Posts tagged design
Design Principles: Form Follows Function

One of the most fundamental design principles everyone should know, is that beauty in a well designed product is the outcome of achieving success criteria. For some this can mean users adopting a product such as an app, for others this can mean success in users not using a product or ceasing  to behave in a way that may be harmful. Form follows function. Sounds familiar?  

Through the lens of marketing, product management, and strategic decision-making, this means a series of trade offs in the allocation of resources. Consider a team designing a new watch that tells surfers when there’s an oncoming swell. They have a finite set of resources. Their goal is to validate their assumption that the watch is dependable, accurate, and durable in extreme conditions - most of all, that surfers will use it. How do they decide what to spend on?

The correct answer is, whatever achieves the success criteria. While aesthetics and ornamentation play a key role in persuasion and fashion, it should be considered in light of the product’s primary success criteria – giving surfers a waterproof watch that accurately displays data. Now consider a team designing a watch meant to be worn by a model in a fashion magazine shoot. The success criteria changes considerably. A lone diamond at the top of the bezel and a minimalist design will work to turn heads in a culturally relevant way. 


Now here’s the mic drop: Meet your success criteria, and your product will have achieved optimal form. The question should not be, what is more important – rather, what factors are most important in order to meet our success criteria? Design is always intentional, never arbitrary. 

Here are a few examples of success criteria:

  • Legibility

  • Comprehensibility

  • Aversion

  • Artistic integrity

  • Durability

  • Speed and accuracy

  • Differentiation

  • Extreme affordability

How are you honing in on your product’s success criteria? Perhaps you want to identify preemptive success criteria? Looking for design thinkers? We've got you. 

Marlondesign, success criteria
Designing for the Future | An interview with Jake Dunagan

Strategy, at the core, looks at desired outcomes and the decisions made to achieve them. At verynice, thinking about the future is not just best practice, it's something we hope to educate the world about. Meet Jake Dunagan, for the last two years, Jake has led the effort at verynice and most recently contributed to our new book, 'Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise.' We sat down to discuss what futures work means and how organizations can build this capacity. 

How would you describe your work?

The core of what I’m trying to do is to help people understand change, envision alternative futures, and then actively build a better world. This is done through a battery of theories, techniques, and processes. Futures thinking favors those that can connect dots at an abstract level, across a wide range of fields, and then drill down to the details of how trends and emerging issues might interact, amplify, or deflect in possible real-world contexts.  It is a challenging, but often thrilling endeavor. One is always at the edge of one’s capacity, and learning how to learn (fast) is key.

One of the best ways to learn is through direct experience. But we can’t directly experience the future because the future only exists as a projection from the present (and conditioned by the past). To try and help overcome that, I’ve been involved in a technique called experiential futures, or design futures. This is a process of deeply investigating a subject, developing a compelling story, and then making that story tangible through graphic media, the built environment, performance, and other artifacts from the future.

My colleague Stuart Candy and I recently published a paper on a particularly momentous project we led in Phoenix, as part of the Emerge conference.

Can futurists predict the future?

Not any that I’m aware of! The world is a complex system, with fluctuating perturbations, unexpected events, and strange behavior. We might be able to make predictions about certain things, like elections, but even then, with usually only two candidates and a mass of polling information, we’re often wrong.

So, for me and many other futurists, prediction is a fool’s game. The better approach is to prepare rigorously for complex, accelerating, non-linear alternatives. Because we can’t predict THE Future doesn’t mean we can’t increase our foresight capacity and improve our chances for making better choices--to steer toward better future while being ready to take sometimes drastically different directions that we had originally planned. This goes for individuals, but I’m mostly interested in group and society-level strategies at this stage.

You recently contributed to ‘Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise’ What do you hope people take away from this book?

First, that foresight and futures can make any endeavor better. Futures studies is not just about high-tech clichés.

Second is that business itself is an invention, and can be re-thought, re-designed, and re-deployed in new ways. As my mentor, Jim Dator, likes to say, “the world is a social invention, and we are social inventors.”

