As our own species is in the process of proving, one cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.

– Arthur C. Clarke


Featured artist: Caleb Sanders

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 118!

View/share online

In this final issue of the year, I’m sharing a few personal highlights of the last twelve or so months of DD: apps I use a lot myself, some of the books I’ve read, articles and videos I learned from, and creative projects that inspired.

It’s a longer-than-usual issue, so if your email client decides to cut it off, visit the online version to see the email in full.

With restrictions mostly gone in this part of the world, I’m looking forward to being with people and nature again over the coming weeks. My creative batteries are running on empty and any kind of outside stimulation feels like an indulgence at this point.

Wherever you are, whoever you are with (or without), let’s collectively celebrate making it through to the end of this colossal train wreck of a year.

DD will be back with a fresh issue on January 5th. Until then, I hope you stay positive and test negative – as they say. 👋 – Kai

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Apps & Sites

Dropshare →

File & screenshot sharer

For years, I’ve been using Dropshare’s standalone app – connected with my Dropbox account — to share quick screenshots, smaller files or sketches.

Jumpcut →

Clipboard manager

This free macOS clipboard manager has been my copy-paste companion for many years. It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles of paid apps and mainly helps me strip the formatting from text in my clipboard.

Receipt Bank →


I simply forward invoices and receipts to my Receipt Bank account – or upload a photo via the mobile app – and it does all the bookkeeping for me, including converting different currencies to Australian dollars.

Raindrop →

Bookmark manager

Most of the recommendations in DD are organised in Raindrop, an indie-developed bookmark manager. This is where I save all the apps, tweets, books, illustrations etc. that I come across during the week.

ezGIF →

GIF editor

This little app may not seem like much, but it’s a powerful, free image editor to crop, resize and optimise GIF files. I use ezGIF to minimise the file size of DD’s weekly GIF.

Moonclerk →

Membership management

Moonclerk is a compact membership management app I use for running Friends of DD. It’s not as powerful as Memberful but in combination with Zapier it does everything I need it to do.

RightFont →

Font manager

I had more need for powerful, reliable font management when I was still doing client work, but RightFont remains my go-to font manager on macOS.

Formsite →

Form builder

If you book a sponsor or classified slot in DD, you will enter your details and pay through a form hosted on Formsite. I appreciate their payment integration, the powerful notification features and its integration with Zapier.

Commento →

Comments section

I use this Javascript-based commenting tool to add a simple comments section below the online version of each issue of DD. I wish their support were better and added more features, but I still appreciate the conversations Commento has allowed me to have with my readers.

aText →

Text expander

This is probably one of my most-used apps: I have aText shortcuts for about 100 different things I type regularly: URLs, intros, email replies, tweets. I usually stick to the ‘_xyz’ (underscore + shortcut) format to insert text into anything. For example ‘_phone’ inserts my phone number, ‘_dd’ inserts the Dense Discovery URL, and so on.


Worthy Five: Yours Truly


Five recommendations by publisher and reluctant inbox virtuoso Kai Brach

A concept worth understanding:

I’m grateful to Anab Jain who – through our interview in Offscreen issue 22 – introduced me to the idea of Planet-centric Design. Our narrow focus on the user when designing services and products is no longer enough.

A video worth watching:

The vast video archive of The School of Life has helped me become a more emotionally intelligent person, but this particular video on how romanticism ruins relationships has truly altered my understanding of love.

A quote worth remembering:

‘We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.’ – from a book by Stephen M.R. Covey. As a pretty opinionated person, I try to remind myself of this quote frequently.

A recipe worth trying:

Textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a fantastic meat replacement for a delicious spaghetti bolognese. I’ve been using this recipe as a basis. Personalise it with fresh herbs and chili, a bit of sugar, and your preferred choice of legumes to add more protein.

A word worth knowing:

A great German word that encapsulates a sentiment I felt a lot this year: Weltschmerz (literally ‘world pain’). It describes a world weariness felt from a perceived mismatch between the ideal image of how the world should be with how it really is.




Wabi-Sabi →

The beauty of imperfection

As a hopeless perfectionist, I found some solace in this short, light read (one might call it ‘a meditation’) on the Japanese philosophy of Wab-sabi – a celebration and appreciation of all things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. I have yet to check out the follow-up book.


So You Want to Talk About Race  →

Confronting systemic racism

I see this book by Ijeoma Oluo and Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility as entryways to better understanding systemic racism. They certainly helped me a lot in my ongoing process to become anti-racist. As with any book on complex issues, they aren’t perfect. Luckily, there are many other books available to help us dive deeper.


The Art of Frugal Hedonism →

Spend less, enjoy more

I really enjoyed this light-hearted, easy read about how cutting back on mindless consumption can make you a more social, more creative, and generally more fulfilled person. Importantly, it doesn’t read like a typical self-help book because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. (It’s written by Australian authors, after all.)


