The only real progress lies in learning to be wrong all alone.

– Albert Camus


Artwork by James Curran

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 13!

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Being able to read broadly these days requires an ever-growing list of paid subscriptions which means access to high-quality online content is increasingly reserved to those who can afford it. On the other hand, as someone who reads quite a lot online I couldn’t be happier about the collapse of invasive banner ads. With more and more of the financial support now coming from readers instead of corporations, the term ‘independent publishing’ gains a new meaning.

With these thoughts in mind I‘ve recently pondered a pretty controversial idea: what if Dense Discovery went sponsor-free and charged a small monthly fee?

I know what you’re thinking, ‘Not another subscription!‘ The truth is, however, that finding sponsors is becoming ever more difficult. With smart, contextual pay-per-click advertising taking over, the ol’ banner ad or sponsor message is struggling to survive. And hiding ‘native ads’ somewhere in the content is a no-go for me.

So out of curiosity I’d like to ask you: Would you pay a few bucks every month to keep receiving Dense Discovery?

I might do a few more of these quick surveys in the coming weeks to get a better idea of where to take DD and what it could morph into. Thanks for adding your voice. – Kai


Dear Future Colleague,


I wasn’t made for the traditional design career track. You graduate, take a junior position and spend the next 10 years stuffing your portfolio just to claw your way to a director role. As I worked my way up, I discovered a bit of irony. The further up you move in an organisation, you get further and further away from the work; the stuff that got you interested in the first place. If this sounds familiar – here’s my letter to you. (John, Reaktor)


Apps & Sites

Getform →

Form endpoints to collect data

Even the simplest of HTML forms on your own website are exposed to bots and spam attacks. With Getform you design your form any way you like and let their endpoints do the heavy lifting for you.

Stitch →

A CRM for your creative network

Whether you’re self-employed or run your own company, managing the many people you interact with to bring creative projects to life can be tricky. Typical CRM software is too sales-focused and too cumbersome to keep up-to-date. Stitch is trying to fill the gap between your contact list and a fully fledged CRM tool, allowing you to give structure to your creative network.

Level →

A calmer Slack alternative

Still in invitation-only beta, Level promises to be a team communications tool that focuses on reducing interruptions: ‘Level assumes that most conversations are not urgent enough to pull makers out of their deep work.’

everyday →

Visualised habit tracking

We seem to keep up this habit of creating new habit trackers. (I’m keeping track.) I suggest making it a habit to change your habit tracker until you find the one that best tracks your habits.


Opinion: Lifestyle Solutionism


The smart salt shaker solves a few problems – and creates even more.

Kickstarter began as a crowdfunding platform that helped artists bring less financially lucrative projects to life. While that spirit lives on, the Kickstarter of today is often seen as a marketing platform for crowdfunding agencies that push yet another lifestyle gadget on people receptive of FOMO-driven ads.

Kickstarter is not entirely to blame for this shift. It coincided with aggressive growth in social media advertising and the general trend towards what I call ‘lifestyle solutionism’ – the idea of ‘fixing’ fatuous everyday problems with expensive, resource-hungry, and overly technical solutions. Ironically, the people of this gadget maker movement and their target audience belong to the same section of society (wealthy, educated middle class) that laments inaction in the face of a looming environmental catastrophe.

It’s difficult to escape the lure of lifestyle solutionism. (Yep, this very newsletter also regularly features novel crowdfunding projects.) The notion of ‘upgrading’ your life through feel-good consumerism has strong appeal. That app-controlled, AI-powered lumbar support belt gives 2% of its profits to a health charity so it’s a win win for society, right?

Kickstarter just launched a new green guide that encourages makers to consider the environmental impact of their products. But green consumerism is still consumerism.

It’s time to question our intentions for making things. We continue to use ‘design’ as an excuse for lifestyle solutionism. However, Steve Jobs famously said ‘Design is how it works’ not ‘Design is why it exists’. Looking at yet another Kickstarter ad on Instagram, I wonder whether the best thing we can do to solve the world’s problems is to stop making (up) new ones.


Goods & Accessories


Room →

A private space for open offices

Room is essentially a more comfortable version of the old phonebooth, but for your office. Finding privacy for video conferencing in an open office has become a real challenge (my shared office here in Melbourne is no different). Room offers a great-looking though expensive (and US-only) escape room.


Mindful Design →

Human-centred design

‘Mindful Design presents a responsible deep dive into the areas of cognitive psychology and neuroscience that can most improve design. If you want to start making products that integrate into lifestyles instead of interrupting them, Mindful Design is for you.’ Open for pre-orders.


Overheard on Twitter

A simple and realistic hack list: Work hard. Be nicer to people than you need to be. Realize that luck is real and under-observed, so be careful treating actions as a direct cause of both success and failure.



Food For Thought

The Fear Virus →


This week’s must-read comes from Offscreen alumnus Angus Hervey: ‘When the [fear-inducing] stories reach you, don’t cough and pass them on. Every time you do that you act as a vector, infecting your friends, your family or your followers. Make sure the fear virus stops with you. That’s the very least you can do.’ (If you’re hitting Medium's paywall, read this article here instead.)

The Human Toll of Instant Delivery →


Tasha Murrell is a warehouse employee who shares her experience working for a sub-contractor in charge of fulfilment for companies like Amazon. The need for instant gratification have turned people like her into a commodity – soon to be replaced by machines.

How Hackers Are Stealing High-Profile Instagram Accounts →


As if the world of Instagram ‘influencer’ marketing wasn’t objectionable and weird enough, this article about ‘influencer hacking’ takes it to a whole new level.


Aesthetically Pleasing


Rosa de Jong creates miniature worlds out of twigs and rocks. Also for sale in a test tube.


In Moodles and his other work, Ari Weinkle breaks apart and re-appropriates different forms such as the human figure, geometric and organic shapes.


Protokoll draws its inspiration from a couple of sturdy and technical typefaces such as Folio, Permanent and Record.


The visual history of computing 1945–1979.



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