The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.

– David Viscott


Featured artist: Marina Esmeraldo

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 232!

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I’ve previously written about the notion of enough and how striving for a life of sufficiency can offer rewards that our consumer culture puts out of reach. A simpler, more frugal lifestyle means being able to do more of the fun, enriching things that make life meaningful. Could climate change help us with that realisation?

In her piece How to meet the climate crisis? Redefine ‘abundance.’ Rebecca Solnit argues that, instead of fretting about the lifestyle changes high consumption societies are required to make to meet the climate challenge, we ought to see them as an opportunity: a chance to assign new meaning to the words ‘wealth’ and ‘abundance’. Rather than striving for the accumulation of money and goods, what if we aimed for being rich in time?

“For so many of us, being busy with work has leached away our capacity to pursue true riches. What if we were to prioritize reclaiming our time – to fret less about getting and spending – and instead ‘spend’ this precious resource on creative pursuits, on adventure and learning, on building stronger societies and being better citizens, on caring for the people (and other species and places) we love, on taking care of ourselves?”

Solnit finds proof for our capacity to make this change in the way humans respond to disasters:

“When I was researching a book on how people respond to disasters, I was struck less by the fact that most people were brave, altruistic and able to improvise new social networks and means of survival, and more by the fact that amid these improvisations, they found something they craved so much that even amid death, ruin and disorder, their joy shone out.

To respond to the climate crisis – a disaster on a more immense scale than anything our species has faced – we can and must summon what people facing disasters have: a sense of meaning, of deep connection and generosity, of being truly alive in the face of uncertainty. Of joy.

This is the kind of abundance we need to meet the climate crisis, to make many, or even most, lives better. It is the opposite of moral injury; it is moral beauty. A thing we needn’t acquire, because we already have it in us.”

Since moving to a new neighbourhood mid last year, I’ve made a deliberate effort to be more present – as a friend, a neighbour and a local citizen. Experiencing the luxury of ‘more free time’ has been transformational. Whether it’s walking a neighbour’s dog, organising a street-wide garage sale, or helping a local small business out with some tech advice – I’ve never felt a stronger sense of belonging.

This is why Solnit’s piece resonates with me. On the other side of the climate crisis, there is a possible future where being time rich doesn’t feel like a privilege; where the climate crisis didn’t rob us of the right to buy more stuff, but at last helped us to yank on the cord of the consumption treadmill. – Kai


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Moving About The CitySPONSOR


Journey With Purpose →

A printed zine about how we move in our city

Uncover unique stories, bold ideas, and inspiring changemakers with Journey With Purpose, a small-scale pamphlet from Queens, NY. Explore how we can design better homes, public places, and resilient neighbourhoods. Your purchase directly supports the project and demonstrates your passion for good urbanism. Get your copies while stock lasts!


Apps & Sites

Minutiae →

‘Anti-social media app’

Minutiae is a mobile app that sends you one alert at a random time of the day. You then have just five seconds to take a photo of whatever you’re doing. If you do so, you get to see other people’s random photos too. There are no profiles, no likes, no comments.

ColorSlurp →

Colour picker for macOS/iOS

There are lots of colour picker tools available, but ColorSlurp offers an elegant, versatile app for both macOS and iOS. Create your own collections (synced over iCloud) and use them anywhere, even on your Macbook’s TouchBar. You can customise the output format to different languages, e.g. for easy input in Photoshop or JSON.

Littlecook →

Recipes from leftover ingredients

Not a new idea, but a lovely execution: Littlecook is an iOS app (there is also a simple web app) that finds online recipes based on the ingredients you enter, helping you be more creative with those forgotten, sad-looking veggies at the bottom of your fridge.

Trancy →

Bilingual subtitles

Trancy is a browser extension that translates the subtitles of YouTube and Netflix videos into up to ten different languages, helping you improve your foreign language skills. It comes with handy features such as being able to skip next/previous sentences or looping specific sentences so that you can improve your pronunciation.


Favourite Books: Frederico Duarte


Ten book recommendations by Frederico Duarte, a design critic and curator currently writing, researching and teaching in Lisbon.

1 / Tokyo Cancelled by Rana Dasgupta

A wild journey through the global condition as told by thirteen very peculiar people stranded at an airport.

2 / Amerika by Franz Kafka

Kafka’s terribly funny 1910 novel. Do get the Schocken books library edition, with the gorgeous cover designed by Peter Mendelsund.

3 / The Infatuations by Javier Marías

This was the first book I read in Spanish, having bought it while on vacation in Burgos during the summer of 2015. It’s a fascinating book where virtually all that happens happens inside the narrator’s head.

4 / The Return by Dulce Maria Cardoso

An essential novel to understand Portugal’s contemporary history and colonial past.

5 / The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk

I got a copy of this book while studying design criticism in New York. Took forever to start and a full year to finish, this gut-wrenching story of unrequited love. I finished it just in time to visit the recently opened Museum of Innocence in Istanbul. One of the book’s pages is a ticket to the museum, and boy, was it worth it!

6 / The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A book of short stories I read years after reading her other book, Half of a Yellow Sun. The story ‘Jumping Monkey Hill’ is a lesson in dealing with ‘single stories’, an idea Adichie later, and brilliantly, developed in her deservedly popular TED talk.

7 / The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

A delightful story of a singular family, sensibly told.

8 / On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

I read it in the four days during the 2021-22 year transition into the new year. Such a prodigious book.

