The White Elephant Exchange: A Designer’s Excuse for Fun Gift Giving

Forget the business books and sugar cookies. At work, the real gift-giving fun happens when creative and marketing teams host a white elephant gift exchange. Never heard of a white elephant gift exchange? It’s when coworkers swap used or unwanted items, often found at the back of the junk drawer or the neighborhood thrift shop.

For designers, the white elephant gift exchange typically turns into a friendly competition. Who can come up with the most coveted oddball item? Who can earn the most laughs with a gift? It’s team-building, stress relief and creative concepting all rolled into one.

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10 Wacky Gifts From Designers’ White Elephant Parties 

We recently asked advertising and marketing executives around the country to reveal the strangest item they’ve seen pop up at an office white elephant gift exchange. Here’s a list of the 10 weirdest and most wonderful items:

  1. An Elvis painting. Who doesn’t want Elvis back in the building? And if you manage to dig up a velvet Elvis painting for the office gift exchange, you deserve a Clio Award.
  2. Golden monkey candleholder. We’re guessing this coveted white elephant gift makes its way back into the exchange year after year.
  3. Pink flamingo statue. It’s hard to go wrong with a yard ornament. In our opinion, the pink flamingo racks up more comedy points than gnomes, fake mushrooms or snail statues.
  4. A water gun that shoots marshmallows. Nerf guns are practically standard issue on many creative teams. But the ability to shoot marshmallows takes the fun to a delicious new level.
  5. Bobblehead statue of the boss. It’s a harmless way to poke a little fun at your manager. Plus, that nodding motion makes it seem like your boss is saying yes to every question you ask. Can I have a deadline extension? A raise?
  6. Gorilla mask. It’s a white elephant gift that keeps on giving. Break it out on deadline to lighten the mood or use it to jumpstart creativity at a brainstorm session.
  7. Leg lamp. Genius. There are fans of A Christmas Story waiting to fight over this in every office. Just don’t be the one who knocks it over and breaks it.
  8. Monkey lamp. Sensing a theme? Monkeys. Lamps. A monkey lamp seems like the logical next step to rocking the white elephant gift exchange.
  9. Goofy cat statue. We’re picturing this as the real-world version of a viral cat video. Bonus: You can make a game of leaving it in unexpected places around the office.
  10. Gallon of milk. Hey, did someone forget about the white elephant gift exchange and steal this out of the office fridge? No matter. It’s a good for a laugh. Just put it back before it goes bad.

We hope this list gives you plenty of inspiration for your own white elephant gift exchange – if not, head over to the TCG Blog for more ideas. But as you’re brainstorming the perfect item, keep in mind these three tips for an office-friendly white elephant gift:

  • Choose something PG. We’ve heard about some, ahem, adult items making it into the white elephant gift exchange at work. To stay on the good side of HR, don’t give anything you wouldn’t show an 8-year-old.
  • Keep the jokes friendly. Want your gift to play off an inside joke at the office? Great idea. Just make sure you’re not singling out an individual, client or company policy.
  • Avoid religious- or political-themed gifts. Comedians count on these two trusty topics for laughs. But they’re best kept out of the workplace, where you might inadvertently offend one of your coworkers.

As long as you keep things professional, a white elephant gift exchange provides a fun break during the 9-to-5. Has your office ever held one? If so, what’s the most weird or wonderful gift you’ve seen exchanged? Let us know in the comments.

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