Social Enterprise Advocate. Raconteur. Design Strategy Practitioner. Educator. Pro-Bono Service Activist.
is the Managing Director of verynice
, a global design-strategy consultancy home to a diverse clientele including UNICEF, Google, and The American Heart Association. As a leading advocate for integrated pro-bono service, verynice's "give-half" model has allowed the business to provide 426 organizations with 87,271 hours of service over the past decade, a gift currently valued at over $5,367,195 (April, 2016)
. Matthew founded the consultancy in 2008 as an evolution of the practice he accidentally established after meeting his first pro-bono client at a skatepark when he was 16 years old. verynice's award-winning work has reached millions of people, and the team has built over 500 brands in every sector and industry across the globe. verynice's diverse service offerings challenge the standard definition of “design”, and span four core focus areas: visual communication, digital product design, design strategy, and strategic foresight.
Matthew: We are all given a short time, and I think the biggest mistake a lot of entrepreneurs make is that they design and optimize their vision to provide the largest financial return possible. Now, making money is not a bad thing, but what should be known and understood, is that in the end, our salaries, the cars we drive, the square footage of our homes… none of that matters. What matters is the legacy that our business and our vision can leave behind – a legacy that has the ability to shape, disrupt, or destroy, a familiar system. When you disrupt a familiar system, you change perspective – you change the way a community can define themselves to inspire future innovation. Just because things are the way they are does not mean they should remain that way. I want to invite you all to leave your mark on something, and don’t be afraid of ignoring what you are brought up thinking is natural.5>
As an educator, Matthew has worked with ArtCenter College of Design, the DMBA in Strategic Foresight at California College of the Arts, UCLA Design Media Arts, and General Assembly. Throughout his career at ArtCenter, his teaching has focused on the relationship between business and design. In 2010, a mentor, Terry Stone, brought Matthew on while he was pursuing his MFA degree in order to help her with the "Business 101" class. Since then, he has given 100+ lectures and workshops for the school, has taken on the role of "Adjunct Faculty", and has collaborated with a number of faculty members to design curriculum and engagement methods for students in the Graphic Design, Humanities, and Design Matters departments.
"The role of the designer in our culture is changing. And Matthew Manos, founder of global design-strategy consultancy, verynice, is at the forefront of this movement." – Ilise Benun, HOW Magazine
"verynice knows the nonprofit world from many different perspectives; this knowledge has helped shape our interactions with the many nonprofits we engage with. Additionally, verynice has implemented a user focused research and feedback loop to our development process that’s helped to quickly gain and implement validated findings." – Jay Ciro, Google
Matthew collaborated with the Strelka Institute for Art and Design in Moscow, Russia, to develop an online course that would provide hands-on training for local startups who are interested in designing their own business model. While in Russia, Matthew also lead a workshop for local entrepreneurs, gave a public lecture, and mentored students in the graduate programs at Strelka.
M: My greatest passions in life fall under two categories: providing access to education and empowering others to create sustainable impact. It's no surprise, then, that my favorite thing that I get to do at verynice is facilitate workshops with communities and clients around the world. Over the course of my career, I have been able to work with thousands of students, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and organizations in order to build their capacity on topics that include branding, product design, and social entrepreneurship.
While at UCLA, he designed & lead an undergraduate elective course in the School of Arts & Architecture titled "Designing Entrepreneurship". The course provided students with a set of hands-on, radical approaches to innovation, entrepreneurship, and the design of business. Students explored historical, contemporary, and emerging perspectives on the field of entrepreneurship, in order to provide the necessary context to invent their own methodologies. Students also engaged with a series of experimental models for generating innovative business designed to give them practical skills to become successful self-starters upon graduation. The class culminated in a final project in which each student wrote a business plan and developed a prototype. Guest reviewers/critics included GOOD Magazine, Keep A Breast, HerbaLife, Philosophie Inc., No Right Brain Left Behind, and Impact HUB LA.
