Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.

– Aldous Huxley


Featured illustrator: Pavlov Visuals

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 58!

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A DD reader sent in a great question last week. Answering and publishing it here with their permission: “As a fledgling design freelancer I’m currently working with a client whose values/ethics I don’t agree with. I’m in a position where I can’t be too picky – I’m constantly worried about money and the gig pays well. But I’m struggling with doing the right thing here. Any advice?” (Slightly edited for brevity)

First off, good on you for questioning your decision! I think most of us have been in a situation like that, myself included. (For what it’s worth, I took the money at the time, too!)

Questions around ethics are never as clear-cut as we want them to be – unless, of course, we’re talking about very obviously grave, dark stuff like redesigning the cover of Mein Kampf.

This might not be the practical advice you were looking for, but this is how I think of ethical accountability in our job: The higher you climb in your career and the more responsibilities you have for others, the more stringent you should examine the ethics of your decisions. As someone just getting started, your work probably won’t yet lead to serious consequences. The people above you (team leaders, supervisors, managers) get paid, in part, for making those difficult decisions. Since they are in a position of power, which is often interlinked with a certain amount of privilege, we should scrutinise their decision-making much more closely. And the higher we go (leaders, founders, investors), the more scrutiny we ought to exert.

That’s not to say that ethics don’t apply to you. But perhaps put the decision you’re trying to make into the context of where you are in your career and how that decision will affect your future path and other people. Designing a website for ‘bad money’ should make you uneasy, but leading a whole team at a company that’s making ethically questionable decisions on a global scale should stop you in your tracks. Sadly, the reality is often the opposite: individuals like you worry about the impact of their work, while people in large corporations get a free pass because it’s easier to blame ‘the system’.

Digital agency founder Tom Greenwood wrote a great piece about saying ‘no’ to bad money that is a lot more practical. I’m linking to it in the ‘Food for Thought’ section below. – Kai

Dense Discovery is currently read by over 43,000 subscribers. Support us by (1) Sponsoring an issue, (2) Booking a classified ad, or (3) Sharing this issue with friends and colleagues.


A New Way to Run SPONSOR


Way Running →

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Apps & Sites

Mochi →

Mix notes with flash cards

Mochi is a powerful note-taking app that automatically generates flash cards to help you memorise information. It makes use of a spaced repetition algorithm to maximise retention and minimise study time.

Maccy →

Clipboard manager

There are so many handy clipboard managers around these days! Add Maccy to that list: a simple, native, free & open-source MacOS clipboard manager that comes with a powerful history search.

Arcane Office →

Privacy-focused office suite

A basic, more private alternative to Google Docs/Sheets based on Blockstack: “Arcane Office is a decentralized office suite with high-security and zero-knowledge on your data. With Arcane Office, you have maximum control on your personal stuff.”

Inbox When Ready →

The inbox lock

Inbox When Ready is a Chrome extension that locks you out of your inbox if you spend too much time in it. You can also set a time period for ‘batch processing’ your emails after which it’ll deny access. It’s kind of ironic that we’re now paying for tools that wean ourselves off our productivity addiction in the hope that it makes us more productive. 🤷‍♂️


Indie Mag of the Week


Positive News →

Pioneers of ‘constructive journalism’, Positive News is the magazine for good journalism about the good things that are happening.

– Latest Issue: 99
– Frequency: 4 issues/year
– Formats: print & digital
– Origin: United Kingdom

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Ruined by Design →

‘Econo Zine’ version of the book

Mike Monteiro’s book on how design can have a negative impact on the world (and how to avoid it) is now also available in a cheap black‘n’white zine format for just $9 (+ shipping from the US). Buy a whole pack at a discount to distribute to your students or design teams...


Mudita Pure →

No-frills E-Ink phone

Who would have thought that no-frills phones would make such a comeback!? Clearly jumping on the ‘offline is healthy’ trend, the Mudita Pure has all the features of our old Nokia bricks. There is no wifi on this phone, but you can connect it to your laptop and use it as a hotspot. (Nice!) It’s not cheap but it’s probably a realistic price for a product made by a small company. Currently on Kickstarter.


Overheard on Twitter

Person 1: Welcome home. Did you have a good day looking at screens at work?
Person 2: Yes, my screens were good. How were your screens?
1: They were less good, so I’d like to watch something on the big screen in our house.
2: Okay, but I might use my small screen while we watch.



Food For Thought

Having the guts to say no to bad money →


Digital agency founder Tom Greenwood shares the lessons he learned building a company with a focus on socially and environmentally responsible clients. I wish more business owners would write as honestly about how they decide when to turn away bad money.

Emotional socialism →


Oh, how much I love Thom’s concept of sharing ‘surplus care’! Those who are doing well – emotionally, financially, whatever – should spread the love around: “If you’re good in your life, and things are stable and you have some surplus, the balance is always in your favour. This is what makes the behaviour of people in power, and people with vast amounts of wealth, so galling to me. The scales are tipped all the way to their side and they’re still petulant demanders, immature refusers. They are closed off to humanity in a way that should be unacceptable for anyone who holds that much sway.”

The human skills we need in an unpredictable world →


I could listen to the soothing voice and profound insights of Margaret Heffernan all day long: “In an environment that defies so much forecasting, efficiency won’t just not help us, it specifically undermines and erodes our capacity to adapt and respond.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

Clear lines, a pleasing colour palette – I’m enjoying the work of Melbourne-based artist Stephen Baker.

❏ ❏

Designer Uv-Zhu creates an adorable style of illustrations that mixes 3D renders with 2D sketch art.

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Adapter is a simple, no-frills sans serif that is – you guessed it – adaptable: change its weight, slant, and optical sizing fluidly as you see fit for your project.

❏ ❏

Photographer Eiji Ohashi has a thing for finding vending machines in all sorts of unexpected places.



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The Week in a GIF


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