15 December, 2019

Who needs some holiday cheer?

It’s hard to believe another year is drawing to a close! Together, we mark its passing with feasts, celebrations, and spending time with treasured family and friends. Oh, and gifts! Who could forget about the gifts? Perhaps you, that’s who. No worries if you are still on the hunt for a few lucky someones on your list, we have you covered in this year’s PLASTARC holiday gift guide. Scroll on down!

On our minds

What to get the workplace warrior who has everything? Assuming you don’t intend to get them the makings for a stiff drink, you might be scratching your head when it comes to workplace gifts. Well, fear not, gifters everywhere. We have you covered with this year’s PLASTARC Workplace Gift Guide!

The passing of another year always reminds us; there’s nothing more precious than time. Who wouldn’t want a little more of it? We like this book, 'Make time: how to focus on what matters every day'. The authors are a couple of super techies who also came up with the "design sprint"—a way to quickly prototype new ideas while minimizing wasted work. Their ideas might help you to make the most of each day.

Something for the road

Given that it’s holiday travel season, there’s a non-zero chance you are reading this list in line for airport security. Maybe it’s time to finally get that TSA Pre or Clear subscription so you can jet right through, so to speak! International travelers might like Global Entry. At the very least, make sure any travelers you know are aware that they may need a new ID. It’ll neeWe'll all need to be REAL ID compliant before October 2020. (Here’s a down-to-the-second countdown!)

Once you reach your holiday destination, it’s time to unplug. One of our all time favorite books is Shelly Turkle’s Alone Together, which argues that many of the technologies that we think are bringing us closer to other people are actually doing just the opposite. So maybe, just maybe, put that phone down! If you need a little help reclaiming your digital agency, consider a signal-blocking sleeve like these from Silent Pocket. Or, this puffy jacket temporarily blocks cell service, encouraging the wearer to truly disconnect and explore the outdoors. It was created by an architect who clearly understood the value of solitude.

What’s a solitudinous stroller to think about? Perhaps it’s a good time to reflect and practice a bit of gratitude, one of the key components of wellbeing and performance put forth in Emotional Success. This books draws on psychology research to discuss how emotions influence behavior. Perhaps make a daily habit of meditation or mindfullness, which can help with wellbeing for the rest of the day. We just discovered Smiling Mind, a free app for guided meditation created by a nonprofit that aims to "To provide accessible, life-long tools to support healthy minds."

Gadgets Galore

If travel isn’t on the agenda this season, there are still plenty of ways to get away without going away. White noise machines and personal sound systems wind up on our gift list every year because they let users immerse themselves in the sensory experience they prefer.

Of course, many of those devices under the tree come with more privacy issues than Santa’s list (sorry Mr. Klaus, your enterprise is definitely not GDPR-compliant). Luckily the jolly folks at Mozilla Foundation compiled a list of tech gadgets that shoppers can filter by "creep" factor. Find wireless music speakers that don’t listen to your conversations, fitness devices that don’t report your whereabouts, and bluetooth headsets that aren’t hackable by every teen coder with a laptop. Kudos to our friends at Mozilla!

Refreshment for all

A little greenery goes a long way during the bleak winter months. We got a chuckle out of this gift that manages to supply both nostalgia and biophilia: who wouldn’t smile at the thought of "happy little trees" when they look at their Bob Ross chia pet? Don’t forget that fake plants are almost as good as real plants when it comes to their mood-boosting properties—though, fun as they are, rubber eraser cacti are probably pushing the envelope.

Don’t let the multisensory delights end there! A candle or other scented item can be an invigorating addition to the workplace. (Remember our team trip to Joya Studio in Brooklyn?) Steer clear of the heavily-perfumed items that office neighbors might not appreciate. Classic scents like rosemary, lemon, and mint are pleasant to just about everyone.

If you’re looking for refreshment of the liquid variety, but want something healthier than the typical brew-ski, you might be interested in trying a non-alcoholic craft brew like those from Athletic Brewing. Of course, your other favorite refreshments are still around to make great gifts: indulge in boutique coffee or get a jump start on new year resolutions by swapping out the beer keg for some kombucha.

For a better world

While it may be chilly outside now, the next sweltering summer will be here in the blink of an eye. We’re big fans of Plus Pool, the cool proposal to put a floating public pool in the middle of NYC’s East River. We love the idea of making summer in the city a little more pleasant for all! You can buy an engraved tile to become a permanent part of this inspiring project!

Consider supporting Young New Yorkers, which redirects youth from the courts to the arts, guiding them in creating and presenting new works. We love this creative approach to enriching lives and making the world a little more beautiful.

These longtime favorites, mean your gift will help shape a better world all around us:

Storefront for Art & Architecture

Project for Public Spaces

Center for Active Design

From the archives

The end of the year always has us reminiscing! Last December, we wrote about "Remix-Resample-Remaster," a fascinating event we so-hosted with the AIANY Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Speakers examined the ways that identity shapes art and design across multiple disciplines, from poetry to architecture.

Ride that sleigh a little further down memory lane and you’ll stumble on our 2015 video from WorkTech West Coast, where we presented about self-quantification in the workplace along with Ben Zweig of IBM.

That’s all for this month. But do send us your favorite ideas for workplace gifts, soundtracks or drink recipes—and we’ll see you in 2020!

In Case You Missed It

It’s easy to miss something this time of year! Here’s a sampling of holiday treats you might enjoy!

Book Release: Clive Wilkinson’s Theatre of Work

Architect Clive Wilkinson, one of our collaborators on the new lululemon building in Vancouver, released a book! We were glad to join tour stops in NYC and LA.


The latest in this Workspace of Tomorrow series brought together experts to explore the changing nature of the work in modern global cities.

Fulcrum Conference

Speakers at this inaugural event in Detroit discussed the future of work. Artificial intelligence, robots and augmented reality hit home in the motor city!

EDRA Multisensory

We presented our work on multisensory design at the 50th conference of the Environmental Design Research Association this spring. Full proceedings have now been published.

MIT DesignX 2020 Cohort Announced

Ten new teams were selected for a year-long stint in MIT’s entrepreneurship accelerator dedicated to improving urban design and life in cities.

Theory of Mind

This time of year, we often think about other people far and near—do you ever consider why you wonder what’s on their minds?

Looking Ahead

We’re looking forward to another exciting year making workplaces better for the people who use them. You’ll find us learning and sharing at one of these great events!

AI and Sensemaking

The AIANY Social Science and Architecture Committee hosts this panel, “Human-Centered Design in the Age of Abundant Data”. Coming up TOMORROW Dec. 16 in New York.

CoreNet NYC New Year’s Party

Kick off the new year at this annual favorite, taking place at the iconic Museum of Modern Art on Jan. 9.

CoreNet Global Summit APAC

This year's conference returns to Singapore, and we're packing our bags. Theme focuses on relationships at the intersections of HR, IT and RE. Mar. 10-12.

Enterprise Connect

PLASTARC speaks to enterprise leaders about “Flexible Working Practices: Empowering a Collaborative Workforce.” Happening Mar. 30-Apr. 2 in Orlando, FL.

Wharton People Analytics Conference

WPAC brings together industry leaders and academic experts who are using data to maximize human performance. Join us in Philadelphia, Apr. 2-3.