Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.

– bell hooks


Featured artist: Christian Arnder

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 143!

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You decide to upgrade your laptop. It arrives a few days later, along with the new sleeve and adapters you added to the cart during checkout. That new screen is stunning and it really puts your old external monitor to shame. So now you’re eyeing that beautiful new 5K monitor to match. But gosh, those built-in speakers are pathetic. Luckily, Apple just released a new set of noise-cancelling headphones. And on and on it goes...

We’ve all been in a situation like that. We get a new thing and it triggers a waterfall of purchases because suddenly the stuff we already own looks shabby in comparison. There is a word for it: it’s called the Diderot effect – a phenomenon based on an essay by eighteenth-century philosopher Denis Diderot.

“...he tells how the gift of a beautiful scarlet dressing gown leads to unexpected results, eventually plunging him into debt. Initially pleased with the gift, Diderot came to rue his new garment. Compared to his elegant new dressing gown, the rest of his possessions began to seem tawdry and he became dissatisfied that they did not live up to the elegance and style of his new possession. He replaced his old straw chair, for example, with an armchair covered in Moroccan leather; his old desk was replaced with an expensive new writing table; his formerly beloved prints were replaced with more costly prints, and so on. ‘I was absolute master of my old dressing gown’, Diderot writes, ‘but I have become a slave to my new one.’”

To fight the consumption urge, in his post on the Diderot effect, James Clear recommends reducing our exposure to new things. That seems increasingly difficult, though, because our digital overlords seem to understand the Diderot effect better than anyone. If you ever clicked on a sponsored post on Instagram, their algorithmic ad engine will bombard you with related products for months.

If Denis Diderot lived today, I wonder if he were so miserable about his addiction to new stuff. More likely he’d be sharing photos of himself on that Moroccan leather chair, spruiking the newest pants to his adoring followers in a post sponsored by some fast fashion company. “You need these! 😍” – Kai


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The Browser →

Curated reading for curious minds

With over 70,000 readers, The Browser is the world’s second-favourite curation newsletter, selecting five fascinating pieces of writing each day on strange and varied topics, while completely ignoring the news. Join with a free preview, then get 20% off your first year with the code DD20.


Apps & Sites

Whimsical →

Writing and visual tools in one place

When I first featured Whimsical in DD more than two years ago it was mostly a wireframing tool. Since then it’s morphed into a full suite of apps that combines Notion-like documents with a range of visual tools for wireframing, flowcharting, mindmapping and more.

Screenotate →

Convert screenshots to text

This macOS and Windows app works like an OCR scanner for screenshots: take a screenshot of any text and the app will convert the image into real text and save it to your clipboard. Especially handy for people doing research with scanned materials.

Tech for Good →

Community for positive impact tech

I’ve been following the Tech for Good platform for a while but lately they really stepped up their newsletter game and it’s become one of the best all-round weekly sources for people interested in positive, purpose-driven tech projects – whether you want to start, work for or invest in one. Here’s the latest issue.

Travel Remotely →

Explore cities and their radio stations

How to satisfy the urge to travel in a pandemic? This delightful side project lets you pick a city, a method of transport (walk, car, train), a time of the day and a radio station, and then virtually invites you to explore that place. Internet at its best.


Worthy Five: Kriston Chen


Five recommendations by designer and mas maker Kriston Chen

A book worth reading:

With all the obsession around cryptocurrency, Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics offers some fresh perspectives around money systems, from gift economies to modern capitalism.

A word worth knowing:

Duende is a Spanish term for a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity. Poet Federico García Lorca writes in depth about it here.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

Meanwhile by book cover designer Daniel Benneworth-Gray is a well-written and curated newsletter about design. There’s a handful of newsletters that I open consistently and read all the way, this is one of them. I am always surprised.

A quote worth repeating:

‘The farthest you can travel is to come back to the place you already are and see that place with new eyes.’ by T.S. Elliot. Our relationship to home is different with quarantine and less travel. We are like small islands now, in how we connect with each other and how we learn to be resilient. We’re more in tune with how we live.

An activity worth doing:

Stilt-dancing is a favourite past time here in Trinidad and Tobago. It carries with it cultural and historical significance, but is also one of the most fun things you can do.




Shape →

The hidden geometry of everything

I just love the bold premise of this book: “Shape reveals the geometry underneath some of the most important scientific, political, and philosophical problems we face. Geometry asks: Where are things? Which things are near each other? How can you get from one thing to another thing? Those are important questions. The word ‘geometry’ comes from the Greek for ‘measuring the world’. If anything, that’s an undersell. Geometry doesn’t just measure the world – it explains it. Shape shows us how.”


Sowing Seeds →

Stories of individual empowerment

An Australian independent publication that a friend recently put on my radar: “Sowing Seeds is a seasonal print and online magazine that attempts to uplift stories of individuals not engaged in business as usual, in order to empower everyday folks with stories that create small and big changes to their lives and communities.”


Overheard on Twitter

Are you having a good day? Awesome. Just so you know, some kids refer to the 90s as the late 1900’s. You’re welcome.



Food for Thought

How To Think Beyond Ourselves →


A fantastic essay that offers a great perspective on the past and future of our species, questioning whether we deserve the title ‘Homo sapiens’ – wise human – considering the trajectory we put ourselves on. “Our innate gift for storytelling has facilitated unmatched societal cohesion, but our proclivity for telling stories that are wholly anthropocentric means we often forget that our success on Earth has not been achieved alone. ... On a good day, we are truly impressive. We created the internet, which allows billions of people to share information and resources and communicate over many thousands of miles. But networks of mycorrhizal fungi were offering the same service to trees and plants for millennia before we even had information to share – and they’re capable of transferring water and nutrients, too.”

Climate change: Is ecoguilt changing the way we travel? →


A short but surprisingly insightful interview with a professor of tourism and development about why we travel and how travel may have to change in the future. “When you can travel all the time, in my view at least, it loses the excitement. It loses its meaning. I’ve used the term ‘obesity of experience’, and I think, particularly in Europe and elsewhere, we are becoming obese on experiences. I think people will eventually begin to realize that to enjoy tourism, let’s do a bit less and really savor it when we do travel.”

Sacred Economics →


Kriston (see the Worthy Five section above) points us to the book, but this is the shortfilm and a kind of preview of the book Sacred Economics which “traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth”. Worth a watch!

Everything Is Becoming Paywalled Content – Even You →


A in-depth look at how the ‘subscription everything’ model might affect how we interact with media, institutions, and even one another. “In Rifkin’s 2001 book Age of Access, he anticipated a society not unlike the one we’ll soon have, where ‘every activity outside the confines of family relations is a paid-for experience, a world in which traditional reciprocal obligations and expectations – mediated by feelings of faith, empathy, and solidarity – are replaced by contractual relations in the form of paid memberships, subscriptions, admission charges, retainers, and fees.’”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

The Harry House is an energy-efficient home for a family of five that recently got a modern, Japanese-influenced extension. The combination of timber and concrete, wrapped in lush suburban greenery makes this place beautifully cozy. Again, a great video walk-through of the place here.

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The rebrand for the Australian Human Rights Law Centre uses an extremely simple toolset to achieve a strong, recognisable, yet flexible design system.

❏ ❏

Adele Renault is a talented painter and mural artist, covering entire building facades in colourful feather-like shapes and giant pigeon heads.

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I love the playfulness of Pleasure, with so many possible variations! “Its geometric shapes did not resist the urge to be led, for certain letters, to an extrapolation of the terminals by converting them into loops. A characteristic that gives Pleasure an original taste and a certain irony in the rolling of the eyes.”


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