Perseverance – a lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success.

– Ambrose Bierce


Featured artist: Alexandra Dzhiganskaya

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 199!

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This week I can finally talk about something that I’ve been working on over the past four months: a new website for Nightingale Housing. I mentioned Nightingale here before, it’s a Melbourne-based non-profit organisation with a more ethical approach to delivering medium-density housing that puts sustainability, community and affordability before profits.

I’ve been a fan of their ambitious, values-driven housing model for a long time and – as you may know – have purchased and just moved into my own Nightingale home. Working with their lovely team on delivering the new site has been a nice challenge, made even more unique through my own, lived experience as a newly minted resident.

Most conventional property developments first and foremost serve developers and investors. In Australia, property prices have gone up more than 450% since the ’90s, creating a ten-trillion-dollar property bubble. Property-as-a-commodity has flourished, while housing has become ludicrously inaccessible.

To understand how the housing crisis negatively impacts almost every other aspect of society, I highly recommend reading The Housing Theory of Everything: “Once you see the effects housing shortages have on things as wildly different as obesity, fertility, inequality, climate change and wage growth, you start to see them everywhere.”

As a tiny, idealistic non-profit, Nightingale won’t change those dynamics over night. I say ‘idealistic’ because the more I learn about how property developments work, the more I realise what any alternative model is really up against. The property industry is capitalism in its purest form. Endless layers of it, all the way down. It’s a system that benefits many, but very rarely those looking for stable, affordable, quality housing.

Nightingale doesn’t get everything right – great intentions don’t lower the cost of land or make defects magically disappear. However, it serves as a moral beacon in an industry where greed, speculation and manipulation are not just accepted but encouraged. To start, Nightingale openly recognises that the free-market system does not provide adequate housing for enough people; that the building industry is terribly wasteful and a massive contributor to the climate crisis; that poor design and policy leaves too many of us feeling disconnected from our neighbours, our streets, our cities.

As I said in an earlier issue of DD, it’s too soon to determine whether the Nightingale approach holds up to the many high expectations we all have as residents. But as someone who spent the last few months polishing texts and images for the new website while moving into a new home, I’m already convinced of one thing: what makes Nightingale unique isn’t the stylish, minimal design or the well-insulated walls or the green rooftop gardens. It’s the things you can’t see: the experience of living with people who are financially and emotionally invested in creating a home instead of a property portfolio. – Kai


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Killing Time at Work? SPONSOR


Qatalog →

Workers waste 67 mins every day due to presenteeism

Qatalog and GitLab uncover the reality of the modern workplace in a new study. It reveals that a pervasive culture of digital presenteeism and broken technology is making asynchronous work almost impossible, with workers willing to quit if they don’t get what they want.


Apps & Sites

Blurred →

macOS background dimmer

A free macOS app that lets you set and adjust a dimming level for all but the active app window, reducing the distraction of visual background noise.

Language Please →

Informed, inclusive language

The name, the intent, the execution – everything about this is just wonderful: “A free, living resource for journalists and storytellers seeking to thoughtfully cover evolving social, cultural, and identity-related topics.” They just need to add a section about climate-related coverage...

Paste →

Moodboard/slideshow builder

I wasn’t aware that WeTransfer had launched other products: Paste is a tool for creating simple, design-focused slideshows that use customisable templates to present creative ideas.

Brickit →

Brick finder

For me, playing with Lego always meant crawling around on the floor for hours trying to find the right piece. This app may be the end of that: “Just scatter your bricks on a table and take a photo. Brickit will come up with hundreds of ideas of what can be built with them and show you the exact location of each piece you’ll need.”


Worthy Five: Ashley Derrington


Five recommendations by Jill of all trades and soccer player Ashley Derrington

An Instagram account worth following:

Mark Lemon is a grief speaker, writer, and podcaster. I’ve lost my sister and my dad, and all of his posts say exactly what I’m feeling in ways I’ve never been able to fully express. His account is relatable for anyone on a grief journey.

A video worth watching:

In Honoring the Friction of Disability, the founder of The Disabled List, Liz Jackson, shares “how the things that disabled people radically fight for become the things that are empathetically done for us”. It’s an insightful perspective into design and the power of creating ‘with’ rather than ‘for’. Also, #ComicSansTakeOver

A book worth reading:

The Dinner List dives into a variety of relationships a person can have and is fun to ponder about. If you could have dinner with five people, dead or alive, who would they be? And how would they interact with each other? What would they teach you about yourself?

