We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing...an actor, a writer...I am a person who does things...I write, I act...and I never know what I'm going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.

– Stephen Fry


Artwork by Caleb Sanders

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 14!

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Wow. I really appreciate the many responses to my thoughts about paid subscriptions in the previous issue. First off, let me state again: I’m just starting a dialogue with you about this. There are no immediate plans to limit DD to paying members.

The survey (which was limited to 1000 responses because I was unaware of the cap on the survey form – doh!) yielded the following results: 26% said ‘yes’, they'd be willing to pay $4.50/month. And 74% said ‘no’. I don’t think these numbers are representative of all 17,000 subscribers, but even if just 6% of active readers ended up paying, it’d be more lucrative than the current sponsor-based model. However, I also don’t like the idea of shutting out more than 90% of my readers, so I’ll keep thinking about some other options.

Interestingly, many of you mentioned that they don’t mind or even enjoy the sponsor slot in DD since the products/services advertised fit so well into the rest of the newsletter. That’s mostly the result of me being quite selective about the sponsors I want to work with. And that, of course, makes the sponsor model even harder.

So, for the time being everything will stay the same. I have a few other ideas I’ll share in the future. Until then, the best way to support DD is to (convince your company to) become a sponsor. – Kai


Sports in Space


If sports weren’t earthbound, what would we play? Who will be ‘athletes’ in a new atmosphere of competition? What will it mean to spectate when we all play a part? The first galactic games will redefine the concept of an even playing field where we can write the rules together.

Follow along or collaborate with FRIENDS as they design the first Sports in Space.


Apps & Sites

Pocket Lists →

The ‘World’s Friendliest To-Do List App’

How can you stand out in an ocean of similar apps? Make it adorable and colourful. Pocket Lists is one of the few to-do-list apps that makes me want to use it because it looks like fun. And who wouldn't want to have some fun while squashing those to-dos?

Slite →

Shared notes and collaborative writing

I use Dropbox and Google Docs to work collaboratively on longer texts, but you end up with dozens of open tabs and it quickly gets messy. Slite takes a Slack-approach to collaborative text editing. Everything happens neatly in one simple interface.

Newton →

Feature rich, yet minimal email client

Another email client offering a slightly different user experience to ‘standard’ clients. I particularly like the idea of ‘snooze to desktop’ which removes an email from your mobile app inbox, but still shows it on your desktop. Make sure you watch the video to see some of these features in action.

Webjets →

A pinboard for your online research

Webjets looks like a brilliant tool to keep open during brainstorming and research sessions. It’s essentially an online ‘desktop’. Simply drag anything onto it to save it for later: from pictures to videos, tasks to notes, even entire Google Documents. Reorganise it into grids, lists or mind maps.


In Focus: The Pudding


It took me way too long to stumble across this: The Pudding explains ideas debated in culture with visual essays by wielding original datasets, primary research, and interactivity. It’s a Patreon-backed project run by six full-time ‘journalist-engineers’. What a wonderful way to explore complex themes and cultural issues! Some of my favourites:

Analysis of film dialogue by gender

Structure of standup comedy

Analysing the language of CNN, MSNBC & FOX

30 years of American anxieties

The world’s population in 3D

Women in the House of Representatives


Goods & Accessories


Solstice →

Kinetic Clock that changes shape

‘Created by London-based design studio Animaro, Solstice is a clock that turns the passing of time into a moving artwork. It gradually changes shape throughout the day, opening and closing like a flower.’ Last few days of crowdfunding on Kickstarter.


The Tarot Cards of Tech →

Contemplate the impact of your product

The Tarot Cards of Tech are meant to inspire important conversations around the future impact of technology and the products we design. Available digitally and as a real card set, it’s a playful way to encourage creators to think about the unintended consequences of their work.


Overheard on Twitter

Brexit has reached the part of a waterfall software development process where two years in you realise you aren't going to hit the deadline, your architectural assumptions were all wrong, and no-one wants what you built anyway.



Food For Thought

Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche →


Much has been written about the bizarre world of the ‘crypto kids’, but this story about being trapped at a crypto conference on a cruise ship is equally unsettling and hilarious: ‘From gentle Dark Green anarchists living in trees and Silicon Valley preppers stuffing their bunkers with Soylent, there are people of all genders and political persuasions looking to walk the plank of the good ship Reality before they’re pushed, but I’ve never met so many so transparently trying to con as many fellow travelers as as possible on their way down.’

Who Do Designers Really Work For →


Mike Monteiro keeps on fighting the good fight: ‘If a doctor behaves unethically and is caught there’s a fairly good chance they could lose their license. A designer who behaves unethically for a shady boss might get a raise.’

Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound →


I’m sure you noticed this with your own reading habits: when I read on a screen I easily get lost, distracted or find myself reading too fast to fully take in every detail. ‘When the reading brain skims texts, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings or to perceive beauty. We need a new literacy for the digital age.’

How I changed the law with a GitHub pull request →


Fixing a typo in a law through a GitHub pull request seems like a negligible text edit, but it represents a massive shift: ‘Publishing legal codes on GitHub is a real government innovation. It isn’t like the techno-solutionist blockchain nonsense that is in vogue lately. It’s the cherry on top of real work happening inside the DC government improving a process hundreds of years old.’


Aesthetically Pleasing


Humaaans is a free mix’n’match library of illustrations of people.


Pete Lacey has his own way of contributing to the debate about the importance of design. Also in writing.


Optician Sans is a free font based on the historical eye charts and optotypes used by opticians world wide.


Squarespace is presenting a brand refresh with a bespoke typeface.



We’re all ‘works in progress’. Each week, RadReads helps 15k professionals reexamine their relationship with money, time and ambition – all in pursuit of a more intentional life.

The Observers is a curious community dedicated to photography and photo books. The first season includes visionaries like Pete Souza, Joel Meyerowitz, Makeda Best, and Martin Parr.

Social online is failing to satisfy the fundamental human need for face-to-to interaction, no? Invest in the startup changing this, seriously. Email [email protected]

The web descends on Nottingham this January for New Adventures! Tackle change with Ethan Marcotte, speed up with CSS Wizardry, unwind with our fringe. Save 10% with code DDNA.

Classifieds are paid ads that support DD. Use them to promote your project, advertise a job opening, find beta testers, etc.

Book yours →


The Week in a GIF


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

[email protected]