all very happy for me.

*Settle down people, this is probably untrue. My COO is hilarious and appreciates hyperbole and is truly a sweet, kind and generous soul. (Unless she, like, fires me some day.)

Pavonated: The majesty of the peacock

I don't love blue tones the way other people do. I think all of the generic technology and staffing firm logos with the futuristic ambiguous "swoosh" forms and globe shapes ruined it for me. However, I don't think I'll ever get past the beauty of the combination of this bright, saturated blue, the dark greens and that tart gold. Love.

Pointy letters

Last year my type thoughts were consumed with handwritten type lettering, but Squarespace's release of the Marquee template gave me a really renewed appreciation for Futura at normal and medium weights.

I've come to realize, it's the sharp, pointy capital letters. So here's my roundup of faves in terms of pointy factor. I love a nice SHARP point.

While Futura Medium technically may have more point than Frontage-Regular, where Frontage excels is in the fact that it retains the pointiness in Frontage-Bold. Once Futura gets bold it totally loses that.

When I first saw MTT Milano a few weeks ago, my heart actually sank a little because I felt like I was cheating on Frontage (I never feel like I cheat on Gotham, which I'll post about later). But I soon came to realize that while they're VERY similar, there's a place in my heart for both of them.

While Frontage as a family was created to be layered, it doesn't have a weight as thin as Milano. Or, lowercase letters. And it has an E that *I* think is cool but might be a little too novel for casual use. I modify it in certain instances. So:

Frontage Pros:

  • Pointy
  • Family made for layering, which is COOL
  • Regular and bold weights

Frontage Cons:

  • Funky E
  • VERY wide kerning 

MTT Milano Pros:

  • Lowercase letters
  • Normal E
  • Normal kerning

MTT Milano Cons:

  • Only one thin weight 
  • Not *quite* as much character as Frontage


But, bonus love for the uppercase W.

Look out for the upcoming Frontage vs. Milano love battle. <3


Futura Heavy — notice the blunted points.

Left: Frontage-Regular, Right: MTT Milano. One largely distinguishable difference. I think the funky  E is cool, but too novel for some circumstances.

MTT Milano: I AM a sucker for that W, though.


The Venn diagram of design headaches

Frustrating places to be on the great diagram

They're actually REALLY common. I can help you avoid them.

Over the years I feel like I've that noticed an understanding of how design, technology and content work together are key in creating products, services and ideas that sell vs. brands chock full of WTF. And you really need all 3 to make it work. Any combination of the other 2 throws the whole operation off.

I use these thoughts while designing to help ensure what I'm doing is boosting sales, profit or productivity for my clients. Let's take a look.

First, let's talk about some misconceptions:

Technology, unfortunately, is not magic. Things like creative software, CMS, programming and devices are tools that help us build from good ideas

Design isn't just about making things "pretty," it's about creating a connection with your audience and crafting a user experience that  they want to buy.

Content IS king...but selling it is hard to do in a vacuum. Your ideas and writing need to be compelling, visually engaging, and easy to buy or find. 

Now, these are the combination pockets in the diagram that rarely work and that you want to avoid sitting in.

If you never have to struggle with this, my job is done. Thank me later. :^)


This combination is especially seductive. The latest bell and whistle is exciting, especially when it LOOKS great, too. But without strong content it often lacks purpose, and you may find yourself with a product that's like the answer to the question nobody asked.



This combination creates things people LOVE to read and use. If it can be produced, and if they can find it. Truly compelling and engaging products that would fly off shelves are created in this space — but in a  growingly digital world, people can't buy these things if they can't find them, or find you, or if buying or ordering them is hard and confusing.


Truly frustrating. A business owner will sometimes have a fully functional Wordpress site and they've got all the right plug-ins and actually love creating content — so why isn't it working? Why is nobody using the opt-ins? Isn't Wordpress all the rage? There's obviously exceptions to this rule, but people commonly decide how trustworthy your brand seems within seconds. Take a really good look — do you truly look credible? Would you trust your website with your credit card information?


Design + Technology + Content is the recipe for creating viable, professional, profitable products and services. Great design, compelling content, and easy ways to find your business online leaves room for unlimited potential. Leaving out one of these key elements is the difference in turning a product someone grimaces at with confusion into a product that people are actually excited to hear about and ready to buy.

If you happen to be in pocket 4,


It's a good place to be. :^)


Fun with stock art, Part 1

So, for whatever reasons I searched for vector art related to responsive web design the other day, and I was NOT prepared for the search results.

Gaaaahhhhh. So MUCH CUTE. 

OF COURSE this guy needs all those arms for all his widdle devices. ❤

His little hat is pretty close to killing me. In the best of ways. ☺

 Score this guy at  Shutterstock .

Score this guy at Shutterstock.

And apparently the family that's mobile responsive together, stays together. I bet the smaller devices are KIDS. Eh? I know. <3 I'm going to be so disappointed when the family's true story is ripped from the headlines and turned into and episode of SVU. 

 Snag 'em while they're still wholesome at  Shutterstock .

Snag 'em while they're still wholesome at Shutterstock.