"What if we inhabited a world in which every service provider gave half of their work away for free? Matthew Manos, founder of verynice, is pioneering a global, small business movement to do just that." – George McGraw, The Huffington Post
M: Having launched verynice within the campus of UCLA, my goal was to teach the class I wish I could have taken. I had recently graduated from ArtCenter, MFA in-hand, and was ready to fulfill my dream of becoming an educator. I spent a few weeks re-writing my thesis work as a kind-of curriculum, called up one of my old professors at UCLA, and he gave me a chance to make it happen if enrollment was in my favor. Luckily it was, and I had the honor of teaching it for two summer sessions.
Over the course of his career as a Design-Strategist and Creative Director, Matthew has lead design and strategy teams to successfully launch hundreds of brands, products, and campaigns across the globe. Notable client work includes Brand Strategy for Immigrant Heritage Month and the Pasadena Museum of California Art; Product Development for Downtown Women's Center and 826 Los Angeles; Campaign Development for the National Resource Defense Council and the Keep A Breast Foundation; Creative Facilitation for Dartmouth University and the Institute for the Future; Service-Design for Disney Imagineering and The American Heart Association; Business-Design for AIGA and Open Architecture Collaborative; Illustration for Red Bull and GOOD Magazine.
"Very few people in the business and design sectors have done as much for the nonprofit community as Matthew Manos, of verynice global human-centered design and strategy studio. He has revolutionized how the design industry interacts with the nonprofit industry, by creating a way of giving back with his Give Half business model of dedicating half of his agency's work towards pro bono projects for nonprofits. With his Models of Impact toolkit, he has started a meaningful dialogue on how nonprofits can approach their business models differently, as a means to making an even bigger impact." – Marina Terteryan, Why Service Design Thinking Podcast
Matthew's second book, "Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise" aims to inspire the next generation of Social Entrepreneurs to integrate strategic foresight into their practices. (left) - The cover of "How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free", Matthew's first book which open-sourced verynice's Give-Half pro-bono business model. (right)
At the California College of the Arts, Matthew is an Adjunct Professor in the Strategic Foresight MBA Program. He originally joined the institution at the end of 2014 to write the curriculum for the first class dedicated to the practice of "Social Entrepreneurship" at CCA. Through the course, students research the history of prominent models in the impact space (sharing economy, one-for-one, give-half, micro-lending, etc.), create an intervention within an assigned community to test their new model of impact, and write an impact-driven business plan to define the long-term vision for their enterprise. Guest speakers/critics have included representatives from [ freespace ], Zynga, OCAD University, verynice, Kumu, Redscout, The League of Creative Interventionists, and more.
M: Non-profit organizations are spending billions upon billions of dollars each and every year on fees billed by service-providers and other third party operations like each and every single of us in this room. $8 Billion of that alone is allocated for design and marketing, the industry that I primarily work in… every. single. year. I don’t know about you, but this reality just deeply frustrates me. Imagine what could be accomplished in this world if we created new, more creative, economic systems that allowed organizations to spend less on overhead, and more on impact. I’m fascinated by the idea that some of the world’s most persistent problems— think hunger… housing… access to water, etc. can actually be solved by just a very simple reallocation of financial resources. This is where pro-bono work comes in. Pro-bono, short for pro-bono publico literally means “for the good of the public.” It is most commonly attributed to the legal industry as a means of making otherwise expensive services available for free to those who cannot afford it. In more recent years, however, pro-bono has entered many more economies in the service space such as design, marketing, public relations, human resources, and more. For the past 10 years I have been a pro-bono practitioner. When I was 16 years old, I took on my first pro-bono project. I found myself in a skatepark in the Silicon Valley. You could find me there on most weekends, but this particular weekend, something spectacular happened. I saw a man in a wheelchair ripping around the park far better than I and everyone else. Intrigued, I rolled a bit closer to the man only to find that he was not alone, but was actually with a group of kids, also in wheelchairs. I came to find out that this man was the founder of a non-profit organization that taught handicapped children how to participate in extreme sports. Incredibly moved, I volunteered to design some stickers to help promote the organization. Lucky for me, the week prior, my godmother sent me a pirated copy of Photoshop. Needless to say, the stickers really were not my best work, but they did have a profound impact on me that would define the next 10 years of my career as a designer. I’m the founder of a company in Los Angeles called verynice. We are a global design and innovation consultancy that gives over half of its work away for free.