9 / The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

A short, weirdly wonderful book from one of Brazil’s most esteemed writers. The 1985 film adaptation by Suzana Amaral is, surprisingly, even better.

10 / Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

A narrative tour de force and one of the books I was happiest, thankful even, to have read.

(Did you know? Friends of DD can respond to and engage with guest contributors like Frederico Duarte in one click.)


Books & Accessories

📚💰 About Bookshop affiliate earnings

I link to for all book recommendations because it supports local book stores. Using their affiliate program means I receive a small payment with every purchase, all of which are donated to Earthjustice. The latest donation over $163.40 was made last week and was rounded up and matched by a generous DD reader to $400.



The Entrepreneurial State →

Debunking public vs. private sector myths

In the Libertarian-minded tech world of Silicon Valley, the government is considered an obstacle to innovation, growth and success. In this book, the author Mariana Mazzucato, a professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London, “comprehensively debunks the myth of a lumbering, bureaucratic state versus a dynamic, innovative private sector. In a series of case studies – from IT, biotech, nanotech to today’s emerging green tech – she shows that the opposite is true: the private sector only finds the courage to invest after an entrepreneurial state has made the high-risk investments.”


The Good Life →

Lessons from the world’s longest study on happiness

For nearly 80 years, the Harvard Study of Adult Development has been producing data and lessons on how to live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Two of the directors of this study, Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, lay out the findings and attempt to define the key to a good life. The Good Life makes clear that what truly makes a rich and happy life is not synonymous with financial success and achievement, but is rather the result of our relationships. This remarkable work brings together scientific precision, traditional wisdom, incredible real-life stories and actionable insights to prove once and for all that our own wellbeing and ability to flourish is absolutely within our control.”


Overheard on Twitter

Can tell I’m 37 because I’m getting a 4:30 PM coffee with somebody and structuring my whole night around it like we’re doing mushrooms in the desert.



Food for Thought

How to meet the climate crisis? Redefine ‘abundance.’ →


This connects nicely with last week’s theme of redefining ‘the good life’ and this week’s book recommendation above. Can our climate change efforts be viewed as a way to free ourselves of outdated notions of wealth? “To respond to the climate crisis – a disaster on a more immense scale than anything our species has faced – we can and must summon what people facing disasters have: a sense of meaning, of deep connection and generosity, of being truly alive in the face of uncertainty. Of joy.”

You are not okay and tomorrow will come →


A short, wonderful affirmation by a teacher struggling to motivate students into doing the work despite their experiencing hardship. “What they have is me. What I have is and. So that’s what I tell them. You can feel sad and you can do five math problems. You can be nervous and write the last paragraph of your essay. You can be anxious and pick up trash in the hallway. You can feel mad and eat a piece of fruit.”

Forget the conspiracies, 15-minute cities will free us to improve our mental health and wellbeing →


The idea behind the 15-minute city is that all residents are within a 15 minute walk or bike ride to everything they need to live, learn and thrive. I’m extremely lucky to experience and be able to vouch for the benefits of this idea: I work from home or nearby cafés and ride or walk to 95% of the shops and services I need. My neighbours and I often joke how we hardly ever go beyond our 15-minute bubble, simply because it’s so convenient. It’s difficult to imagine that even this wholesome idea could be dragged into the conspiracy mosh pit, but here we go. “By finding itself sitting at the centre of debates about COVID living, climate change and car-centric societies, the 15-minute city has become a focal point of attention for those who imagine more sinister motives are at work. Conspiracists have spouted misdirected fears of the forced loss of cars, the creation of locked urban zones people cannot leave, and government surveillance and control.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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A 15ml bottle of ‘pure’ water (about 1 tablespoon) for $198. A bag of rice with just 5 grains for $89. “These products are not real, but they portray a future in which our water crisis worsens and water is a rare commodity.” The Drop Store is an initiative by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, created by the ad agency Publicis Groupe to show how the worsening water crisis could affect everyone’s lives. (via)

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There is something about the blocky, geometric abstractions in Chris Firger’s paintings that draws me to them. Don’t miss his Instagram account with lots of timelapse videos of him at work.

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Created by Czech designer Vratislav Pecka, Posterlad is an extensive poster shop offering artworks that make use of simple shapes and vivid colours. Friends of DD enjoy a 15% discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

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HVD’s Match family is looking very sharp, and with a ton of available weights she’s versatile, too. “The curves are drawn with a higher curve tension than other conventional geometric typefaces, in order to achieve a super compact look making words look like logos. These tricks lead to the appearance of smaller white spaces and more compact words.”


Notable Numbers


Anthropologists have taken up the task of calculating hunter-gatherer working hours: the average across all well-studied hunter-gatherer societies is 40–45 hours per week, similar to the standard eight-hour working day in industrialised societies.


A new study estimates that humans have filled the world’s oceans with more than 170 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing roughly 2.4 million metric tons. That is more than 21,000 pieces of plastic for each of the Earth’s 8 billion residents.


Between 2021 and 2022, the total value of venture capital deals fell by 38% globally, according to data from the London-based research firm Preqin.



Intelligent Change creates design-led mental health tools like the Five Minute Journal (1.7M+ sold) to help you realise your potential and live a happier, more fulfilling life.

Dave Smyth Studio offers digital design for organisations, startups and purpose-driven businesses that want a positively memorable user experience.

We curate the internet’s best examples of email marketing. Not Boring Emails helps you find the perfect inspiration for your next email.

No Nuisance Marketing: The book Build Your Audience teaches you how to create consistency in your marketing without being intrusive.

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