VERYNICE + USC IOVINE AND YOUNG ACADEMY
LOS ANGELES CA
Hi, my name is Matthew Manos. I’m a writer, design strategist, and social entrepreneur. My work sits at the somewhat peculiar intersections of consulting, education, game design, and performance art.
I’m the Founder and Managing Director of verynice. verynice is a social enterprise that develops, facilitates, and publishes methods for creative problem solving. verynice’s client experience spans 750+ brands including the American Heart Association, Disney Imagineering, Mozilla, UNICEF, and Google. Driven by a mission to alleviate expenses for non-profit organizations, while increasing access to design strategy for all, verynice launched in 2008 as one of the first examples of social enterprise in the design industry. Over the course of the company’s history, verynice has been able to provide thousands of organizations, practitioners, and students with access to over $17,500,000 in discounted or pro-bono services and open-access resources.
I am also currently the Assistant Dean for Academic Strategy and an Assistant Professor of Design at the USC Iovine and Young Academy, a school that brings together design, business, and technology in order to create the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators. At the Academy, we take impact very seriously, and have collaborated with numerous community organizations on large scale problems.
HOW AND WHY DID YOU COME TO USE DESIGN TO ADVANCE SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE AND/OR SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS, CLIENTS AND CAUSES?
For me, designing for good has always been less about the work, and more about the access to the work. I started doing pro-bono when I was 16. At the time, I was skateboarding competitively. One day, at the skatepark, I met the Founder of an organization that taught kids in wheelchairs how to participate in extreme sports. Inspired, I wanted to support the cause. By chance, a few weeks prior, I got my first copy of Photoshop. I was enjoying design, and was hungry for a chance to put some of my new “skills” to use. So, I volunteered to make some stickers for the organization. My dad later explained to me that what I was doing was called “pro bono”.
Things escalated when I learned that non-profit organizations spend billions of dollars a year on design and marketing services. It got me thinking: what if there was a model that would allow organizations to get access to the services or skills they need, but at a fraction of the cost, or at no cost at all. There wasn’t one, so I made one. verynice balances paid projects, pro-bono projects, and sliding scale rate projects at all times. We also now dedicate a significant portion of our practice to the development of free tools and resources that, in a sense, “teach a man to fish”. These tools include Give All, a series of 9 toolkits that open source every trade secret verynice has ever had.
ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL CHALLENGES, OPPORTUNITIES, URGENCIES, OBSTACLES IN 2019?
Not all, but quite a lot of the work our industry generates serves as fuel to a system that often benefits a very small group of people, harms our environment, and grows inequality. Design is supposed to be about building a bridge between the needs of people, and the needs of business. At some point, I think we took a side. I think we forgot about people, society, and our planet. Many of us talk about impact, but what are we really doing? 2019 is the year to ask… “What am I doing?”, and therefore, “what am I not?”