In 2008, during his last years of college, Manos set out to offer his design services at 100% pro-bono rates to nonprofits. He launched his own company, verynice, and “naively” scrawled his early working company motto on a dinner napkin: “Save the World.” He spent his nights, weekends, and virtually all of his free time providing work for his clients at no cost – simply for the joy of making a positive difference. He had no employees, managed all of the work himself, and thoroughly enjoyed himself while doing it – though the initial jobs were “small and irregular.”
A year later, the summer after he graduated from UCLA, Manos had his first “big break”: he won a bid to design the promotional materials for MTV’s horror film, Savage County. The big-name boosted his credibility substantially, and work for both nonprofits (pro-bono) and small businesses (paid) trickled in.When Manos began his MFA program that fall, he faced the precarious challenge of balancing coursework and running his business full-time. “It was absolutely horrible,” he laughs. “I’d get to school at 4 AM, work on my company until 10 AM, then do school stuff the rest of day until 5 or 6 PM.” All the while, he began to develop a more focused business model. (excerpt from "Hipster Business Models" by Zachary Crockett)
M: 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.
#ReimagineRiverside is a project in the permanent collection of the Culver Center for the Arts in Riverside, California. The installation invited residents in the City of Riverside to contribute ideas to improve their community via tweets that were displayed on two jumbotrons in the Civic Center.
He is also the creator of Models of Impact, a strategic business-design toolkit and creative methodology that empowers its users to create sustainable impact in the world. Models of Impact's resources have been leveraged by over 15,000 entrepreneurs and organizations around the world, and he has integrated the methodology into course curriculum at the Design MBA Program at the California College of the Arts, Singularity University's Global Studies Program, ArtCenter College of Design, General Assembly, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and the Strelka Institute for Art and Design in Moscow.
"Why focus on business models? Many new businesses focus on launching a product or service but lack the foresight to think about the legacy, longevity and sustainability of the organization. 'By thinking ‘model first’–instead of just slapping a business model on a shiny object–we design for legacy at the very beginning of a project, and pave the way for an exciting future,' explained Matthew Manos, Founder of Models of Impact. This 'model first' mindset is steeped in a decade of experience in and dedication to the social impact design field, which began long before the term was even mainstream." – Excerpt from "Designing Business Models for Impact" on Design Affects.
Marlon Fuentes: 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?M: 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.
"Manos is on a mission to get more designers to donate work to pro-bono causes, and he makes a persuasive case for why giving work away doesn’t necessarily mean losing something." – Mason Currey, Core77
verynice partnered with the Controller's Office in the City of Los Angeles to launch the first-ever Civic Innovation Fellowship in LA. The result was a body of work that helped extend the city's incredible open-data initiative into the geo-mapped context. verynice was later given the opportunity to share their findings and lesson-learned with the White House.
Named one of "Seven Millennials Changing the World" by The Huffington Post, Matthew’s work and ideas have also been published in hundreds of venues including The Guardian, Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes, and Wired. A frequent keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, Matthew has been featured at over 100 events and institutions around the world including AIGA, Art Directors Club, Core77, HOW Design Live, TEDxCMU, and TEDxJNJ. In 2013, the Taproot Foundation awarded verynice with the Golden Root Award for its leadership in the pro-bono movement alongside a humbling group of businesses which included Disney, Deloitte, and Union Bank. In 2014, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recognized Matthew for verynice’s unparalleled commitment to pro-bono service for local non-profit organizations. One of his career-defining client projects was leading verynice's team as partners and advisors on Design Strategy and Product Development for Google and Peace Jam's re-launch of Billion Acts, a digital product that was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. verynice is also included in the "GameChangers 500" list, better known as the "Fortune 500" of the social enterprise movement.
