Nature shrinks as capital grows. The growth of the market cannot solve the very crisis it creates.

– Vandana Shiva


Featured artist: Yoshiyuki Yagi

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 164!

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So, COP26 has come and gone. I dipped in and out of coverage, not pinning my hopes on an event whose 25 previous instalments have done nothing to decrease or even slow carbon emissions.

As expected, it was an event rich in rhetoric and poor in action. Some memorable highlights include Kenyian climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti, Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley and trusty old Sir David Attenborough.

Now that COP26 is over, I’m reading through media commentary that is trying to place it somewhere between success and failure. From a moral perspective, the outcome is unambiguous: whatever vague promises have been made by the Global North, even in the most ideal scenario, it’s still a death sentence for millions of people in the Global South – a point that climate justice activist Asad Rehman made succinctly in his short closing remarks.

(By the way, here is an impressive chart that shows just how huge the emissions gap between rich and poor really is. And before you hate on the rich 1%, maybe first check whether you’re one of them.)

For all its demoralising shortcomings, this year’s COP at least put the spotlight on inspiring young activists who (reluctantly) embody the urgently required shift from passively concerned to actively alarmed. Isn’t it telling that young people look at a conference of world leaders and find leadership and hope mostly in their own contemporaries?

And that, perhaps, is why I don’t feel completely downbeat: every time our leaders walk away with nothing but wilful disregard for the future, the angry voices of the young and engaged are growing in strength and resolve. I just hope they can reach a tipping point before the climate does. – Kai


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d.MBA →

Free 7-day email course

Take the Mini Design MBA and learn business skills relevant for designers. Each day, you will receive an email, introducing a fundamental business concept. It will help you level up and create more impact with your design work.


Apps & Sites

Pulse →

Message board for teams

Pulse is another contender in the growing market of asynchronous Slack alternatives. It offers a range of features not dissimilar to typical message boards: threaded comments, mentions of teams or users, marking comments as explicit decisions, notifications of new activities, and more.

Mimestream →

The unofficial MacOS Gmail client?

Mimestream’s key selling point: a native MacOS email client for Gmail that doesn’t rely on the sometimes patchy experience of the IMAP protocol. It’s early (beta) days for the app, but more useful features, such as instant unsubscribe from newsletters, are coming.

Deepl →

Better translations

Google Translate works pretty well for translating small chunks of copy, but when it comes to longer texts, nothing beats the quality of Deepl. Based on some English <> German tests I ran, Deepl’s machine learning algorithms get it impressively right almost all of the time.

SeriesHeat →

TV show heatmaps

Not really a tool with a lot of practical use, but it’s fun to browse nevertheless: select a TV show and get a heatmap of average IMDb ratings for each episode.


Worthy Five: Laura Yarrow


Five recommendations by Head of Design at UK Central Government Laura Yarrow

A quote worth repeating:

“Don’t trust the map, trust the compass!” A great acknowledgement that we often don’t have a fully formed map of the terrain that lays ahead. A good compass (a good set of values), however, can always help us find the way.

A video worth watching:

The TED talk ‘Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!’ by Ernesto Sirolli is a passionate, hilarious and important talk about really understanding how – and if – people want your help through listening. I would urge anyone designing or building anything to focus on the valuable skill of listening.

A book worth reading:

I recently read The Machine Stops written in 1909 by E.M Forster and found it an unsettling accompaniment to the global pandemic. It describes a dystopian future where everyone lives in isolation underground and communicates via screens – spookily relevant to the present day!

A podcast worth listening to:

In each episode, Flash Forward takes on a possible (or not so possible) future scenario. For example, what if we all had a digital double in the future? It’s really thought provoking.

A question worth asking:

We often ask ‘Who is this design for? Who is the user?’, but we don’t ask often enough ‘Who got to do this design? Who was involved?’ Reflecting on who is being included in the design process is an important step to an inclusive design practice. Something Sasha Costanza-Chock reminds us of in their book Design Justice.


Books & Accessories


Extreme Cities →

The future of cities in a new climate

An interesting deep-dive into how cities can/can’t cope with the climate to come: “...cities are ground zero for climate change, contributing the lion’s share of carbon to the atmosphere, while also lying on the frontlines of rising sea levels. Today, the majority of the world’s megacities are located in coastal zones, yet few of them are adequately prepared for the floods that will increasingly menace their shores. Instead, most continue to develop luxury waterfront condos for the elite and industrial facilities for corporations.”


Fondfolio →

A book made by friends

I rarely recommend gifts (I’m a pretty strict material non-gifter) but this one may fall under my exemption rules: through a highly customised questionnaire, Fondfolio collects special memories, thoughts and experiences from friends and family and then compiles them into a beautiful, hand-made, one-of-a-kind book. My friend Lina recently shared her positive experience. (I contributed to her book.) Friends of DD enjoy a $25 discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.


Overheard on Twitter

Everyday my emails get closer to just saying: “Thank you. Unfortunately, I just don’t want to.”



Food for Thought

How to put sustainability at the heart of your career →


A short advice piece on sustainability leadership at work. The main take-away here is that you don’t need to be a sustainability expert to be the one who starts the conversation at your company. “While the environmental issues that make our society profoundly unsustainable are multifaceted and complex, their origin lies in one simple thing – humans are part of nature but we don’t feel like we are – so we don’t act like we are.”

The Nothingness of Money →


How much of our lives are we occupied with thinking/worrying about money, and is it justified? A simple, light-hearted read with an illustrated answer to that question (for people privileged enough to ponder it). “If a friend told you that he wanted ‘I outperformed the S&P 500’ on his tombstone, your immediate reaction would be to laugh. There is no way you’d take it as anything other than a joke. The key is to take that exact feeling and remind yourself of it whenever money hijacks your attention. That when you’re fixated on its pursuit, you can break the spell by understanding how laughable it is to be remembered for it. That in the end, it will have very little to say about the person you are.”

How to be a man →


This piece doesn’t just rehash popular theories about the shortcomings of masculine identity but instead advocates for an approach that gives men the space and nuance to find a better version of masculinity, one that suits each individual’s circumstances. “Rethinking masculinity gives us an opportunity to access and integrate the deeper, authentic parts of ourselves that many men have been taught to fear and, in turn, hide. (Think: sensitivity and compassion. Facing our shame and fears. Helping and trusting other men.) Adopting a new brand of masculine strength gives us permission to expand the potential of our identities.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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It’s easy to get lost in the dreamlike, slightly dystopian fantasy worlds of digital artist Eliseo H. Zubiri.

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The combination of oiled timber, raw concrete, galvanised steel, and bagged brick with a subtle pink pigment makes this Melbourne home especially warm and welcoming. I love how the architects managed to bring the outside in with stone floors that open up to give room for plants to grow out of. (via)

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These cliff dwellings in Shangrao, in China’s Jiangxi Province, are not for the faint-hearted. There’s a short video on Instagram, too. (via)

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My internet friend Dan Cederholm has a new font out: “Inspired by old video game labels, Cartridge is a new display sans-serif that evokes quintessential 80s vibes.”



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Did You Know?

High-heeled shoes were first designed for men.

Dating back to the 10th century, heeled shoes were used by the Persian cavalry, particularly by those riding horses (the heel offered better foothold). During the Medieval period, some heels reached up to 76cm (30in) in height, in part to allow nobles to rise above the trash and excrement filled streets. In the 17th century, high heels became a status symbol for the upper classes in Europe. From the Pope to King Louis XIV, high heels were a sign of nobility and masculinity.