Third, is that it is not only our option to re-design business and society, it is our responsibility. We are ethically bound to leave a decent world for those future generations to come. Future-oriented, socially-minded business could be a big part of how we overcome some of the systems challenges we face.

What are some big things to consider in the next 5,10, 20 years?

There are always new technologies to consider, and we certainly can see current events casting their shadow on the future. But to take it a step more abstract, I think the biggest thing we are going to face in the next 20 years is the question of how to be an ethical person. Nothing in that question is stable. We are challenging long-held beliefs about human nature, the mind, individuality, etc. We also live in a world of extremely turbulent change, so even if we somehow figure out ourselves, the self will be in a new world almost every day. We’re going to have to get used to irreducible ambiguity, and do the best we can with the knowledge we have.

A long-term, systems-level view that is emotionally connected to living beings is how I orient myself. And, stealing from Jim Dator again, I take my work seriously, but not myself.

Is there anything organizations can do now to prepare?

Get real about there not ever being a return to “normal” times (if we ever had normal times), and then get professional help. My four-step argument about futures is this: 1. All humans think about the future. 2. We are not very good at it. 3. It is not our fault (spoiler, it’s baked into our brains), and 4. There’s something we can do about it.

The “something” we can do about it comes from three generations of scholars and practitioners developing tools and techniques to think about the future more usefully. Seek out futures thinking tools, raise your foresight capacity. I mentioned “professional” help, and that’s what we provide at verynice, but in reality, the best outcomes are when students, companies, organizations or agencies take this initial learning and make it their own, and leave us behind. My goal is to have hundreds of “former” clients doing their own futures work, and becoming architects of better futures. I think we’ll all be better off in that scenario.

Designing a Manifesto: Getting Gritty with Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise

To fully understand this post, I suggest you hop over to and download Matthew Manos’s new book, Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise. Better yet, donate $25 or more, and come Fall, we’ll ship you your own limited-edition, signed, and numbered print copy.


One of the best parts about being  designer is getting to try different styles, whether you want to or not. For me, my go-to vibe is clean, gridded. Classic. Examples: This blog. My website (don’t look at it, it’s not ready for you yet). Lots of white, lots of Gotham, lots of quirky hand-drawn bits to liven it all up a little. Comfortable. Clearly I’ve found my safe-space. But when you’re handed the assignment of visually interpreting a manifesto… clean, safe, and ample white-space just isn’t going to cut it.

Reading Part 01 of Matthew’s manuscript (lovingly titled FULLDRAFT-TowardaPreemptiveSocialEnterprise 2.gdoc), I knew this endeavor couldn’t be conceived in Photoshop, InDesign, or anywhere that wasn’t tangible, haptic, flammable—the real world. I was going to have get my hands dirty.

I like to get into these kinds of projects with the help of adjectives, verbs and nouns. It’s helpful when scouring the internet for “inspiration” (read: stuff I like and want to rip off). “Manifesto.” Cut and paste. Xerox. Photocopy. Glitch, grimy, grungy. Halftone, screenprint.

The feeling I got from these manifestos is that they had to be created and distributed quick. Cheaply.  No time for $249 typefaces for web and desktop. No colors, nothing fancy. Quick, rapid; print 500 and get them into the hands of the people tonight. Cut it up, paste it, copy it, fold and you’re done. Hustle.

Something Matthew and I have in common is we like a good set of rules (ironically). I decided this: only standard issue fonts (Impact. Courier New. Times New Roman. Optima). No colors. Not too many photos. And so, I got to work: the Manifesto was created in InDesign solely with our old “favorite,” Impact. Printed out. Cut up. Rearranged. Scanned back in. Manipulated.

The manifesto goes through a transformation. It starts out with organic, analog manipulation. I printed out. I crumpled, cut, burned, soaked—those poor pages never stood a chance.

