Recommendations and tips for the Christmas season

It’s here again: Christmas is almost upon us, and many people are racking their brains about what presents to buy. Or wondering how they are going to survive all the Christmas madness… The ndion editorial staff and the staff of the German Design Council have some very personal recommendations for you – from ideas for your Christmas shopping list to tips on relaxing during the holidays, or even ideas for discussion topics during family gatherings. Have fun reading about our ideas, and enjoy the holidays!

Reading and browsing

Street signs, kiosks, phone boxes, traffic lights and letter boxes – all of them are “products” which we see in, on and around the streets every day, and which are also key factors as to how we identify with a city. In his book “Bedeutsame Belanglosigkeiten. Kleine Dinge im Stadtraum“ (Significant trivia. The little things in our cityscapes), the renowned city expert  Vittorio Magnano Lampugnani makes us aware of the variety of objects of this kind, and explains where they come from (often from technical innovations), how they developed and why they disappeared – this tells the story of the creativity (or lack of it) which is inherent in the design of our cities, or “public design” as it is sometimes called.

Something to listen to

A quite different approach to marking the centenary of the Bauhaus in 2019 was a project which compiled two play lists of music. One play list, “The Bauhaus in its Time”, is a selection of music which was avant garde or popular at the time of the Bauhaus, and contributed to modernity in the era of the 1920s. The second play lis, “The Spirit of Bauhaus Today”, attempts to transpose the spirit of the Bauhaus era onto  the present day, and find its equivalent expression in contemporary music. 

Helge Aszmoneit,
Manager Information Services

Gifts that children will love

Always pretty: “Die kleine Serifee. Entdeckungen in der Welt der Buchstaben“ (The little Serif Fairy. Discoveries in the World of Letters) by René Siegfried. When looking for the wings she had lost, the little serif fairy entered the world of typography, where her adventurous journey through worlds almost resembling those of fairy-tales brought her into contact with all sorts of discoveries reminiscent of the world of typography (although only the grown-ups will notice this!) A quiet book in a world of often noisy letters.                    

Quality time on the sofa

Quite apart from the fact that “Pain and glory” by Pedro Almodovar  is a wonderful but actually quite atypical Almodovar film, the viewer can enjoy the cinematography in the opening scenes and scan the main character’s apartment for design classics. Throughout the film we cannot but be aware of his colour concept, which is so conspicuously inconspicuous and seems to be thought out down to the last detail. A visual treat.  

Timing with style

The “Obst und Gemüse der Saison” (Seasonal fruit and vegetables) by KoeperHerfurth is a perpetual calendar with wonderful drawings beautifully printed on high-quality paper which help us identify which fruit and vegetables are in season on any day of the year – great advice for everyone interested in sustainable living.

Holiday relaxation

Hop on your bike, ride through Frankfurt-Sachsenhausen and treat yourself to a good cup of coffee accompanied by a pastel de nata or a Finnish nut swirl pastry. Although the coffee is pressurised at Under Pressure, everything else is so laid back you feel you just have to join in. Will it be open over Christmas and if so, when?


Reading and browsing

I keep a (long) list of people to whom I have already given this book. Patti Smith paints a picture in Just Kids” of her life with Robert Mapplethorpe in the New York of the late 60s and early 70s. This is a book about art and artists, about love and friendship and a declaration of Smith’s love for Mapplethorpe, with whom she remained close right up to his dying day. Richly illustrated with photographs from a private collection.

Something to listen to

Does your taste tend towards poetry at Christmas, but without the kitsch? Then you can feel easy about reaching for any Bob Dylan album. And if you like something with a bit more rock, you should go for the 1975 live recording of Rolling Thunder Revue. During this tour which attained cult status, Dylan and his backing groups presented themselves as a travelling circus, abandoning his image as a folk poet and taking on the mantle of a rock star. Martin Scorsese created a monument to the tour in the form of his pseudo-documentary “Rolling Thunder Revue – A Bob Dylan Story”.

