Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.

– James W. Frick


Featured artist: Livia Falcaru

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 117!

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In a recent interview about indie publishing I was asked what motivates me to continue to publish a magazine in print. It seemed like a fair enough question, particularly now, given that sending real atoms around the world during a pandemic is so difficult.

As someone with a foot in the digital and the print camp, I always felt the push and pull of both sides. I like the immediacy and low barrier of entry of digital publishing. But I also appreciate the steadiness and maturity of an old technology like print.

Take newsletters for example: I believe we’re currently in the volatile phase of the hype cycle where everyone – startups, publishers, VCs – is trying to get a slice of the pie. I find this gold rush mentality and the FOMO that comes with it pretty exhausting – even just as a bystander.

The print world serves as a kind of refuge from that feeding frenzy. In a field where success usually means ‘breaking even’, I think what motivates print publishers most is the belief that they have something meaningful to contribute to their chosen niche.

It sounds corny, but adding something of value and longevity to this thing we call ‘culture’ is a major driving force behind so many indie books and magazines you see in your local bookstore. The friction inherent in creating physical goods and – for better or worse – the low expectation of financial reward breed a certain conviction to the cause that feels refreshingly genuine.

And, at the end of a long day behind the screen, it’s just nice to put something on your shelf and be able to say: ‘This exists because I made it.’ – Kai

Dense Discovery is a weekly newsletter at the intersection of tech, design, sustainability, and culture read by over 36,000 subscribers. Do you have a product or service to promote? Sponsor an issue or book a classified.


Focused Daily Planning SPONSOR

Sunsama →

Daily planner for elite professionals

Sunsama is a daily planner for busy professionals. Each day, Sunsama guides you through planning a calm, focused workday by pulling together all your work from all your tools like Gmail, Calendar, Asana, Trello, Jira, Todoist, et. al!


Apps & Sites

Screenity →

Screen recorder & annotation tool

I just took this free Chrome extension for a spin to record a design walk-through. You can record yourself while you speak, draw on the screen, highlight your cursor/clicks and more. Nice.

Meeter →

Video conf schedule

If you’re in and out of video conferences all day but find it difficult to sift through your calendar to locate the required info of each event, the menu bar app Meeter (macOS) will automatically pull all your upcoming calls from your calendar and let you manage them in one place.

PlatformAbuse →

Mitigating online abuse is a new resource that helps educate people involved in building online communities about potentially harmful features. I think everyone benefits from understanding the basic concepts in their database, not just people building online platforms.

Roboclaus →

Virtual secrete santas

If you’re into secrete santas but can’t visit your friends/family/co-workers to exchange gifts, the web app Roboclaus helps you organise everything. It even lets you ask anonymous follow-up questions.


Worthy Five: Kim Lam


Five recommendations by illustrator and writer Kim Lam

A phrase worth knowing:

‘Question your teaspoons.’ From the eccentric french writer Georges Perec in relation to the ‘infra-ordinary’ (PDF) – a neologism he coined which describes the common, ordinary, everyday things that we need to put in great effort to see. It jolts me out of passivity.

A concept worth understanding:

Solarpunk – an emerging eco-futurist movement, narrative strategy, memetic engine and aesthetic. It’s also an optimistic, pragmatic, resourceful and highly integrated response to our current apocalyptic trajectory.

An activity worth doing:

Read with a grey-lead pencil in hand, from a book you can make marks in. It’s a great way to deepen your conversation with the writing.

A recipe worth trying:

I have been recipe-evangelising Hetty McKinnon’s life-changing udon from her latest cookbook To Asia With Love. The incredibly simple but genius combination of butter, hot soy broth, sesame oil and pepper elicits a vocal response in me every time!

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

The Reading by the writer, poet and critic Yanyi. He pens weekly creative writing advice in the form of letters. At once incredibly perspicacious, incisive, and therapeutic – there have been tears.




Humanocracy →

Organisations driven by humans, not bureaucracy

A new book that could be particularly interesting for those working in larger organisations and public institutions: “Few leaders would admit to being champions of bureaucracy, but rarer still is the leader who has a plan for defeating it. Humanocracy offers a detailed blueprint for creating an organisation that’s fit for the future by building one that’s fit for human beings.”


The Better Packaging Co. →

More sustainable shipping materials

I try to avoid plastics as much as I can when shipping Offscreen, but 100% paper-based packaging isn’t always possible. The Better Packaging Co. tries to change the industry with some genuinely innovative plastic alternatives. Their products aren’t perfect but reading through the development and company info, I’m impressed with how far they’ve pushed the envelope – excuse the pun.


Overheard on Twitter

You eat sausages your whole life but you refuse vaccine because you don’t know what’s in it.



Food For Thought

Why Life Can’t Be Simpler →


A lot of designers and engineers strive for simplicity but there is a tipping point where simplicity taken too far actually ends up creating complexity. “Complexity is like energy. It cannot be created or destroyed, only moved somewhere else. When a product or service becomes simpler for users, engineers and designers have to work harder.”

Life after Trump →


Some interesting perspectives from illustrators and cartoonists about drawing Trump for editorial pieces and how their work might change starting next year. “Most politicians, when they come into power, will become very prominent after a while, and there’s a certain [caricature] formula that then becomes recognisable. The same has happened with Trump now, because you only have to put blonde hair on something and then you have two choices – either Boris Johnson or Trump. There’s a new piece of vocabulary in the graphic language and that new shorthand. But the problem with Trump is that he said and did so much outlandish stuff. Often it’s been problematic to find an image for it.”

Flat white world →


Is a stylish barber shop in Afghanistan a sign that hipsterdom has outgrown its claim for being a nonconforming subculture? “The style, all ‘raw wood tables, exposed brick, and hanging Edison bulbs’, has been termed ‘AirSpace’ by Kyle Chayka, an American writer. Sajith Pai, a venture capitalist in Delhi, describes it as “the bastard child of IKEA, Starbucks and Apple”. Its purpose is to communicate to potential customers that there will be a certain level of quality; that the coffee or haircut will meet some global standard. “You can call it reassurance design,” he says.”

Programming Sucks →


I just re-read this article on programming and it’s still as brilliant and hilarious as when I read it the first time. “Right now someone who works for Facebook is getting tens of thousands of error messages and frantically trying to find the problem before the whole charade collapses. There’s a team at a Google office that hasn’t slept in three days. Somewhere there’s a database programmer surrounded by empty Mountain Dew bottles whose husband thinks she’s dead. And if these people stop, the world burns. Most people don’t even know what sysadmins do, but trust me, if they all took a lunch break at the same time they wouldn’t make it to the deli before you ran out of bullets protecting your canned goods from roving bands of mutants.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

Mark Clennon is a NYC based photographer aiming to “capture the black experience in its totality – joy, pain, and triumph”. One of his more recognisable photos is from the BLM protest in front of Trump Tower, but I also really enjoyed his series My Father’s Hands.

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French 3D artist Mathieu L.B constructs colourful renders of endearing characters and whimsical sceneries.

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Illustrator and artist Anna Roberts specialises in hand-drawn artworks in pastel on cotton paper.

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Ellograph is a friendly monospaced typeface with a soft, rounded construction and striking cursive italics. “Beautiful as a coding font; charming in logos, headlines, and print.”



Creativerly is a weekly digest about creativity & productivity-boosting tools & resources combined with useful insights, articles, and learnings from the fields of design & tech.

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