Design is problem solving, not pretty-making

Our motto, “Design with depth,” reminds us that design is not a decorative art, but rather a problem-solving discipline.

True design combines empathy, creativity, and rationality to develop innovative solutions that solve real underlying problems for users and customers.

The greatest business success comes from taking a long-term view, and any reasonable long-term view would account for human nature, human needs, human emotions, and human aspirations. That’s why a disciplined, thoughtful, and user-centered process is at the core of everything we do.

The Forty Code

Fight for the humans: Our job is to champion humanity in all areas of our work, whether we’re trying to figure out how to deal with a coworker, or making a design decision for a client that affects their customers. Humanity comes first in everything we do.

Solve the bigger problem: The problems people bring us are often superficial symptoms of underlying issues. Instead of solving the “what,” we try to figure out the “why,” and then dig deeper to uncover the often-surprising real causes.

Say what you see: The answer to “Should I say something about this?” is yes. We just start talking and see what happens, and we’ve come to trust that it works out for the best. It’s awkward and scary, and it’s what we do here.

Invest in the future: We prefer decisions that make sense over a long period of time, even when they hurt in the short-term. We’re willing to endure discomfort or inconvenience now if it means we can thank ourselves for it in the future.

Assume the best: We assume our clients, contractors, fellow Forties, and others are doing their best, so we give them room to fail or fall short. It’s okay to express frustrations, but we avoid gossip, name-calling, and general negativity.

Work with what you’ve got: Instead of being annoyed with situations that don’t line up the way we want them, we embrace our constraints, jump in, and make the best of them. Instead of blaming the situation, we save our mental energy for improving it.

Take the high road: We do what’s right, and we accept the consequences. There’s no room here for lying, cheating, stealing, or compromising our values. We’d rather fail with character than succeed with shame.

Stay flexible: As companies grow, they tend to get bogged down with infrastructure and policies. We resist that tendency by sticking with lightweight, nimble practices that sometimes seem counter-intuitive but allow our company to change course quickly.

Be consistently reliable: We’re realistic about our individual workloads, and we make sure make sure our fellow Forties can depend on us to deliver consistently and punctually. If we say we’re going to do something, we get it done.