"The great folks from verynice have helped us provide our students and community with beautiful publications and branding that would have cost us a lot funds if we would have paid for them. Instead, they allowed us to put any money we would have spent on design towards the work of our mission, to provide free writing support to under-resourced youth." – Joel Arquillos, 826 Los Angeles
M: Contrary to popular belief, the act of being philanthropic does not necessarily begin or end at the stroke of a pen. Instead, philanthropy has the opportunity to go far beyond the power of monetary transaction alone through the donation of time because talent is a multiplier. Non-profit organizations are spending billions upon billions of dollars each year on service-provider fees,. Very often these dollars are being spent ineffectively. Imagine the impact that billions of spare dollars could have. When an organization is able to save valuable resources, they are able to immediately re-invest those dollars directly into their cause. Pro-bono work is necessary. While spending increases each year, funding decreases. In 2013, we saw cuts to funding for non-profit sector from the federal government totaling $62 Billion, but in 2012 foundation money only totaled 46 Billion. The social sector is becoming drained of resources, and traditional philanthropy clearly doesn’t cut it anymore. We need new models of philanthropy that will allow non-profit organizations to save valuable resources in order to clear up the social sector’s economic disaster. The old model of business designs for the short term. The old model of wealth is to introduce philanthropy after the riches. The new model of business, however, designs for the long term. It designs for wealth and philanthropy to come simultaneously. A lack of funding is only an issue if there are a lot of expenses. As business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs, we need to do our part by making giving back an integral component of our business.
A random collection of illustrative and poetic works. When no one is looking, Matthew co-authors an experimental poetry zine known as Future Taco. His work in poetry is inspired by constraint-based making, and "Wild Language" - a theory that attempts to re-define the poet as a documentarian.
Matthew is the author of "Toward a Preemptive Social Enterprise," a manifesto and collection of essays inspiring a new generation of social entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders to move from a founding principle that is informed by reaction to one that is driven by strategic foresight. "Social entrepreneurship is almost always too late. As practitioners of social enterprise, we hold the assumption that our responsibility is to exclusively act post-crisis in order to gradually chip away at a persistent problem, or to maintain a state of peace. The art of reaction is necessary, but the expectation of post-traumatic innovation as the singular starting point for an entire industry is limiting. What if social enterprise was also responsible for preemption? What if social entrepreneurs were also futurists?"
He is also the author of “How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free,” a project that has inspired thousands of freelancers and small businesses to integrate responsible pro-bono practices. The book aims to open-source verynice's give-half pro-bono business model, and the toolkit is broken into four primary sections that each aim to represent the inner-working of the model as well as best practices in pro-bono at large. Originally self-published by verynice thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, the book is now in its second edition with over 20,000 readers spanning 3,000+ cities.
Core77:What is the most widespread misunderstanding about design or designers?M: That designers make pretty things. That's something that I try to advocate against quite a lot. Sometimes the solution you need might be something ugly, or something that you actually don't like—because you might not be the audience for it, or something pretty just might not be appropriate, given the circumstances. I think that a big misconception about design and the use of designers is that we just love making facades of things, as opposed to really thinking about how that thing actually works or what the thing even is. It's unfortunate that, a lot of the time, designers aren't invited to the table until the project's 90 percent done.
Super Disruptive Innovation is a workshop series that was initially piloted at the Occupy camps in Downtown Los Angeles. The workshop presented participants with a series of ominous machines. First, participants are asked to explain what they believe the machine's purpose is. Next, they are prompted to invent a new machine that has the potential to make that initial machine obsolete.
Matthew also serves on the Advisory Board of AIGA Los Angeles, Createathon, The Lifeboat Foundation, The Dwelle Collaborative, Impact Rising, and Goji Labs. He is a Trustee for Kiva Zip, a Mentor for Code for America's Accelerator Program, and a Pro-Bono Champion for Billion+ Change. Previously, he served on the Executive Advisory Council for the Taproot Foundation in Los Angeles, was a member of the Board of Directors for the Chill Foundation, held positions as an Interim Creative Director at Philosophie, a Global Marketing Lead at The $100 Solution, and a VP of Marketing at Youth Leadership America.
