Designer Spotlight: a verynice design studio

Firm: a verynice design studio,
Specialty: Leveraging design as a medium for social and systemic development.
Locations: Telecommute (clients and volunteers span 6 continents), with headquarters currently in Los Angeles
Firm Motto: Change the design industry through disruptive innovation and authentic intention.

There are many creative companies—from boutique design firms to multinational advertising agencies—that do pro-bono work. Pro-bono (from pro bono publico, a Latin phrase that means “for the public good”) is typically limited to an occasional annual project and often done for its PR value as much as a sense of generosity. That’s not the case with a verynice design studio, founded by creative director, Matthew Manos. Anything but typical, the studio is inspired by the concept of Social Business; that is, business that also has social, rather than just, financial objectives.

 “I became fascinated by the idea that there was an emerging space between the nonprofit and for-profit worlds models which has been untapped by design,” explains Manos. “At least 60% of our efforts, at any given time, are on a volunteer basis. The rest of our work is done on behalf of paying clients. This model calls for a strategic division of time that allows the studio to stay very well afloat while also being able to do meaningful pro-bono work. These hundreds upon hundreds of projects are what make this balance possible, and are what drives our team to be incredibly efficient.”

a verynice design studio is comprised of a total network of 60 volunteers spanning 5 continents. These individuals are wonderfully diverse in culture, education, profession, age and experience, forming a trans-disciplinary team that always has a new approach. The studio grew, and continues to grow, organically. Every volunteer of a verynice design studio sought out to work with the studio, and this has allowed it to grow as a family of individuals that have a strong passion and genuine love for what they do.

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The work ranges from identity to collateral to websites and has included such clients as The United Nations, Forward Step, Facebook and My Own Business. Nonprofit clients are selected via an online application process, and for-profit sector clients generally get in touch through e-mail. “We look for passion, and optimism, in the clients we service,” says Manos. “If we can tell the client (paid or not) is obsessed with their idea, and is so incredibly driven to make it amazing, they are perfect for us.”

The studio’s volunteers working for nonprofit clients are not paid by a verynice design studio. They work because they truly support the client’s cause. “I have a somewhat radical belief that asking a nonprofit organization for the compensation for any service is immoral,” Manos says. “It really bothers me when I hear that some larger, multinational, nonprofit organizations are forced to set aside upwards of a million dollars per year for advertising and marketing, when that money could be allocated towards seeing the vision of their organization through.”

This altruistic attitude has resulted in providing $250,000 worth of pro-bono work to date. “Our studio was founded on the seemingly naive principle: save the world, and don’t just make money,” admits Manos. “However, I find naiveté to be a crucial element of true innovation. I believe in the idea that real change comes fresh perspectives on old fields, from individuals with confidence to shout out ridiculous ideas.”