Sabine Biskup, Online Editor

Gifts that children will love

Things are often not what they seem. This is true of Begel the leech – who is also a vet! But what he does in his practice does not involve sucking blood out of other creatures. Illustrated in strong colours and with humorous twists and turns, Nele Brönner in “Begel, der Egel” (Begel the Leech)  tells a story about prejudices and concealed values. It was honoured with a prize from the Stiftung Buchkunst as one of Germany’s most beautiful books of 2019. A picture book for children aged 3 and upwards.

Quality time on the sofa

If opulence is not allowed at Christmas, when is it allowed? Netflix has now released the third series of The Crown, a story of English royalty which reinforces its status as Netflix’s most expensive, successful and lavish production. What’s the same? The very best plots. Wonderful set design. Historical facts dramatized with excitement in mind. What’s different? New actors – the faces are new, but as regal as ever: Olivia Colman now plays Queen Elizabeth, Helena Bonham Carter her sister Margaret.

Timing with style

365 dead people in a calendar? Depressing? Certainly not! The “The Famous Die Young” desk calendar gives us fascinating potted life stories of famous people who died before their time – from Amy Winehouse to Friedrich Schiller, James Dean and Heath Ledger. 365 intriguing biographies of geniuses, courageous inventors, stars of stage and screen, fallen heroes, and great but destitute thinkers. With illustrations created by artists from across the globe, these biographies inspire and stimulate the reader in his or her daily life. 

Holiday relaxation

Toby Baier has been lulling his listeners to sleep with his “Einschlafen-Podcast” (The Lullaby Podcast) for the last 9 years. I find myself listening to him over and over again, even if it is only for pure relaxation. In his kindly, quiet voice, Baier meanders freely (sometime sideways!) through many different topics, reveals his own thoughts, digresses, loses the thread and then comes back to the subject. It’s wonderful for just drifting off to sleep, but at the same time it makes for interesting listening. He finishes by reading brief extracts from a variety of books.


Reading and browsing

Klaus-Martin Bresgott (publisher): Neue Sakrale Räume: 100 Kirchen der Klassischen Moderne (New Sacred Spaces: 100 churches of classical modernism) Ecclesiastical architecture, too, moved into the modern era during the 1920s. Never before have so many sacred buildings been constructed which drew not only on the methods of industrialised construction but also reproduced, in multi-layered form, the prevalent architectural styles of the time, ranging from Expressionism to New Objectivity.

Something to listen to

The “Thanks for the Dance” album of the great melancholic Leonard Cohen, published posthumously thanks to his son’s efforts, resonates like a warm greeting from beyond the grave. I am still there among you. Hallelujah! The new lyrics have so much depth, wisdom and humour that I have to ask myself once again why Dylan and not Cohen was considered for so long for the Nobel Prize.

Andrej Kupetz, CEO of the German Design Council 

Gifts that children will love

This year all my sons (aged 9, 10 and 13) greatly enjoyed the audio dramas of KänguruChroniken (Kangaroo Chronicles), written and narrated by Marc-Uwe Kling. The setting is bizarre: the author tells us about his adventures with his housemate, a communist kangaroo, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This year Die Känguru-Apokryphen (The Kangaroo Apocrypha)  has appeared.

Quality time on the sofa

The documentary film Kulenkampffs Schuhe (Kulenkampff’s Shoes) by Regina Schilling was quite rightly awarded all the important prizes this year. This will be enriching for anyone who has ever pondered about the silence of their fathers and grandfathers on their war-time experiences, and under-estimated the sedative effect of German TV entertainment. Great cinema!

Timing with style

There can only be one in the anniversary year: when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon’s surface in August 1969 he was wearing an Omega Speedmaster on his wrist under his glove. The design of the chronometer with the black dial has never yet been beaten in its sporty elegance.

For relaxing during the holiday

What can be more relaxing than a cup of tea? Since the time when design took its leave from the domain of the kettle, I have rediscovered the beauty and slowness of the tea kettle. Mt favourite is Richard Sapper’s Kettle 9091 for Alessi. It doesn’t look all that special, but it sounds as melodic as an orchestra tuning to the oboe’s a.


