How the 2021 holiday gift guide came together

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Big box stores may be mocked for rolling out their Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, but the team behind the 2021 Holiday Gift Guide is thinking about the holidays all year round.

“We’re always looking for articles for the holiday gift guide,” said Jason Chen, associate editor of Wirecutter, a product review website owned by the New York Times.

The Gift Guide, an annual package of gift ideas for family and friends (or yourself) has historically been a Times editorial project and for the past few years the Wirecutter team, which regularly publishes product recommendation guides. , is also involved. This year, Dan Saltzstein, associate editor of the special sections of The Times, approached Wirecutter over the summer to team up. The 2021 guide, a collaborative effort of around 40 contributors, was published online last month and recently came out as a special 30-page print section. A few dozen Wirecutter staff members provided about 80 percent of the roughly 200 recommendations this year, Saltzstein said. Reporters and editors across the newsroom have suggested the rest.

Mr. Chen said the Wirecutter team started looking for ideas months ago. The list features a mix of new products and favorite watches, and every item has been carefully considered. Mr. Chen said a team member had tested or already owned each suggested item, including a metal detector, a weighted blanket, and a toilet stool.

Wirecutter has a budget to buy and test products. (Some items are also loaned or provided for free by advertisers. Staff return or donate the free items to charities after testing.) Gift prices range from $ 8 from bath bombs to a commuter belt bike. $ 1,300. The Wirecutter team checks item prices twice a week, updates the guide when items are on sale, and exchanges new items for those that are out of stock.

“This is the most time consuming part on our end,” Chen said.

The number of categories – and the number of articles in each – varies from year to year, Saltzstein said. This year, the digital guide offers choices in 16 categories, such as “Cooking” and “Taking care of yourself”.

“We try to appeal to all types of gift recipients,” Mr. Saltzstein said. “So we’re trying to include things that are a little bit unusual or there.” (See: A Stool Shaped Like a Stack of Donuts.) There’s even a category called “Hard to Satisfy” for recipients who are, say, individuals.

Wirecutter Photo Editors also look for photos for all products, a combination of original Wirecutter photographs and images from the seller or manufacturer. Online, the category titles feature colorful and striking illustrations by illustrator Andy Rementer, who Tonya Douraghy, the Times art director who worked on the guide, said were crucial to the guide’s visual appeal.

“We asked her for art that was joyful and surprising,” she said, “and that emphasizes the warmth and connectedness that comes with giving and receiving gifts.”

After the digital version was completed, the guide was formatted for printing. One of the biggest challenges, said Ms Douraghy, was that illustrations had to work in both print and digital formats.

“We were aiming for brightly colored works of art that were easy to read, even in the smallest sizes,” she said. “Whether it’s displayed in a large print newspaper or on your phone, it’s just as engaging to the reader. “

After the guide was published online in early November, Ms. Douraghy ​​created the printed layouts; Wirecutter employees rechecked all pricing and item availability; and a team of about six people, including an art director, designers and editors, worked on translating the guide to the special print section.

But not everything that appears online was published in the newspaper, said Jeremy Allen, an editor who led the print production of the guide. When items are out of stock, editors can add new ideas to fill in the gaps. (In case you were wondering, the donut-shaped stool was actually printed.)

But no matter how a reader may choose to browse it, the gift guide is meant to serve as a starting point for gift inspiration, not a full catalog, Chen said.

“If something in the gift guide catches someone’s imagination and wants to buy something similar or from the same designer, it’s the dream,” he said. “The goal is to inspire and get people to find special things that are meaningful to the people they love.”

When someone buys through links on the Wirecutter site, we can earn an affiliate commission.