I have an appreciation for the designers of a number of folders - Emerson, Al Mar, Mel Pardue and others. The first ones that made an impression on me wherein I knew of the designer at acquisition were the Emerson CQC6s and C7s that I purchased years ago as a dealer. Other knives that I appreciated without knowing the designer were created by Al Mar when he was employed by Gerber.
Recently, I discovered the knives designed by Bob Lum (deceased) of the cooperative called Seki-City. His designs were strikingly like those of Al Mar.
Another knife maker who is not making his products available to the public at this time is Kent Turnipseed. He designed a series of knives which he is attempting to put into production.
The knives don't have to be expensive to fall among the favorites. Non folder examples would be Moras and Marttinni which sell in the $11 to $35 range.
The cheapest and best folder I have seen recently is the uncataloged Ontario 2823. The design of the partially serrated knife is outstanding. It is produced in Red China. However, the quality control is exemplary. I picked up a number of them at Big 5 this year in a price range of $15 - $20. A number of them will be gifts to relatives and put in Benchmade bidirectional sheaths.
And, I am not adverse to putting Mini Griptilians and full size Griptilians into the favorite category. I am thankful that I picked them up used (and I refurbished them) before the big price increases on ebay this year.