Reading and browsing

They are one of the unusual couples of the 20th century: Sigfried Giedion and Carola Giedion-Welcker. Whether individually, as a team or as competitors, they have researched art and architectural art, and have ventured into discussions on New Vision, product standardisation and the synthesis of the arts. Many of the leading figures of modernism were among their friends. The book “Die Welt der Giedions” (The World of the Giedions) displays a fascinating intellectual universe composed of photos, letters and documents selected from the estate they left behind, which has only recently been available in its entirety. 

Something to listen to

Anyone wanting to escape from the all-pervasive Christmas music should immerse themselves in the expanse of sacred spaces and breath-taking experimental strains of Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble. The album “Remember me, my dear” has just been released, a live recording made in 2014 in the collegiate church of Saint Peter and Saint Stephan in Bellinzona. The voices fill the church interior with spiritual breath, while the saxophone answers with sighs of longing.

Thomas Wagner, freelance writer

Gifts that children will love

Marc-Uwe Kling, Astrid Henn: Das NEINhorn (The NOhorn): designers are all too aware of what difference a detail makes. A cute little unicorn is born in the Herzwald. Everyone feeds it incessantly with sugar-coated four-leafed clovers and overwhelms it with love. But the little creature keeps on saying “No, no, no” so its family soon call it a “NOhorn” One day it flees its sugar-coated existence and meets other animals with a similar disposition.

Quality time on the sofa

Poke around and find inspiration; you can spend hours doing just that with no restrictions here. Stop and stare, and the horizon will extend before you. This is something quite different – again. Ranging from Samuel Beckett to Gordon Matta-Clark, from John Cage to Laurie Anderson or from Fluxus to Slavoj Zize via Fischli/Weiss – you will find rare art-house films, interviews, articles and sounds as well as much more in Ubu Web. You could say its motto is “All avant-garde, all the time”. 

Timing with style

There is no shortage of tools for organising yourself. Anyone with space on their walls can give themselves an overview of what plans lie ahead or what they have to remember with the poster format Design calendar from jo’s büro . Dates, holidays and much more can be recorded with the stickers which come with the calendar. Printed on 250 g uncoated paper, the calendar comes in either a dark or light-coloured version.

Holiday relaxation

The holiday and the approach of the New Year are a time for writing letters once again. The best way to do this is not by email or WhatsApp, but by hand, with a fountain pen like the Lamy aion, designed by Jasper Morrison. It is made from seamless deep-drawn aluminium. Curlicues, rings and applications are notable by their absence. This is a writing implement which is as reasonably priced, concise and stable as a tool, and which you will find yourself reaching for automatically whenever you need it.


Reading and browsing

Young man meets older woman, young man falls in love for the first time, woman is married. You’ve heard all this before. But in his novel The Only Story, Julian Barnes reveals, page by page, a nucleus of human depths.  But the ultimate question is about guilt and innocence – and whether there is really just one story in any relationship.

Something to listen to

Since his video “Die Zerstörung der CDU” (The destruction of the CDU), the YouTuber Rezo has become known to people over 30. In a sequence of possibly record-breaking length in the podcast “Alles gesagt?” (Has everything been said?” by the German paper “Die Zeit”, the 27 year-old chats, discusses and quarrels with journalists Christoph Amend and Jochen Wegner. It’s a real joy to listen to. Rezo gives quick-fire answers to burning questions relating to our present and future, without wanting to delve deep into the past.  OK, boomer: Listen up!

Ulla Weismüller, Online Editor

Gifts that children will love

The French graphic artist Tomi Ungerer died in 2019. The award-winning children’s book The Three Robbers, which has been fascinating children since the 1960s, formed part of his corpus of works. Ungerer uses affectionate and simple drawings to tell a story about how a small girl turns the world of three dangerous men inside out. It is a book about courage and friendship – with a little thrill of scariness. I recommend it for children aged 3 and up, but two-year-olds are also fascinated by adventure books.