An activity worth doing:

Travelling – with an educational twist. Pick one specific thing to learn about and see the differences in each city or country. You uncover a lot about a culture and its people when you compare the same focus of one place to another. Try not to pick the more obvious things like food, religion or architecture.

A quote or saying worth repeating:

“That’s why some people drive red cars and some people drive blue cars.” My dad used to say this to me all the time when I was trying to understand a person or when I was frustrated with a person. It’s such a simple reminder that, yes, we are all different and can coexist even when we don’t understand each other.


Books & Accessories


Being Mortal →

Medicine and what matters in the end

I’m fascinated by surgeons’ perception of life and death. (This is a great, related podcast interview with a brain surgeon.) This book has been on my to-read list for a while: surgeon Atul Gawande talks about the limits of modern medicine when it comes to aging and death. Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life – all the way to the very end.”


HOLO #3 →

Emerging trajectories in art, science & technology

I remember when the first issue of HOLO was released – not long after Offscreen saw the light of day. The HOLO crew is back with another chonky issue all about AI. “Guest editor Nora N. Khan and fifteen luminaries question our problematic faith in and deference to AI. Exploring the limits of knowledge, prediction, language, and abstraction in computation, their collected essays and artworks measure the gap between machine learning hypotheticals and the mess of lived experience.” Friends of DD enjoy a 20% discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.


Overheard on Twitter

Have started saying the subtext out loud in conversation (eg. “by the way I’m asking for reassurance” or “this look means I want you to put that down so we can talk”) and honestly the success rate in getting what I want is much higher.



Food for Thought

Budget culture and the Dave Ramseyfication of money →


I’ve long been into budgeting when it comes to managing my personal finances, but this piece really opened my eyes to the problems with this approach. A worthwile read! “The broader problem with budget culture is its emphasis on individual responsibility and insistence on ignoring the varying levels of access and privilege in our world. It vilifies and oppresses anyone who doesn’t live up to the ideal, regardless of their circumstances. And that ideal is, unsurprisingly, rooted in maleness and whiteness in the way many of our cultural ideals are.”

What’s worse: climate denial or climate hypocrisy? →


David Wallace-Wells describes how corporate and political climate denialism has been replaced by mostly empty pledges and promises, as no country – not a single one, including the 187 that signed the Paris agreement – is on track for emissions reductions in line with a 1.5 degree target. “Yes, there’s still an awful lot of fossil-fuel propaganda out there, as well as a profusion of wishful thinking, climate poptimism and giddy techno-solutionism. But even among those who take the inevitability of warming seriously, there’s also a lot of normalization and compartmentalization, which allow many of the world’s most privileged to regard climate suffering as distant, if tragic. And there are the narrative temptations of apocalyptic thinking, too – which, while often misleading, at least gives a familiar shape to a future that can be otherwise quite difficult to make sense of.” (Possible soft paywall)

Designing for the last earth →


An imperfect read but a good reminder for designers and other professions nonetheless: past and current tools and thinking are no longer fit for the future we’re creating. “So how do we design for the last earth? We must be able to see the world from a bird’s-eye view while also zooming in on specifics. We must employ systemic thinking to comprehend the interconnectedness of the businesses we work with, our planet, our society, as well as past and current actions in relation to the planet’s future (any kind of future). The major global trends of planetary crisis, new world reality, and human displacement are already disrupting our ‘normalcy’ in ways we cannot yet comprehend.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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I love the energy in these wonderful portrait paintings by Tim Okamura who “investigates identity, the urban environment, metaphor and cultural iconography through painting”. (via)

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Dark and moody urban art and photography by graphiccal. Prints are available through etsy.

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Michael Wolf’s photo series Factory Worker’s Portraits and Factories offer a human view of manufacturing in Asia.

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Quiverleaf is pure elegance in a typeface: “With the graceful movement of a ribbon, Quiverleaf CF glides from letter to letter. Five weights, from a delicate thin to a hearty extra bold combine with striking italics to create an achingly expressive typeface.”


Notable Numbers


In a bid to cut energy waste, France will fine retailers up to €750 for leaving doors open when using air conditioning and for not switching off neon signage between 1am and 6am.


A new study in the EU has estimated the social cost – and social benefits – of automobility, cycling and walking: each kilometre driven by a car incurs an external cost of €0.11, whereas cycling and walking bring benefits of €0.18 and €0.37 per kilometre, respectively.


Car maker BMW is now selling subscriptions for heated seats in a number of countries. You read that correctly, a monthly subscription to heat your BMW’s front seats now costs roughly $18.



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