2023 was an eventful year for us: Lots of new clients and projects, two new people joining the team, we even managed to squeeze in some pro-bono work. Here’s the full rundown, including a personal comment from each team member!
025: Season’s greetings
Let’s start with project work and collaborations:
- Our work with TypeMates continued and we launched their new site + shop in Q1: Read our full announcement and treat yourself to some new typefaces?
- We teamed up with My Country Talks to make a very special event happen: The World Talks, aimed to spark global conversations and help people connect across country boundaries.
- DemocracyNext approached us to turn their branding (by Studio Yukiko) into a scalable digital design system. The outcome was a comprehensive new website and a separate guide about setting up a citizen assembly. Learn more in our dedicated announcement.
- Our first pro-bono project: GenoDigital is an important German initiative to update cooperative laws for the digital age and we teamed up with them and Reinblau Co-op to refresh the initiative’s branding and design + launch a new website. Cooperation among cooperatives, put into practice!
- This year we started working with YouthPolicy.org, the most extensive knowledge base about youth policy around the world, on their branding and digital tools. It all started with a spontaneous invitation to their team retreat in Brandenburg and ever since we’ve worked closely together. Everything we’ve created together will launch early next year.
- Across the year we worked with Hannes von Döhren of HvD Fonts on his existing type foundry online shop, extending it with new modules and functionality, as well as mitigating a heavy DDoS attack. Continuous iteration and refinement, how it should be for digital infrastructure! Meanwhile he launched a bunch of new typefaces, like the lovely Cabrio.
- Sovereign Tech Fund is a German government initiative to invest in open-source ecosystems. In summer, they approached us to participate in their call for proposals, for a brand and web relaunch. We managed to convince them to work with us and subsequently launched their new website last month. Read our dedicated announcement about it.
- We started working with Publix last year already and this year our collaboration got even closer: They are opening a new building for democracy and journalism in Berlin-Neukölln next summer and across this year we launched a new website together and worked with their growing team on many strategic aspects, like membership models and setting up the digital infrastructure.
- Dekoder is an online magazine about making independent journalism from Russia and Belarus accessible in German. We’re building a special project with them, telling the stories of civilian victims during WW2. It launches next year.
- Last but not least, we also supported bitcrowd on a large-scale project based on Elixir, generating complex PDF documents about energy consumption, among other things.
Besides all the project work, we also reached some internal milestones:
In July, we celebrated our first birthday—one year of Village One! During 2023, we grew from four to six people: Sev joined in May and Julia in July, so we’re a team of six now! Doro co-organized two community meetups, had lots of talks with other organizations about cooperatives, and participated in a panel discussion, while Harry represented us on stage several times. We sent out 17 newsletters, 17 project offers, and participated in three calls for proposals (and won two of them). Towards the end of the year, we even managed to update our website to finally show some project work.
Organisational topics we kept mulling over:
- Financials: Running a bootstrapped company inevitably means you think a lot about money and making ends meet: After a small loss last year, it looks like we’re leaving this year with a small profit, so that’s great! Next year, we hope to build a healthy financial buffer.
- Communication: Village One is a democratic company, so we operate very transparently—up until now this meant everyone was potentially included in all discussions. This helps us to build a shared understanding, but can also be stressful when you need to get some project work done on a deadline. It now feels like the right point in time to define clearer roles, freeing up mental capacity and allowing everyone to focus on what’s most important to them.
- Business model: An ongoing discussion throughout the year has been our business model as a studio, how we invoice our work, how to price it and what the future holds for creative work. We can’t say we reached any groundbreaking insights yet, but it feels like some clearer threads (and threats, haha) are emerging, which we’ll keep pulling next year.
- Being a distributed team: We started Village One as a remote-first team with mostly asynchronous communication—we’re still convinced this is the right decision, yielding many benefits, from enabling focus work, to being compatible with more life choices or allowing us to build a more diverse team. That said, several of our members have struggled with a lack of team momentum and connection this year. Next year we’ll probably rent some co-working desks in Berlin so that some of us can occasionally work together, while avoiding to slip into a half-baked hybrid setup.
- Funding: In June we applied for the GründungsBONUS, submitted a ton of documents, made several requested adjustments, but have yet to hear back whether we’re accepted or not, a full six months later. Truth be told, the whole experience has been rather frustrating. Luckily we’re still alive and kicking, but if it takes this long to decide whether to confirm/reject funding, well, in a lot of cases the answer might not even matter anymore.
Finally, 2023 in our own words:
Doro: This year has been wild! One of my highlights is definitely that Sev and Julia joined our team: I am so happy that we found these two amazing people that make our co-op feel even more real now. ✨ Also after being around for a few more months, we started to get requests from clients who we didn’t know before and they approached us because we are Village One and because of our values! How cool is that?! I am looking forward to a new year with this team, working together on our dream projects and shaping Village One even more.
Christoph: 2023 was packed! When we looked at the past months together recently, I struggled remembering everything, and some things feel so long ago already. It’s quite unbelievable that Village One only has been around for 1.5 years?! I’m very proud of the projects we worked on and launched recently. I’m also glad that we decided against some projects, because we felt like it wasn’t a total match with what we aim for. These discussions were exhausting and tricky at times, but in the end, it was always worth it!
Fei: Starting a new business is hard, duh!!! 😅 This year has been a mix of highs and lows for me personally. However, I’m so grateful for everyone who gave or referred projects to us; and I’m especially proud of this little team that we assembled. The way we listen und communicate with each other is just lovely!
Harry: What stood out for me this year was how many new clients approached us, who are doing amazing things in the world and also happen to be a joy to work with—be it TypeMates, Publix, Sovereign Tech Fund, Youth Policy Labs or Democracy Next. They all do meaningful work, with dedication and a smile on their faces. I feel incredibly fortunate that we get to collaborate with, support and learn from such amazing people!
Julia: I've only joined Village One back in July, but it somehow feels I've been around for the entire 2023 🙈! In the last six months, I had a crash course on cooperatives and how to run a design agency, worked on five super interesting projects, two of which I lead, pondered on tricky internal topics and had many brilliant conversations with the team. Even though some days feel a little bit crazy (in a rather positive way though!), I'm grateful for the opportunities, challenges and leanings that came our way this year!
Sev: Joining in Village One in May, it’s been a whirlwind of a year! Alongside the many projects and great coworking weeks, one thing that’s really resonated with me is everyone’s respect for each other’s time outside of work and their wellbeing. If a member needs to take a mental health break, there’s no hesitation there! This is the power of the coop: we all want to look after each other 🫂.
2023 is a wrap!
A HEARTFELT THANK YOU to our friends, families, partners and project partners for your support and trust in us! We literally couldn’t have done it without you!
That’s all from us in 2023, see you in 2024!
Christoph, Doro, Fei, Harry, Julia and Sev