verynice turns 8 years old!

Insatiably creative. Always learning.
Sounds like an 8 year old, alright. Happy Birthday, verynice!

Interview with verynice Founder and Managing Director, Matthew Manos
by Marlon Fuentes | Design Strategist, verynice

Q: How does it feel to be 8?!

Shocking, incredible, and normal. I know in all actuality, this is just another day. Friday, April 1 is just business as usual, but really it is so much more than that. When I launched verynice from my dorm room in college based on some pro-bono gigs that I found on craigslist and on campus, I honestly thought this was supposed to be nothing more than a side-project. The fact that I am still doing this today makes me feel so lucky and proud. That said, I don't take this opportunity for granted. I'm excited for our future. I'm excited to take us to a place where we can maximize our potential for impact and help even more people. I love the future we've created for ourself and for others.

Q: What are 8 of your favorite milestones verynice has had over the last 8 years?

Wow, that's really hard! From watching our team grow to landing pretty much every dream client I can imagine, there have been so many moments I feel grateful for. Let me try and list some.

  1. Partnering with Google to rebrand and re-launch Billion Acts, a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated project that aims to engage people in one billion acts of peace.

  2. Being able to say we've donated over $5.3 million dollars worth of services to nonprofits.

  3. Launching partnerships with UNICEF and the City of Los Angeles to expand design capacity in critical programs and departments.

  4. Seeing the studio featured in Forbes 7 times.

  5. Being able to inspire thousands of people to practice pro-bono, inspired by our book, "How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free".

  6. Launching Models of Impact as a branded service and open-source toolkit.

  7. Building an amazing team around each of our core-competencies, and watching the studio become incredibly self-sufficient.

  8. Successfully transitioning our service offerings from being 100% visual design to being an equal balance of visual design and design strategy.

Now for the next 8 years – we'll see what comes. I know that we will continue to fight for social enterprise and pro-bono service. I also hope that we continue to inspire others to join us in this movement. It takes a village!

Q: What do you envision for the future of the studio and for social enterprise in general? What are your hopes and what/if any are barriers we must overcome?

My vision for what we do at verynice has always been to get to a point where we strike a balance between client services and the distribution of our own products. In the future, verynice will continue to work with our amazing clients, but will also work to develop more solutions (like Models of Impact and Give Half) that will not only benefit individual clients, but entire sectors. In terms of the future for the social enterprise world in general, I am excited about a new project we have yet to unveil which has been in the works for quite some time now – it's all about the concept of preemptive social enterprise. This is built upon a realization that social enterprise in its current state is far too reactionary as opposed to future-minded. What if we could develop social enterprises that could solve problems that don't exist yet? We need tools for that. That's what we're working on right now.

Q: Many people have seen your TED Talk and learned about the give-half model and models of impact, what parts of verynice’s story do you wish people knew more about?

I was really sick in high school; I had a benign tumor in my stomach. This is something I almost never talk about, because it was a challenging time for me - nevertheless, this was my first confrontation with how fragile life is and how limited our time is. I obviously ended up being fine, but this was the first time that the word ‘legacy’ entered my daily vocabulary. From the moment I realized everything was going to be OK, I decided that I wanted to do as much as I could to create my own legacy. Helping people became a logical starting point, and this is when I gained clarity on what I wanted to do - on the balance I wanted to create, of giving and getting. It was eye-opening. The story I always tell about how I met my first pro-bono client happened during this period of my life. If it wasn't for what I learned during this time, verynice would not exist. At least not with the vision it carries. That's for sure.

Q: Managing a business is tough. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to start their own business today? What’s your advice on achieving happiness in this day and age?

Social media makes life look easy. On social media, we are each the sole author, editor, and curator of the images and words others will leverage to perceive our current state. In society, as we all know, there is a lot of pressure to be the best. Naturally, we only portray the best moments – I know I'm guilty of that, you probably are, too. The fact is that this work is hard - being an entrepreneur is hard, being an activist is hard. There is a serious emotional and physical toll that this stuff will take on you, but if you are doing what you love, it's worth it. Take the time to understand your role in all of this - your purpose - your model of impact. Don't become an entrepreneur to make a quick million and exit - those days are gone. We don't need those kinds of entrepreneurs. This is about legacy. Share your knowledge. Be receptive to others who want to share. Help people. That's when you'll be happy with what you've accomplished.

Q: With so many big 5 consulting firms interested in acquiring design capabilities, what do you feel is the role of independent studios in the future?

A prediction I made at the beginning of last year, regarding the future of the design industry,  was: "The demand for in-house design jobs will rise. The “big agency” model will come closer to extinction, and we will see many heavy-hitters in the industry close their doors. While small firms will thrive, it will be the freelancer who will dominate the business landscape of Design."

In many ways I think this is still true, and as a result it has never been a more exciting time to be independent. By 2020, something like 40% of the workforce will be independent. By 2030… maybe it'll be more than half. This is a major opportunity to foster individualism, creativity, and freedom. Alternatively, as more and more design goes in-house, independent designers will still find all kinds of new ways to add value to an organization. This is because designers and consultants make for incredible sounding boards. Outside perspectives. The fact is that sometimes the most obvious solution is right in-front of your face, but you miss it because you are simply too close. Designers will always be able to help with that.