Quality time on the sofa

I’m not a binge-watcher. But this HBO series really gripped me: True Detective – with its very convincing Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson – takes us to Louisiana in 2002. Two police officers are questioned separately about a murder committed 17 years earlier. Switching backwards and forwards in time, it tells a story which is so exciting that it is impossible to switch off. HBO has now brought out the third series in 2019. Whether you find it as good as the first series is a matter of personal taste.

Timing with style

We are so preoccupied with our everyday lives that we often forget to take pleasure in the little things. For example, a “green wave” when driving through city traffic. What it feels like to plunge your finger into warm wax. The smell of candyfloss.  Laughing at silly jokes. Blowing on frothy milk on top of coffee. “Was wir lieben“ (What we love) tear-off calendar from the Verlag Hermann Schmidt offers 365 loveable observations from everyday life – not just for grumpy pessimists.

Holiday relaxation

My son loves Lego. But according to the expert opinion of this three-year-old, I am incapable of building with it properly. Peace has been restored since I – a “Friends” fan since the first minute of its transmission – now have my own Lego set: A Central Perk I can build myself. Lego launched this special edition with its loving attention to detail in 2019 – and it places very challenging demands on the builder. The advantage for me: it is recommended for would-be builders aged 16 and over, and so it is MINE, all MINE!


Reading and browsing

Nobel prize-winner Rudyard Kipling’s original story of  The Jungle Book is far, far away from the abbreviated Disney version. Andreas Nohl’s translation, first published in 2016, narrates the multi-faceted and penetrating story of life and the law of the jungle in precise, intense language, and rearranges the order of the separate stories in both volumes according to the “Outward Bound Edition” which Kipling himself authorised. This is the art of narration, and is well worth reading.

Something to listen to

The Hawaiian Christmas carol Mele Kalikimaka was written in 1949 by Robert Alex Anderson, and has been interpreted by several different singers. For me it is the best hit song for the Christmas season, and one of the best tunes to put you in a good mood – not just during the holidays! The most laid-back version is by the great Bette Midler, but also listen out for the accompanying singers. Guaranteed to make you smile and join in! 

Janine Wunder, Vice President Communications and Marketing

Gifts that children will love

My all-time favourite as a child was Dschungelbuch-Hörspiel (The Jungle Book audio drama) – at that time as a double LP from Europa. The Disney cartoon version is still a favourite today, and I think every single child shares in the thrills of the story about Mowgli, Shere Khan, Baloo the bear, Baghira, King Louie and Kaa with his hypnotic powers. The story is always entrancing, humorous and full of worldly wisdom – as are the songs. I can still sing along with almost all of them, most of all “The Bare Necessities” (pun on “bear” and “bare”). It goes well with the holiday feeling.

Quality time on the sofa

Lilyhammer is a wonderful, oblique spin-off from the cult series “The Sopranos”. Frank Tagliano (great in the role of Steven van Zandt) moves from the New York mafia scene and travels to Lillehammer in a witness protection programme. “Die Zeit” called him “the godfather in a Norwegian sweater” – in all three series and along with a whole gang of bizarre characters, he gets involved in his own personal adventures with the biting cold, the strange Norwegian culture, dubious business dealings, his own bar “the Flamingo” and love. Binge alarm!

Timing with style

Not a classic chronometer, the legendary Hoptimist, designed at the end of the 1960s by Gustav Ehrenreich, is used for timing the brewing of tea. Our classic “large bumble” lives in the kitchen and is bright orange. If I give it just a small nudge, it smiles at me for just two minutes – the time to let my green tea infuse. There is a huge range of colours and sizes, and even a Hoptimist Christmas Collection. Optimism and unadulterated good humour! Accompanied by delicious tea. 

Holiday relaxation

On hearing the word “relaxation”, my mind immediately turns to a jigsaw puzzle. A colleague recommended “Krypt“ to me – a monochrome jigsaw puzzle whose 654 pieces must be assembled in a spiral starting at the inside and working to the outside without a single clue or reference point. A friend loaned it to me for the holidays and I am already looking forward to the thought processes needed for fitting the pieces together. Also available in gold, especially for Christmas.  

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