An Engineer’s Guide to Gift Wrap

You might remember a certain banana bread recipe that was sent to us back in Spring. While it resembled a mad man’s manifesto in many ways, we have to admit that a few of us are fans of the recipe it contained.

We were completely shocked when another anonymous envelope found its way into our mail pile from our favorite engineer, “Mr. X”. It seems he’s been biding his time and that time has finally come. Whether you asked for it or not (we didn’t), we present to you the engineer’s guide to gift wrap.

First, an Introduction

“To my colleagues at BFW/Marcum; I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season. Me? I spent my Thanksgiving at home with my pet Guinea pig, Archimedes, and we ate beans out of a can; honestly, it was a Thanksgiving like any other, pandemic or no pandemic.

However, the holidays are a time of reaching out to your loved ones, even if the only thing you love is a Guinea pig named after one of the most famous engineers to ever live. Regardless, it’s a time of gift-giving and whether your gift recipient is human or otherwise, you should know how to properly wrap a gift. Let’s get started.”

Take it Seriously

“I assume most of you reading this know a little about engineers.  So you understand we can take something simple and make it extremely complicated. I like to extend that philosophy to everything I do, even gift wrapping.

Did you know the Japanese are notorious gift wrappers, too? They have a word for it, look it up. I’m not telling you to dedicate your entire purview to the idea of wrapping presents but I am telling you to take it seriously. As Teddy Roosevelt once said,

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…

What’s that mean in this case? Take satisfaction in your gift wrapping, paper cuts and all. Every ounce of sweat and blood you put into your work shows at the end. You already do it in the office and in the field, so do it at home.”

Choose the Right Wrapping Paper

“Don’t get me started on paper quality. To be honest, the gift wrap you find at your big box retailer probably doesn’t cut it. Cheap paper is thin and printed poorly.

You want a paper that has a bit of weight to it. It’s sturdy, meaning it folds crisply. In professional gift-wrapping circles, we call this “good paper”. You can find it at niche stationary stores or one of those little hipster gift shops you can find in the “cool” part of whatever city you live in.

Good wrapping paper comes in sheets, not rolls. It also costs a fortune, so you might want to practice on some cheap stuff before you spend $50 wrapping those $25 slippers for your grandfather.”

Color Coordinate

You wouldn’t go to work in a pair of pink slacks and a lime green collared shirt, would you? The concept of color theory applies to more than just your wardrobe. It’s important to choose gift wrap that coordinates with the rest of your holiday décor.

I like to keep things simple; variations on green, red, white, and gold with a tasteful embossed pattern. I rotate through that list of colors every year and choose two complementary colors from it. I don’t like to wrap my gifts with just one color because that’s boring. Three colors are too much. Two is perfect.

Don’t Skimp on the Accessories

So, you’ve wrapped your gifts. What’s next? Don’t just toss them under the tree or wherever else. No, make sure you wrap them up nicely with a quality piece of ribbon and tag them with a good-quality name tag. By all means, do not just scribble your Guinea pig’s name on the paper with a Sharpie. He hates it.
I like to buy cloth ribbon from a local craft store. Along with the ribbon, get some nice name tags that you can attach to the bow with string.

How to Wrap Gifts Like an Engineer

By now, you understand the taboos of the gift-wrapping world and how to avoid them. It’s just like learning anything; it’s better to understand the pitfalls before you steamroll ahead unless you like looking like a fool. With that said, let’s dive into the actual process of wrapping a gift so I can stop writing this and get back to watching old episodes of This Old House on YouTube.

Tools you need:
• Gourmet, bespoke, high-quality gift wrap from your local hipster store
• Pair of scissors
• Double-sided tape

1.) Find a large flat surface to work on. Clear it of any Guinea pigs, cats, or curious children that might get in your way.

2.) Lay down your sheet of wrapping paper (or roll it out if you cheaped out). If your sheet isn’t big enough, then overlap one or more extra sheets and tape them together so they become one big sheet.

3.) Place your gift upside down in the center of the sheet (box it up if you haven’t, no one wants to get a bowling ball-shaped present and have their surprise ruined).Bring one side of the paper up and over the top of the box and over to the opposite edge; you want your paper to completely overlap where it meets. Take note of how much paper you’ll need on the other side so that both sides can comfortably overlap each other. Bonus: don’t just settle on a jagged edge because you didn’t cut the paper cleanly with your scissors. Instead, fold the jagged edge under itself to create a clean seam to work with.

4.) Take care that your box is centered once more and affix the edge you created to the box with tape. If you get really good, you can skip this step and simply tape the second edge over the first.

5.) Bring the second edge up and over so it overlaps the first, taking time to fold it under if it’s jagged. Apply double-sided tape to the first edge and press your second edge over it—you should have an almost seamless layer of gift wrap applied to the bottom of your box with no tape showing.

6.) Now you should have a box with paper all around it. The hardest part is attractively folding the sides. Don’t think about it too hard; simply fold down the side flaps against both sides of the box.
They should create little “wings” of excess gift wrap. Flatten the wings in and then fold the triangle they create against the box and fasten the whole thing with double-sided tape. Take a look here if you need a visual.

7.) Stand your box on its end and repeat this process on the other side.

8.) Admire your work. If it’s wrinkled, then do it again.

9.) Wrap your box with a ribbon and tie a name tag to it.

It’s Not Just What You Do, It’s How You Do It

If all you got credit for was the final result, then life would be easy. As engineers, we know that the process is just as important as the outcome. It might be even more important. You can’t just slap a building or a bridge down and call it a day. You need to follow the rules, you need to go about it efficiently, and you need to show your work just like they taught you in AP Calculus.

In gift wrapping and engineering, it’s all about how you do it. It’s not as simple as giving something to someone. You have to show you put some thought into it. Maybe that’s what makes engineering so special; the thought and care. Before I get too emotional about the art of wrapping presents, let’s just end it here. Happy holidays.