People do not seem to realise that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


Featured artist: Edgaras

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 191!

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I’ve lately spent a fair amount of time filling out surveys, attending Zoom meetings and writing submissions in support of local issues: bike lanes, park extensions, zoning changes, neighbourhood renewal projects, etc. This usually involves navigating cumbersome government websites and reading through pages of formal lingo. If it sounds boring and tedious, it’s because it is.

Staying on top of local developments, understanding how and when decisions are made, and how one can participate in that process – it all requires the luxury of time. It’s just one example of why being an engaged citizen is often reserved to those with a certain amount of privilege. It’s no surprise that many progressive initiatives are met with conservative backlash when local meetings are overwhelmingly attended by white boomers.

I previously wrote about how inspired I am by young leaders calling out the lack of courage and leadership in our environmental crisis. While on the world stage, the voices of younger generations are growing in strength and resolve, on the local level it’s mostly older folks who are calling the shots, often pushing councils to embrace a NIMBY agenda that preserves the status quo.

If we want our neighbourhoods to thrive in the face of a rapidly changing world, we need more YIMBYs (and sometimes QIMBYs) to push for a positive, forward-thinking vision on the local level. Of course, my intentions are not entirely selfless – I want my own neighbourhood to be a nice place to live – but I wish more people from different generations who have the privilege of time would recognise it as such and make good use of it. At the very least, getting involved in local issues can offer a sense of agency that federal or global ones usually cannot. – Kai


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Apps & Sites

Callin →

Social podcasting

I’m not much of a podcaster, but I can see how Callin could add a missing social element to the podcast experience. It’s a Twitter-like platform to help discover new shows, host (live) shows and engage with the host and other listeners.

Claap →

Async video collaboration

On the rare occasions I do client work these days, I usually present my work in short screencasts rather than elaborate meetings. Claap aims to make this easier and more interactive: you create asynchronous videos (explaining design drafts, for example) that you can share with colleagues and clients. They can then highlight and comment on parts of the screencast or respond to polls about preferred options.

Bionic Reading →

Faster reading (?)

This novel approach to making reading easier/faster has made the rounds on the internet recently. It’s fun to play around with it – use the converter to experiment. As usual, the internet has deemed it a hot new thing and I’m sure there’ll be several apps copying the idea soon. But as you can read in the statement by founder Renato Casutt on the homepage, the research into whether it actually makes any difference is mixed so far.

Tip of My Tongue →

Word finder

It’s so satisfying when you finally remember a word that’s been on the tip of your tongue, right? This little tool can help with that: add part of the word, its length or even part of its meaning, and it’ll spit out a list of possible matches.


Worthy Five: Wesley Verhoeve


Five recommendations by photographer and curator Wesley Verhoeve

A piece of advice worth passing on:

If you’re a photographer, or other creative, do not wait for a publication to give you permission to tell a story you care about. Self-assign that story today and then bring it to a publication later. Take charge.

A quote worth repeating :

I believe there is a Jay-Z lyric for every situation in life. A friend was having a hard time on Twitter today and I shared this one: “A wise man told me don’t argue with fools coz people from a distance can’t tell who is who.”

A podcast worth listening to:

What Had Happened Was is a wonderful podcast in which rapper Open Mike Eagle sits down with legendary creators in hip hop to discuss their legacy over the course of a full season. Prince Paul, Dante Ross, and El-P have been guests so far.

A recipe worth trying:

My grandma’s stinging nettle soup, especially right now in spring when you can forage it most places. This recipe comes close.

An activity worth doing:

Walking – during phone meetings, during in-person meetings, after dinner, to work out ideas in your head. There are so many medically proven benefits!


Books & Accessories


Consumed →

Exploring our culture of exploitation

A hugely interesting title that takes us through the hideously complex world of fashion and sustainability, laying bare its colonial roots and how we can uproot a system that continues to oppress. Consumed asks us to look at how and why we buy what we buy, how it’s created, who it benefits, and how we can solve the problems created by a wasteful system. ... Consumed will teach you how to be a citizen and not a consumer.”


