25 geek-inspired gifts for Mother's Day

mothers day 2017 7
Ultimate Ears, Looking Glass Design, ThinkGeek, Vik Muniz and MoMA Store

To mom, with love

If you're looking for Mother’s Day gift ideas that are less about gadgets and more about stellar product design, this is the collection for you. The tech quotient is low, but the design bar is high. The creators are artists, craftspeople and industrial designers – and their inspiration comes from science, technology, engineering and math.

FOR MORE IDEAS: Check out our Mother’s Day gift guides from 2016201520142013 and 2012

vik muniz petri dishes
Vik Muniz and MoMA Store

Petri appeal

You won't wind these petri dishes in a laboratory – but you can find them at MoMa Store. The designer is Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz, and his set of six porcelain plates ($550) depicts strains of bacteria interacting with each other. The plates are made in France, in collaboration with Bernardaud.

spectrum threaded cuff
The Gallery Shops, National Gallery of Art

On the same wavelength

Each Spectrum Threaded Cuff is handmade by women in a fair trade artisan group in India. Brightly colored cotton thread is wrapped around a brass base ($19.95 via The Gallery Shops at the National Gallery of Art).

Ultimate Ears

All ears

For pint-sized power, check out Ultimate Ears' Wonderboom ($99.99) wireless speaker. It's small yet mighty. It's also colorful, lightweight and waterproof.

Our friends at Macworld have this to say about it: "Ultimate Ears has outdone itself in creating the ultimate party speaker. The Wonderboom is just as waterproof and durable as its previous family members, delivering just about the same 360-degree sound that Ultimate Ears helped pioneer and with a battery life that won’t leave you hanging. And somehow the company has put all this into a Bluetooth speaker that’s smaller and more affordable."

Belle-V ice cream scoop

Engineering dessert

The Belle-V ice cream scoop got its start when Karl Ulrich – a collector of ice cream scoops and vice dean of innovation at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School – noticed that many ice cream scoops are ergonomically challenging because they work against the natural motion of our wrists. Ulrich teamed with a design firm and an entrepreneur, and the result is the slick Belle-V ice cream scoop ($50). 

nervous system pendant

3D filigree

The filigree Calyx pendant ($45) is part of the Corollaria collection from Nervous System, a design studio founded by Jessica Rosenkrantz (who graduated from MIT with degrees in architecture and biology) and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg (who studied mathematics at MIT). The collection is inspired by cellular structures in nature. The designs are etched from brass sheets and shaped into 3D forms in a hydraulic press.

einstein tea towel
Sunday Drive Designs

Genius linens

The cotton Albert Einstein tea towel from Sunday Drive Designs ($15 via The Grommet) has a vintage feel and a quote attributed to the legendary theoretical physicist: "Life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving."

porthole diffuser
Crucial Detail and MoMA Store

Cheers, mom

Submarine portholes inspired designer Martin Kastner, whose Porthold infuser ($100 via MoMA Store) can be used to create teas, cocktails, oils, dressings, lemonade and other types of cold infusions. The interior of the Porthole measures 6 inches in diameter and has a capacity of 13 ounces. Kastner is founder of Crucial Detail design studio. 

honeycomb bracelet
Chase and Scout Design

Sweet as honey

Etsy shop Chase + Scout Design has mastered the art of casting fragile organic materials into solid metal. Their honeycomb cuff bracelet ($165) is available in cast bronze or sterling silver.

amano chocolate
Amano Chocolate

The science of chocolate

The founders of Amano Chocolate – Clark Goble and Art Pollard – met while working in the physics department of the school they attended. They first teamed up to build a software company, and later to launch Amano. There are too many tempting flavors to list them all; single bars cost $7.95, and multiple collections are available.

mix tape cutting board

Mix things up

Bring a dash of retro style to mom's home with a glass cutting board designed to look like Peter Quill's mixtape. The Awesome Mix Vol. 2 cutting board ($14.99 via ThinkGeek) measures 12" by 8". 

most modest niko

Powerful esthetic

Here's a power strip you won't want to hide from view. The Niko power cord, designed by Most Modest, is made from solid white ash wood with a knitted nylon cord ($95).