As you move through the pages, the images begin to shift and become something else; something digital, modern, almost disturbing. Some pages are a combination of both, but by the end, it’s clear that we’re in a reality of the digital, of the screen.

Of course, the manifesto isn’t the only part of the book, it’s just Part 01 of 03—but don’t let me spoil it for you. Go get your own copy; once we’re out of them, they’re gone forever, guaranteed.

Katedesign, print, tapse
Architecture for Humanity Re-Launched Today as Open Architecture Collaborative

By Matthew Manos | Founder and Managing Director, verynice

Great News in our feed this morning: Architecture for Humanity re-launched today as "Open Architecture Collaborative". For context, Architecture for Humanity initially launched over a decade ago, and was a leading voice in the pro-bono movement. After going bankrupt, some of their previous employees and volunteers decided to re-launch the organization on their own. They reached out to verynice to see how Models of Impact could help them in that re-launch process, so we did a series of seminars for all of their chapter leads, resulting in a new business model for their phoenix of an organization. Now they have 32 chapters all around the world, and they are officially re-launched! Big victory!

Interview | Open Architecture Collaborative's Business Model

What was something new that you learned through the Models of Impact process and report?

It's difficult to think about the breadth of business models without proper framework. Models of Impact gave each chapter that framework to begin asking themselves the core questions that contribute to the creation of a new business.

How did engaging your team with business models in this way serve as a personal development tool for the chapter leads and volunteers?

Most chapter leaders are architects and designers who do not have formal business management training. The Models of Impact exercise gave them a much needed framework for what to think of when establishing a new business and how to prioritize efforts. The initial overview with Matthew also helped set the broad strokes for the various types of business models to choose from or combine. It was a much needed base for which to jump off of and turn into action.

In what ways has this process helped to shape the next step for Architecture for Humanity?

Getting all the active chapters involved in one uniform process helped us collect the necessary data to understand what page everyone was on. Analyzing the data allowed us to realize our alignment and see that we needed to remain a non-profit entity as a network. Each chapter leader now has a few more tools up there sleeves when thinking about how they will articulate their own development as a local business.

Business Model Design with Models of Impact 

Models of Impact is a strategic business-design toolkit. Our mission is to promote legacy and entrepreneurship in the social impact community by developing tools and resources that make it easy (and fun!) to design disruptive business models. Click here to download!


Learn from our toolkit for designers and enhance your client engagements, in-house strategic planning and design initiatives, and service offerings with non-profit and for-profit clientele.


Whether you’re in the early ideation phase, or already have a thriving enterprise, leverage the entrepreneur toolkit in order to gain clarity on your business model and potential for impact.


Many non-profits rely on donations and grants to get by, but this is not a sustainable business plan. Our toolkit introduces you to models that can propel your organization into the future.


Integrate our methods to supplement your coursework in business modeling and entrepreneurship. Our educator toolkit includes a range of curricula for High School and Higher Ed.

For more information regarding business model consultation at verynice
Contact our team:

Music and Design | Hear The Musical Instrument That uses 2000 Marbles

by Marlon Fuentes | Design Strategist, verynice

What was initially supposed to be a two month project, turned into a 14 month long endeavor. A true feat of engineering, musical composition, and sound design. The Wintergartan Marble Machine, constructed by Swedish music maker, Martin Molin is a hand-crafted wooden instrument that when triggered by pulleys and levers, moves 2,000 marbles through it's funnels and tracks to produce sounds of a kick drum, bass guitar, vibraphone and other percussive devices.  

The performance brings together current aesthetics of midi based musicians playing dance music while drawing on the long and venerable history of marble machines and automated analog music. Each piece was carefully constructed using 3D software and its central wheel is capable of programming a 32 bar sequence while changing keys. I can only imagine the patience, focus, and creativity that it took to full develop this incredible instrument. 

