Best of 2013: A Year in Design Best of 2013: A Year in Design

Best of 2013: A Year in Design

by Matthew Manos

December 22, 2013

2013 was packed with events that forever changed the course of history. We faced the US Government shut-down and the death of Nelson Mandela. We watched the Bitcoin rise as Detroit fell. We stood in shock at the Boston Marathon bombings and the disaster in the Philippines. Designers, like artists, are inspired by the events around them. We work under constraints and are inspired by the highs and lows of our culture. Before the year is over, let's take a look back at the 10 best designs of 2013.


This design-driven toolkit created by ShaoLan allows westerners to learn Chinese easily through inviting illustrations, and simple "building block" principles. The project represents design as a tool for communication at its finest. By transforming very simple and common Chinese characters into visual metaphors that are easy to digest, the very daunting task of memorizing over 20,000 characters is suddenly within reach. I’m pretty sure, thanks to Chineasy, “learn Chinese” will be on my list of resolutions for next year.


2013 has been a big year for 3D printing, but 3Doodler, the first 3D printing pen, is the only solution that requires no technical knowledge, software, or computers. In the future, will we be able to just doodle a mug and then drink coffee out of it? Sounds cool to me!

Keep a Breast's "Check Yourself App"

This app allows users to schedule a monthly self-check exam in the hopes of preventing breast cancer. Users receive a text message reminder along with a how-to guide, and are encouraged to share their experience with friends and family. A collaborative effort between my studio verynice and The Rare Studio, I personally love this initiative because of its usefulness. I can’t tell you how often nonprofits express a desire to make an app for the sole sake of being able to say, ‘Hey look, we made an app!’ It was immediately clear however that this was absolutely not the case for Keep A Breast.

NSA Files Decoded

This incredible online experience developed by The Guardian breaks down the files revealed by Edward Snowden in an easy-to-digest manner. Let’s face it - this is a difficult topic. Most of you have likely heard about Snowden, but many of us will have a hard time understanding exactly how these issues effect us. For example, the site visually explains the NSA’s power to travel “three hops” from its targets. Because I have ~1,000 facebook friends, for example, the agency can leverage a greater network of over 25 million people... just through my data alone. Whoa.


2013 has been a big year for bike sharing, but I have to say... thanks to the beautiful branding work by Firebelly Design and IDEO, there simply isn't a better looking one than Chicago's bike sharing system, with 4,000 bikes across the city. Aside from design (and a clever name), Divvy is also ahead of the curve thanks to its focus on community, its ubiquitous stations, and the fact that it's on track to become the second largest bike sharing system in the US. Next time I’m in Chicago... I can’t wait to take a ride.

Jerry the Bear 

This toy teaches children with type 1 diabetes how to manage their blood glucose levels, recognize their symptoms, and maintain a healthy diet. The best part? All of this is done through play! This product's innovative use of play to tackle complex children's health issues is on track to change the medical industry as we know it.

This year has seen significant strides in design that serve as a glimpse into a bespoke future that we all can look forward to, because in the hardest of times, it is vision that gives us hope. As we move into 2014, let's continue to make things that help us gain new perspectives, give back to our community, and challenge the status quo. I’m excited to continue working night and day with my team at verynice to design and refine new models and systems for designers to create impact in their community. Onward!

Recently on GOOD
Sign up to receive the best of GOOD delivered to your inbox each and every weekday
Best of 2013: A Year in Design