Our world is an ecosystem in which our only real chance at survival as a species is cooperation, community, and care, but it’s being led by people who believe in an egosystem, run on competition, power, and self-interest.

– Austin Kleon


Featured artist: Isabel Sousa

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 165!

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We all have our ways of dealing with a world that feels increasingly messy and on edge. I tend to fight that sort of anxiety by turning into a control freak. When the outside falls apart, my mind gets busy constructing a neatly organised routine I can rely on.

Stuck at home during the lockdowns, I doubled down on my methodical approach, almost pedantically adhering to routines that gave my day structure and my mind the calming illusion of normality.

With social and cultural life returning here in Australia (at least for now), I struggle letting go of said routines. A part of me is rejoicing about friends and events filling up my calendar again. But another part suddenly feels irritated, not to say annoyed, by other people. I catch myself saying things like: “I was more productive during lockdown.”

Devin Kelly’s heartfelt piece ​​I Miss it All (see also Food for Thought below) could not have come at a better time. I was just feeling awful for thinking of my friends as an inconvenience when Kelly reminded me that it’s a feeling imposed on us by a system obsessed with productivity.

Kelly enjoys long runs and here he describes how dealing with the many little ‘inconveniences’ of exercising with others is exactly what makes human connections meaningful and helps us overcome our differences:

“When we have been alone in so many ways for so long, I worry that we run the risk of losing the ability to find value in one another organically, in the ways people know best. The small, daily inconveniences of life. The long run cut too short. The short run ventured long. …”

“When I’m running with my friends, I often think of how incomprehensible it is that we are friends. I’m a teacher who wakes up early to read. One of my friends hasn’t read a book in years. And yet, because of how often we have moved together through inconveniences, how often we have breathed side by side, or how often one of us has paused while the other has tied a shoe or sprinted into a bathroom or stopped for a drink of water, we have learned the value of connection brought on by vulnerability, the love required to go by the same stopwatch while moving, sometimes, at different speeds, each of us with wholly different needs.”

I really like his point about the importance of not just being with or next to others (like we so often are with phone in hand, eyes on screen) but among one other:

“To be among those who love us means to be among the all-ness of those who love us. To be among the dailiness of us. Our minor squabbles, our pettiness, our arguments and frustrations. It means to spend time. The kind of time, these days, that we are told is better spent producing or consuming. The kind of time, these days, that we are told is better spent alone. Maybe with. Maybe next to. Still alone.”

“If friendship becomes commodified and the experience of community becomes increasingly eliminated [from] the various intricacies of being among people, we lose the sometimes hard, sometimes surprising, sometimes fucked up, sometimes beautiful paths that are not simply the same path each day. Maybe we lose learning how to apologize. Maybe we lose learning how to say thank you. We lose, almost certainly, many moments of gratitude.”

We’re constantly told to eradicate everything (and everyone) that stands in the way of our most productive selves. And with life increasingly unfolding online (how about that metaverse?!), dealing with the fickleness of human behaviour is becoming optional.

Thank you, Devin, for reminding me to appreciate the many little inconveniences that are a natural part of being among others and to see them as opportunities for connection, not barriers to productivity. – Kai


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Apps & Sites

New Public →

A community for ‘digital urban planners’

A somewhat delayed ‘congrats’ to the folks at New Public, a new community/publication/research space that wants to inspire and connect designers and technologists to build more, flourishing digital public spaces. This is a great (looking) intro to their work. But also don’t miss issue 1 of their digital magazine. And what a wonderful purpose statement, including: “We invite you to join us in this effort – because it’s going to take all of us – to move beyond the necessary critiques of our online spaces and start thinking like digital urban planners about the spaces we want to inhabit in the future.”

Grist →

Database builder

For those who find Airtable too unwieldy and spreadsheets too boring, Grist offers a simplified database builder with different in- and output layouts and adjustable access levels.

Skittish →

Game-like meeting space

Skittish is not another video chat platform. It’s a playful space where your cute 3D animal avatar (you) meet with other animal characters (team mates?) in a custom-built world to hang, chat or watch a video/talk together.

Click That Hood →

Identify geo locations

A simple guess-the-location game with great fun and educational value. Can you locate countries on the African continent? What about Alaska’s indigenous peoples and languages or London’s tube stations?


Worthy Five: Emma Blomkamp


Five recommendations by co-design coach and researcher Emma Blomkamp

A video worth watching:

A gorgeous and moving example of co-creation and the power of storytelling, Liyana is a partially animated documentary narrated by children living in a home for orphans in Swaziland (Southern Africa).