M: Anyone can clean up a beach. That’s a simple task, and people have been doing it for years. Sure, we can continue to define ‘service’ and ‘volunteerism’ in that way, but wouldn’t a more productive question be ‘how can we ensure that beaches never get dirty again?’ That is a big question, but it is one that can be answered by leveraging the unique talents each of us brings to the table. This isn’t a new idea—it’s actually a movement, the idea of skills-based volunteering."
"Design consultancy, verynice joined hands with our team to research, prototype and produce the visual brand of U-Report. With the help of the logos, guidelines and system created by verynice, our team now independently continues the deployment while also improving on the assets." – UNICEF Innovation Lab
The Emperor's New Post-It is Matthew's MFA Thesis Project. This year-long research investigation into the potential of automating entrepreneurial practice resulted in a semi-algorithmic approach to generating business concepts. The process lead to the authorship of 1,000 Business Plans - each of which were mailed to the top Venture Capital firms in the world, for their consideration.
Matthew holds an MFA in Media Design from ArtCenter College of Design, and a BA in Design Media Arts from UCLA. "The Emperor's New Post-It", his MFA Thesis, is a series of design-research projects that serve as a critical reflection on Design-Thinking methodologies through the creation of community-based workshops and conditional writing exercises. The project eventually evolved to become Models of Impact, and Matthew was the recipient of one of 5 thesis scholarships in recognition of his work during the first year in the program. His coursework at ArtCenter included research/investigations into: New Modes of Reading & Writing, Speculative Design/Design Fiction, Ethnographic Research, and Physical Interaction Design.
While studying at UCLA, Matthew's coursework focused on Communication Design, Video, Motion Graphics, Creative Writing, Landscape Photography, Conceptual Art Practice, Design History, Art History & Criticism, Digital Humanities. Upon graduating, he received the Chancellor's Service Award in recognition of the donation of design services to dozens of non-profit student groups on campus. He was also included on the Dean's List his senior year for academic excellence. Notable undergraduate projects included Humans at the Zoo (a controversial proposal to replace all animals in the Los Angeles zoo with humans), Mandolin & Unicycle (a documented attempt to learn two new things from scratch, simultaneously), and Black Tea (a fictional tea brand designed to appeal to the underground punk demographic in China).
HOW Magazine: How did you come up with the name verynice?M: I was thinking, “What is it that I want to accomplish? What kind of design studio would I want to start?” And I just wanted to start a studio that was very nice—like really nice to people and did good work and had good ethics and attitude.
Strelka Institute: How do you ensure that what you do is perceived authentic and is actually authentic?M: I do that by publicly saying this: if we ever go below 50% pro bono, I will resign from the company. So, that’s a public statement I’ve made several times and now I’ve said it in Russia too.
Mandolin & Unicycle is an attempt to learn two new things from scratch, simultaneously. The project, Matthew's senior project at UCLA, resulted in a publication that documented 10 weeks of failure, and occasional success.
To book Matthew to speak at your event or institution, to request a meeting or consultation with Matthew, or to learn how you can get involved in verynice's efforts, please contact verynice's Studio/Community Manager, Clarisa Valdez (firstname.lastname@example.org). For any new business or partnership opportunities, and to learn more about verynice's services and collaborative engagements, please contact Noah Goldberg-Jaffe.(email@example.com). For more information, visit verynice's website, purchase a copy of "How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free", and/or download the Models of Impact toolkit. You can also follow Matthew and verynice on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
"Giving away half of your work to nonprofits. For free. Nuts, huh? But it’s a trending business idea that reimagines what it means to be engaged in pro bono service." – Ryan Scott, Forbes Magazine
M: I’m constantly asked why we give half of our work away for free instead of 10%, 20%, 30%… the reason is far less logistical than everyone might imagine. It really is a philosophical decision. I truly believe that if we want to create social impact, we need to make giving back an integral component of our day-to-day lives, not an extracurricular activity that we do on the weekends.