pulse necklace
Chicago Architecture Foundation Shop

On the same wavelength

The Pulse necklace, available from the Chicago Architecture Foundation Shop, turns an irregular wavelength into wearable art. It's currently on sale for $89.97 (gold) and $83.97 (silver).

brain specimen coasters

Cerebral entertainment

Each of these 10 coasters is printed with a cross-section of a brain, and if you stack them in the proper order, the images form a full brain. The Brain Specimen Coasters ($19.99 for a set of 10 coasters via ThinkGeek) are made of glass and have protective rubber feet.

family necklace
Lena Yastreb

All in this together

Ever feel like you're hanging on by a thread? That's part of motherhood, and it's the vibe I get from the sterling silver characters created by Etsy shop Lena Yastreb. The figures are whimsical and expressive, and you can choose different combinations to create the perfect family scene for mom.

photo clutch

Carry mobile devices in style

Etsy shop Heartland Photography By SJW prints owner Sarah's photographs onto double-sided clutches, laptop bags, cosmetic pouches. Pricing for the palm tree clutch (pictured) starts at $22.

cloud necklace
Loop Jewelry

Moving to the cloud

Since everyone is talking cloud, check out the cloud necklace ($70-$72) from Etsy shop Loop Jewelry. Wearing it won't require any painful migrations.

sail totes
Sea Bags

Ocean appeal

The octopus on Sea Bags’ wristlet ($30) and courier bag ($125) is inspired by an illustration in a report from the 1872-1876 HMS Challenger expedition, which is credited with laying the foundation for the field of oceanography. If your mom is more interested in the “unicorn of the sea,” Sea Bags also offers a narwhal tote (starts at $150) as part of its collection of nautically inspired totes and accessories. Sea Bags, based on the waterfront in Portland, Maine, makes its bags using recycled sails.

mini lumio light
Max Gunawan and MoMA Store

Light of her life

It looks – and travels – like a small, hardcover book, but the Mini Lumio+ ($135 via MoMA Store) is a lamp plus a battery pack for mobile phones. Designed by Max Gunawan, the Mini Lumio+ comes with a removable magnetic spine cover and a lightning charger for mobile phones. 

dwr dusen dusen towel
Dusen Dusen and Design Within Reach

Geometric design

The Dusen Dusen Towel ($48-$80 via Design Within Reach) was designed by Ellen Van Dusen, who "studied the psychology of design and the brain’s reaction to visual stimuli" at Tufts University, according to Design Within Reach. Each season, designers for the Dusen Dusen brand take inspiration from "the brain's reaction to movement, color, and contrast," the firm says.

stak ipad stand
STAK Ceramics

Kitchen tech

Tech has infiltrated every room in the house, and the Kitchen Tablet Dock ($51) from STAK Ceramics creates an easy way for mom to reference an iPad or other tablet while working in the kitchen. The stoneware dock also has a compartment to store cooking utensils.

meteor necklace
Emilie Roche and MoMA Store

Celestial beauty

Help mom catch the light with the Iridescent Meteor Necklace ($125 via MoMA Store). Emilie Roche designed the necklace, which is handmade in Morocco. The light-reflecting beads have an acrylic core, a silver mirror-plated finish, and several layers of lacquer.

sofa tray
Wooden Home Art

Coffee at hand

So much work can be done on the go, away from a desk – but mom still needs a place to put down her coffee. The sofa tray (prices start at $47.44) from Etsy shop Wooden Home Art is an easy fix when you don't want to be tied to a desk or a table.

lightbulb terrarium
Midnight in Seattle

New life for old bulbs

A living marimo moss ball resides in the creative lightbulb terrarium (prices start at $26) from Etsy shop Midnight in Seattle. The tiny terrarium rests on a live-edge wood base.

L3D Cube
Looking Glass Design and MoMA Store

Express yourself

Design your own light show with the L3D Cube from Looking Glass Design ($399 via MoMA Store). It's a WiFi-connected LED display that uses 512 lights to show visualizations the user creates using pre-loaded and add-on apps.

dyson hair dryer

The Dyson way

The result of five years of development and 600 prototypes, the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer is expensive, with a starting price of $399.99. But it's tempting . Cheap hair dryers never last, after all. There's even a special Mother's Day edition, which comes with a cushioned, pale pink box.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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