Here's a clip of Martin building his machine:

A lesson in Design

One thing that strikes me is the amount of iterations, research, and experimentation required to construct this machine. When approaching a design challenge it's important to embrace uncertainty and be agile while maintaining a long term vision. By prototyping possible solutions in a rapid way, using lean methods and a healthy dose of enthusiasm, one can arrive at insights (short term gains) that make an impact on the long term vision. A huge win can come when you are surprised by the outcome of these inquiries. For example, Martin finds that duct tape alone does not satisfy his need to mute the sound of the marble landing on a wooden plank and discovers that the combination of duct tape and felt does the trick. 

Taking a step back and looking at a system holistically is also a huge lesson here. Even though each part of the machine has it's own intricacies, the overall goal and user experience was kept central to the process. Another great example of how design thinking helps solve problems, and amplifies impact. 

Bring design thinking to a project you're working on. Contact our team at

Code for America is verynice.

Code for America is a nonprofit that develops technology-focused solutions to help government and citizens work together. By leveraging technology, Code for America is able to facilitate government cooperation and empower residents to actively solve problems within their communities.

Code for America logo

Code for America logo

The Code for America Accelerator is a four-month program that provides technology startups with training, mentorship, and access to their vast government network and technology landscape. To participate, the startups must pass Code for America’s very selective application process. Out of more than a hundred, only five make the cut.

For the past two years, verynice has been a mentor with the Accelerator program. This means that Code for America assigns us between two and three startups per year to provide mentorship around brand strategy.

Cool text image via

Cool text image via

This year, we are so excited to have been assigned to two fantastic startups:

Trailhead Labs collaborates with outdoor groups and local government in order to connect people with the outdoors.

MuniRrent allows municipalities to rent needed equipment from one another through the MuniRent application, saving them (and therefore their citizens) the high cost of traditional rental services.

Last year, we had the opportunity to work with SmartProcure, StreetCred, and Family Assessment Form:

Smartprocure collects data from thousands of local, state and federal agencies in order to improve procurement knowledge, allowing companies to make better purchasing decisions.

Through a program that aggregates information from the court and a variety of law enforcement agencies, StreetCred helps law enforcement agencies find and remove fugitives from the community, keeping their officers safer in the process.

Designed by social workers and home visitors, Family Assessment Form is a practice tool that helps family support practitioners standardize the assessment of their services so that supported families can receive the most effective services possible.


We'll keep you updated on our work with Code for America. If you haven't seen their TED talk, you'll want to watch that here— trust us, you'll walk away feeling empowered. 

verynice Client, Fifth Dimension, Launches Website

"Creating an atmosphere of acceptance and love our interactions become an exchange of energy with all living beings sharing our planet Earth."  —Fifth Dimension

Based in Los Angeles, Fifth Dimension is a yoga lifestyle clothing company committed to creating gorgeous (and comfortable!) clothing that is sustainable and organic. Working with local manufacturers allows Fifth Dimension to amplify their sustainability efforts by supporting the local economy and reducing their carbon footprint.  Fifth Dimension is the creation of Carla Teran, entrepreneur, designer, and certified Kundalini yoga and Pilates instructor. Teran created Fifth Dimension to reflect the yogic principles of living healthfully and with unconditional love and compassion.

verynice was honored to create Fifth Dimension's website. We aimed to find a minimal and unique way to curate their product while maintaining the soft, feminine feel of the brand. A light, earthy color scheme with minimal UI design helped us achieve this. In place of a traditional grid, our design team created an innovative structure for Fifth Dimension's shop; it uses a mixed scale grid to feature products and maximize users’ ability to sort through categories. This added a fresh and unconventional look to the page. verynice also provided site photography direction.

A world traveler, Teran has a stunning collection of unique pieces from her adventures. The site’s Around the World section curates some of these amazing pieces and provides an interesting way to promote the brand's culture. It’s one of the verynice team’s favorite sections on the site!

verynice credits

Creative Direction: Bora Shin
Account Management: Cindy Hammond
Design: Kate Hynes

Fifth Dimension and verynice value sustainability, healthy living, and kindness (to nature and ourselves). Fifth Dimension's first collection is a beautiful example of how your clothing can embody these values too!  