Designerly ways of knowing →

How to think about design

A cute little book about better ways to think about (and do) design, by one of my favourite design critics and researchers, Danah Abdulla. “If you take away the post-its, the A3 papers and the markers, can designers think? ... [This] iterative list is not meant to be a definitive how to guide, but to spark conversations, to prompt critical thinking and to help designers reconfigure their discipline.” Friends of DD enjoy a 20% discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.


Overheard on Twitter

Thinking of all the epidemiologists who switched their expertise to eastern European politics and are now experts in inflation.



Food for Thought

Hope beyond rugged individualism →


The belief in an individualistic, self-reliant society is one of North America’s biggest exports: from career success to living healthily, everything is possible if you just try hard enough. Tara McMullin goes back to President Hoover’s notion of ‘rugged individualism’ to highlight the shortcomings of a philosophy based on a very narrow slice of the population. “What could happen if we replaced the philosophy of rugged individualism with a philosophy of rugged cooperation? What if we swapped out the scripts we’ve learned in an individualist culture with the curiosity and care of a collaborative culture? And how would your business or career shift if you approached it not as your best way to climb to the top in a flawed system but as a laboratory for experimenting with ruggedly cooperative systems?”

We can do better than ‘same, but electric’ →


A great little piece that shows how much of our engineering and design thinking is hardwired to accommodate the way fossil fuels generate power. The age of electrification offers so many opportunities to rewrite these rules. “Fossil fuels are volatile, awkward, and leaky. Engines are bulky, balky, and have lots of moving parts. Accommodating all that in something like a car requires zillions of design compromises, many of which we’ve been making for so long that we’ve long since forgotten that they are compromises at all.”

A day in the life of (almost) every vending machine in the world →


A lovely longread offering rare peek inside the world of vending machines and their operators. These machines are so omnipresent, especially in places like Japan, that we rarely think about the logistics and innovation involved behind the scenes that keep them serving us. “He was drawn to vending because he liked the idea of earning money while he slept, ate, studied, interviewed for other jobs, and in general applied his energies elsewhere. Ignoring for a moment the fierce battle for plots, the maintenance stresses, the logistical feats required to keep far-flung machines stocked and clean, at the core of any vendor’s ambition there is often a dream of becoming rich while doing better things. This dream is not always achievable. The second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-hand machines being sold online are a testament to the many dabblers who plunge in only to beat an eventual retreat.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

I can’t get enough of Bernhard Lang’s aerial photography. His newest series is called Boneyard: “Housing the largest aircraft and missile facility around the globe, the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson is a trove of aviation history. The Arizona boneyard is responsible for nearly 4,000 vehicles that are maintained, recycled for parts, and stored across miles of the dry, desert landscape.”

❏ ❏

More of this please: small-footprint, carbon-neutral architecture. House A is the first of three carbon neutral dwellings in Scarborough made from high recycled content concrete panels and whitewashed recycled brick. The house is 3 storey mini tower with a garage underneath and a loft on top. Minimal land, minimal house, minimal life.”

❏ ❏

If you think of a business offering payroll, HR and compliance services, you may not imagine a fun, type-driven brand. But this design for Justworks makes it stand out successfully. It’s built around a beautiful custom typeface by Colophon Foundry and a handful of bold colours.

❏ ❏

If you’re into sign painting, then you will like the beautiful rythm and cursivity of Chaumont Script.


Notable Numbers


Ride-hailing services like Uber are cheap because each ride is subsidised by venture capital. In the five-odd years since Uber’s finances became public, the company has lost more than $30 billion.


US Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms. In 2020, Americans bought about 22.8 million firearms.


To help offset high energy prices, the German government is offering a nationwide public transport ticket. For three months starting June 1, the special ticket will cost just 9 euros per month for use of all subways, buses, trams and regional trains anywhere in the country.



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