Technology is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.

– C. P. Snow


Featured illustrator: Brian Miller

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 60!

View/share online

As a brief follow-up to last week’s intro in which I talked about ‘more-than-human-centred design’: I can highly recommend this very short summary of planet-centric design.

In sharp contrast to this, I just came across some tweets this morning boasting about how well designed Apple’s new AirPods Pro headphones are. That made me wonder at what point we start thinking about ’good design’ not just in terms of smart engineering and pleasing aesthetics, but as a discipline that deeply respects materiality.

Apple shows us highly stylised manufacturing videos – raw materials being forged into a beautiful new object. Ingenuity we ought to celebrate. We were conditioned to treat the ‘unboxing’ of that precious new object like a quasi-religious experience.

And then, the promise of good design falls short. Little consideration goes into how the object ages, how maintenance could extend its use, or what happens to it when it reaches the end of its life cycle. Apple’s much-touted respect for materiality quickly turns into a liability – your liability.

From that perspective, the ‘good design’ of the AirPods (and most of today’s gadgets) remains a tragedy. – Kai

Dense Discovery is currently read by over 36,000 subscribers. Support us by (1) Sponsoring an issue, (2) Booking a classified ad, or (3) Sharing this issue with friends and colleagues.


Modern Design Workflow SPONSOR


Abstract  →

Design collaboration without the chaos.

See the who, what, why, and when behind every design decision in Abstract. With Branch-based version control, you can compare changes side-by-side, resolve design conflicts, and merge Sketch files with precision. Try Abstract for free today.


Apps & Sites

RemoteHQ →

Collaborative workspace

If anything, this app is a testament to how far the browser has come: “Work together in ways that go beyond video chat: co-browse and co-edit any web app, share files, take notes, whiteboard, screen share, video chat, and more. All in a single browser tab.”

Post Box →

Notification filter

This Android-only app “helps you minimise distractions, by holding your notifications until a time that suits you. Simply choose how often you’d like your notifications to be delivered. When they arrive, they’ll be neatly organised for you to go through.” A warning though: a friend reported a very buggy experience.

Space →

Break your phone addiction

A more playful and enjoyable way to monitor your screen time, set limits, and monitor your progress towards more phone-free time.

Formcarry →

Hassle-free web forms

Instead of worrying about spam on your web forms, simply add a few lines of code and run the submissions through Formcarry. It does all the heavy lifting for you and connects with a range of apps to help you process the incoming data.


Indie Mag of the Week


Perfect Strangers →

Perfect Strangers is a magazine dedicated to exploring the cross-cultural, fascinated by one question: how does the world meet itself?

– Latest Issue: 2
– Frequency: 1–2 issues/year
– Formats: print only
– Origin: USA

We’re giving away five copies to randomly selected DD readers. Keep an eye on your inbox to find out if you’re among them!




2020 Planner →

The sustainable living calendar

“Meant to be read regularly – but in small doses that will remind and uplift throughout the year – each week reveals tips on how you can easily change some of your habits [toward a greener lifestyle]. Depicted in a playful way through a miscellanea of charts, games, comics, exercises, and quotes, this planner will subtly guide you toward a more sustainable way of living.” (Other colours available)


Mudita Bell →

E-Ink alarm clock

I love this idea of a ‘calmer’ alarm clock: powered by a beautiful E-Ink display (readable at night through a ‘warm’ frontlight) this clock comes with a built-in air quality sensor and a meditation timer. The alarm tones are “natural and appealing” to gently nudge you out of bed. (Pre-order only)


Overheard on Twitter

Tired of explaining that ‘I don't have the time’ doesn’t mean ‘literally every second of my schedule is accounted for’, but rather ‘I'm giving as much of myself as I’m currently able to give’.



Food For Thought

Empathy is not endorsement →


In this funny, thought-provoking talk, digital creator Dylan Marron shares an unexpected coping mechanism: calling the people who leave him insensitive, hateful comments and asking a simple question. “Empathy is not endorsement. Empathising with someone you profoundly disagree with does not compromise your own deeply held beliefs and endorse theirs. It just means acknowledging the humanity of someone who was raised to think differently.”

Ethical Consumerism and Self-Growth →


We certainly can’t consume our way out of the environmental crisis by buying metal straws, vegan shoes, and electric cars. But what conscious consumerism has to offer (speaking from personal experience) is a constantly growing awareness of the impact our daily lives have on the environment: “It’s a surprisingly engaging and enriching process to think more deeply about each product that has been made or grown for us by considering the chain of events that brought it about.”

In its insatiable pursuit of power, Silicon Valley is fuelling the climate crisis →


To change the system that led us down the path of ecological collapse, we urgently need to decentralise power – one of the promises of the early web. Sadly, tech has done the opposite; it has consolidated power (once again) into the hands of a privileged few. “Though many have used technology to further democracy and participation, big tech doesn’t want us to be citizens. It wants us to be consumers. To address the climate crisis we need to be citizens – free, powerful, with our private lives private and our public lives vivid, energised and safe.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

I love a good type specimen. CoType does it well. More photos on the details page of each font.

❏ ❏

O˚C is a creative project showing flowers, fynbos, and found objects encapsulated in ice.

❏ ❏

The typeface Buenos Aires refers to Avenir and Futura. Due to subtle, playful moments, the font looks friendly.

❏ ❏

I just spent 20 minutes browsing Tom Hegen’s breathtaking aerial photography series.



Fight climate change and biodiversity loss with an app! Calculate and compensate your CO2 emissions. Reduce your waste and transition to a sustainable life. Find out more here

Emailancer are your fast and friendly experts in email template design and development. We can deliver a custom design or convert yours into code that works across all devices.

Want to schedule faster? Meet Woven, the all-in-one calendar that makes the most of your time. Smart templates, scheduling links, group polls and more. And it’s free.

Buildkite is a developer tool used by a bunch of great teams, including Shopify and Basecamp. Come work with us! We’re hiring remote design and marketing roles.

Classifieds are paid ads that support DD and are seen by 36,000 subscribers each week.

Book yours →


The Week in a GIF


Email us the URL to your favourite GIF and we might feature it here in a future issue.

[email protected]