A recipe worth trying:

On one of our snap lockdowns, I chucked on some pyjamas and baked this ‘crazy [New Zealand] Italian chocolate cake’, and everything felt OK (until the cake had disappeared within 48 hours). It’s one of those ‘I can't believe it’s vegan’ recipes.

A word worth knowing:

‘Suffonsified’, in the regional Canadian dialect of my friend seanna, is a way of saying satisfied or satiated. It’s a great concept, because learning what enough looks like is an essential act of both self-care and resistance in the world we’re living in.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

Luke Craven writes succinctly and coherently about systemic design and complexity in Pig on the Tracks.

A quote worth repeating:

“We need to remember to listen as much as we talk, especially if we are in a place where we might have a little bit more power than other people, and to talk as much as we listen, especially if we have less power than the people around us.” I recently rediscovered this quote from a 2019 interview with Gloria Steinem, and reckon it should be a guiding principle for every meeting.


Books & Accessories


Speed & Scale →

A climate change action plan

A book that’s advocating for climate action written by an American venture capitalist will inevitably be heavy on technology and market opportunity. The list of contributors is impressive, though, and I like the clarity of its approach, as shown on the book’s equally eloquent website.


Know Your Place →

Creating spaces with purpose

This lovely new book about place-making with purpose, published by a small UK indie publisher, recently caught my eye: “Have you ever looked at your surroundings and wondered why so much of it looks the same? Many of the places that surround us were designed by committee to achieve little more than to create sellable spaces and shareholder value. But sometimes it happens differently. And when it does, those places feel great. We want to come back to them again and again. That’s because those places were built with purpose.”


Overheard on Twitter

Not now sweetie, mommy is tying her self-worth to her career.



Food for Thought

I Miss it All →


I really enjoyed this long, poetic, deeply emotional piece about the commodification of our day-to-day lives, friendships and community. “...in a world where it sometimes feels we have to jerry rig into our lives both what we love to do and who we love to do it with, where we have to apologize for the excesses of personality that are not the same as the excesses of production, where we have to somehow – I did not know this was possible, tell me if it’s possible – make time, we lose the possibilities of connection that make up so much of the inherent value of a life.”

To Build a Beautiful World, You First Have to Imagine It →


It’s easy to get anxious thinking about a planet ravaged by climate change. We seldomly spend energy imagining what a positive future could look like. That’s why I loved this short piece with a call to ‘imagine better’ – because we can’t leave future-building only up to artists or corporate ‘thoughtleaders’. “The real question isn’t about what the world is doing, it’s about what we’re doing. It’s not whether the world is ending or beginning. It’s whether we’re creating or destroying it. And the answer is, of course, both.”

Paradise lost: The rise and ruin of Couchsurfing.com →


This long read will take you on a wild journey documenting the phenomenon that is/was Couchsurfing – from its chaotic, rebellious beginnings to its rocky transition into an investor-backed company struggling to find a profitable business model.


Aesthetically Pleasing

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“New Mexico artist Ra Paulette has been creating natural crevasses in the New Mexico wilderness and painstakingly chiseling, digging, and carving intricate underground wonderlands. ... Paulette considers his creations more of a hobby or public service than a money-making venture and generally just leaves the caves to be discovered by others when he is finished.” Imagine randomly stumbling across a magical place like that...

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Nikon’s Photomicrography Competition celebrates photography through the light microscope. Here are two of 2021’s top 20. Top: Trichome (white appendages) and stomata (purple pores) on a southern live oak leaf. Bottom: Sensory neuron from an embryonic rat.

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Barcelona-based architect and artist Víctor Enrich creates curious, organic deformations of existing buildings that play with their architectonic structure.

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FK Grotesk represents a rigid typeface with a mechanical appearance, suitable for both small text and large headlines. Subtle ink traps and sharp corners provide distinctive and eye-catching detail at large point sizes.”



Solid Stories is a collection of hand-printed silkscreen prints with a focus on abstract form and bold colors, embracing change, process & spontaneity with each iteration.

ManualTesting.dev – manage your test results, stop struggling with spreadsheets. Give it a try and take your test management to the next level.

GLYPHICONS® are precisely prepared monochromatic icons and symbols, created with an emphasis to simplicity and easy orientation.

Feeling professionally burnt out or creatively unfulfilled? You are not alone. Accomplished creatives at a crossroad who are ready to reinvent rely on Coach Peleg Top for guidance.

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The Week in a GIF


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Did You Know?

There’s no conclusive explanation for why we yawn.

There are a range of proposed causes for yawning, but none have been scientifically proven. One suggests that yawning helps expel surplus carbon dioxide; another that it assists our body in controlling brain temperature. What scientists seem to agree on, though, is its contagiousness: we are more likely to yawn when we observe it in others. That even applies to animals like cats and dogs.