What's the best way to protect a phone?

I'm thinking about getting a Nexus 4 as my first smartphone, and I'd rather not damage it. I would like to find an ideal balance between protection, usability, and aesthetics. What do you use to protect your phone, and why? Bumper, case, skin, pouch, bare, etc. Also, if you've had bad experiences with any particular option, please share that too. Thanks!