Welcome to veryniceLA, Josiah!

The verynice team is expanding! We just welcomed our newest member, Josiah Pak— Junior Designer, to the veryniceLA office. We sat down for coffee on Josiah's first day, and he shared everything from his thoughts about design and social change to his prediction for the next big food trend. See below for Josiah's full interview and join us in giving him a verynice welcome!   

Hi, Josiah! Tell us about your new role here at verynice. 

El Júnior Designer

I’ve been very privileged to grow up with parents who positively stress the importance of giving back to society by helping others. So I ventured into the world of design to hopefully one day make some sort of impact to some sort of community in our society. I’m absolutely ecstatic to join the verynice team because I feel they do exactly that. Though 50% of the work we do here is pro-bono, I feel like 100% of the heart and effort lie in the general desire to make an impact in our community. So I’m equally thankful and optimistic about being part of this team. 

Beware of El Júnior Designer.

Sweet. We'll make sure to put El Júnior Designer as the title on your new business cards. So, the desire to enact social change absolutely informs our work here at verynice. Can you tell us your thoughts on how design, specifically, can impact the community? 

Design is a language understood by many, therefore allowing it to reach many. And honestly, I’d rather look, experience, and learn from good design than anything else. So I believe that design is definitely needed to enact change because we need a form of communication that not only reaches many, but also stirs interest. Plus, it’s really nice to look at.

Wow, so your last design gig was with Whole Foods. Would you call yourself a big foodie? 

I don’t think I have enough dough in the bank to consider myself a foodie— being a foodie is quite expensive! However, I do consider myself to be an adventurous eater— there is nothing that stops me from trying out new foods. Just a few weeks ago, a fellow Angelino introduced me to Boat noodles, a Thai beef noodle soup made with cow blood. I know what you’re thinking. That sounds weird, Josiah. But let me tell you, Boat noodles will be the new Pho.

Follow-up question: any LA favorites (food-wise) to share?

There are so many! But I’m going to cheat and say: Boat noodles from Sapp Coffee Shop off of Hollywood and Kingsley in Thai Town. Like many dingy hole-in-the-walls, they’re cash only! They also have a killer Thai tea— the perfect gradient of orange to cream.


Okay, we're definitely going to Sapp Coffee Shop ASAP. Anything else we should know about you? Something quirky? 

Hmm. My right wrist bends slightly less than my left wrist? I once lost most of my front teeth leaving me with a set of killer grills. I don’t know— I guess you’ll have to learn for yourself.


Thanks, Josiah! 

Stay tuned for more updates about Josiah, the verynice design team, and a full review of Thai Boat noodles. 

For the Love of Font

We're giving type a shout out this week!

Here's a little insight into how typefaces are created (It's a great short film too!): 

"Font Men" featuring seasoned type designers Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones (that's right, there are actual people with actual names that make actual letters for us to use) explain their transition into type design, their process, and what keeps them interested. 

Fun fact: they start with "H" and "O" before moving onto "D" and the rest of the alphabet, can you guess why?


Here's a little insight into how typefaces are used (It's a great site design too!):

Aura Seltzer's Type Connection is a fun site that helps you learn how to pair typefaces by playing the match maker for some well known ones. It also features an extensive resource list of typography links!

Type is essential in giving design a sturdy theme and polished feel. There is a time and place for most typefaces but without good type design appropriate usage we're all just Papyrus in the wind.

Alisadesign, type
Something Design & Something Dog — Because We Love Both

Something Design: 

This beautiful Organizational Chart is an early example of information architecture and infographics. Exhibiting the Division Of Administrative Duties at the New York & Erie Railroad is no easy task without today's modern technology, but this beautiful chart does it flawlessly by taking organizational cues from nature to create an organic bottom up experience. Thanks, FastCo.Design for the inspiration!

Something Dog:

Just cute. No explanation necessary. Thanks, Huffington Post for the smiles.

Alisadesign, lol