The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet →

Feel-good science fiction

This was my first Becky Chambers book and it delivered on all the things people were recommending it for: the book creatively breaks down gender and race stereotypes and – in a smart, gentle way – reminds you of the many societal prejudices we participate in every day.


The Physician →

The journey to modern medicine

This was my first-ever historical novel that I read (in German) when I was about eighteen or so. For some reason I decided to re-read it earlier this year in English and enjoyed it even more. The Physician tells the story of an English orphan who is raised by a travelling barber and eventually makes the long journey to Persia where he becomes the first physician to operate on a living human.


Overheard on Twitter

Truly understanding the climate crisis, beyond science, money, and politics, is really an exercise in extending your empathy to people and places that you may never meet or see.



Food For Thought

A Year Like No Other →


The New York Time’s Year in Pictures reminds me of just how extraordinary the last twelve months have been: here in Australia it started with fire tornados, followed by a global pandemic, economic collapse, the worsening of the climate crisis, the unreality of US politics, and now we’re back in the bushfire season.

Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed →


On our consumer mentality: “As technologies and methods advanced, workers in all industries became able to produce much more value in a shorter amount of time. You’d think this would lead to shorter workdays. But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (...) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.”

Building a Peace Narrative →


On forming a new narrative for solving problems: “Holistic thinking understands that everything is intimately related to everything else. That everything is a part of everything else. That to exist is to be in relationship. That we are not separate individuals, but are interdependent both practically and existentially. That we are inter-existent. Therefore, anything that we see as an enemy is part of a constellation of relationships that includes ourselves.”

“Flood the zone with shit” →


On how misinformation overwhelmed our democracy: “We’re in an age of manufactured nihilism. The issue for many people isn’t exactly a denial of truth as such. It’s more a growing weariness over the process of finding the truth at all. And that weariness leads more and more people to abandon the idea that the truth is knowable.”

Six Ways to Think Long-term →


On how to embrace long-term perspectives: “Around 100 billion people have lived and died in the past 50,000 years. But they, together with the 7.7 billion people currently alive, are far outweighed by the estimated 6.75 trillion people who will be born over the next 50,000 years.”

Sacha Baron Cohen’s Award Speech →


On the dangers of Facebook’s business model: “Facebook will run any ‘political’ ad you want, even if it’s a lie. And they’ll even help you micro-target those lies to their users for maximum effect. Under this twisted logic, if Facebook were around in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads on his ‘solution’ to the ‘Jewish problem’.”

This Is How To Change Someone’s Mind →


On how to have a conversation with someone you fundamentally disagree with: “Use the ‘Unread Library Effect’: Let them talk. Ask questions. Let them expose their ignorance. Do not cheer when that happens.”

Vegans vs omnivores →


On sustainable diets without the dogma: “We need to move away from the false dichotomy of vegan vs omnivore. We are asking the wrong questions. It would be better to ask ‘How can we create food production systems that best meet human needs while increasing ecological health?’”

A Mile an Hour →


On running a ‘productive’, fun marathon over 24 hours: “I get asked a lot ‘Why do you run, Beau? Why do you scavenge for old wood?’ Well, unless you’re hunting for food or making a baby, there is no real point to anything. So I ask myself: what’s really the point of all this? And I think, well, I may have just had the ultimate day... of running and making and fixing and being.”

After dread →


On where to go from here: “Change happens where power meets appetite, but dread stems from a lack of agency: the future is only something to fear if we can’t influence it. And lack of agency is surely a hallmark of recent years.”


Aesthetically Pleasing


Hanging on my fridge: Max Guther’s illustrated timeless calendar A Modern Man is a “calendar for those who encourage change”. Available from his shop.


The Barrington Tops cabin remains one of my favourite tiny house designs because of its robust interiors and overall simplicity.


Perhaps my favourite brand/packaging design featured in DD this year was that of Casa Cardona. Brilliant, from ideation to execution.


One of the many great typefaces that launched this year: the beautifully bold Degular.


National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder is not just a great nature photographer, his photographic reporting from the US elections and protests has been sobering as much as heartwarming.


My favourite apartment renovation and interior design project is this plywood & terrazzo beauty in Melbourne.


One of my favourite pieces of architecture that looks more like a sculpture: The Camp Adventure Park Tower, a 900 meter treetop walk connected to a 45 meter tall observation tower in the preserved forest Gisselfeld Klosters Skove, one hour south of Copenhagen, Denmark.


The concrete sculpture work by David Umemoto reminds me of playing Monument Valley.


Never Too Small was one of my favourite YouTube discoveries. A channel dedicated to tiny apartment designs. And this 35-sqm apartment in Melbourne remains my personal highlight.



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The Week in a GIF


Email or tweet us the URL to your favourite GIF and we might feature it here in a future issue.