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Designing a New Way Forward: 20 Years of Living Our Values

It’s hard for me to believe, but October marks Constructive’s 20th anniversary. It’s a significant milestone and one we’re really proud of. And, in reflecting on who we are, what we’ve accomplished, and why it matters, we’ve come a long way!

I believe that a company’s tagline is the most succinct expression of its reason for being. For probably 15 of our 20 years, Constructive’s has been “Designing a New Way Forward.” It is as much about designing solutions for clients as it is designing ones that contribute to creating a world more like the one we’d like to live in.

I think this speaks well to who we are. Constructive is a culture built by people who know that the work we do is important and that we are fortunate to be able to do it—both with each other and with our clients. To me, that’s special.

So, looking back on 20 years since I started up shop in my living room with one computer, a bunch of ambition, and a lot to learn, we’ve been using this moment both for reflection and to help design our own new way forward. After all, isn’t that what anniversaries are for?

We’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. We’ve learned, grown, and gotten better. While a lot of this has to do with continuously challenging ourselves to be better and learning from our mistakes, it’s Constructive’s clients that are perhaps our single greatest source of personal and professional growth. The people we partner with raise our level of awareness and understanding every day, sending us on pathways of discovery as we work together to help make the world a better place. And because of our clients’ expertise and dedication to social impact—and because of our shared values—we’re more informed citizens and, I believe, better people. 

That’s not fluff. Every person who joins Constructive does so because they want to do this work. Had we spent 20 years developing strategy and design for consumer products, financial services, or hospitality brands, not only would what we do be very different, the way we think about the world would also be immeasurably more narrow. And, speaking for myself, the actions I take, including how Constructive is run, would probably be different as well.

Our work is the opportunity to live our values every day. Not everyone gets to say this and it’s something we never take for granted. So, in reflecting on 20 years in business, one thing is clear—we owe a debt of gratitude to our clients for providing us with opportunities to learn about issues we care deeply about and live our values by helping them be more effective in the vital work that they do. 

The opportunity to understand the world through a richer diversity of perspectives and expertise is one of the greatest rewards I could have ever imagined when starting a design firm. A culture of continuous learning is a core value at Constructive, and we are incredibly fortunate to learn from inspiring experts who are hard at work addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges. We also get to build on what we learn from them through exciting research and ideation.

This is why I like to say that the best part of being a social impact strategy and design firm is that we get paid to take an ongoing graduate-level course called “How the World Works.” And I think it’s fair to say that everyone who’s worked at Constructive has deepened their understanding of issues like climate change and the environment, social justice, health equity, and education—just to name a few. 

Of course, being in true partnership is a two-way street and, when it comes to raising awareness and understanding, I believe we also bring a lot to the table. As much as we love learning from our clients, we equally enjoy sharing our ideas and teaching them what we know. Our people are passionate and they bring a pretty deep reservoir of expertise that makes a difference for the organizations who choose to partner with us.  

We named our company Constructive for a reason. It’s about these ideas of working with shared values, a mutual commitment to active listening and learning, and a collaborative approach to problem-solving—whether this means a simple solution that improves the work we produce, or something far more significant in society that our clients are at the forefront of advancing. Our ability to live our values is directly connected to the passion and commitment of our clients—organizations filled with people from whom we’ve learned so much over the years and who have allowed us to live more meaningful lives as a result. And I’d like to think that, along the way, Constructive’s people have taught a few clients a thing or two about the power of their brands and how to use it to engage and acticate audiences.

So on our 20th anniversary, from everyone at Constructive, I’d like to extend deep and heartfelt “thank you” to our clients, both past and present, to our colleagues who’ve helped us along the way, and to everyone who’s found interest or inspiration in our agency. There’s a lot of work to be done in this world, and we’re even more excited about what’s ahead than anything we’ve accomplished so far.

About the Author

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz

Matt believes in servant leadership, working with Constructive’s clients and teams to make sure that we stay focused on what matters, and that both our partnerships and the work we produce meets our shared expectations and the highest standards. With 25 years of experience as a designer, brand strategist, and writer for the social impact sector, Matt helps Constructive’s teams design processes and practices that create brand value for nonprofits and social impact businesses—elevating how mission and purpose are translated into brand-aligned strategy, messaging, and designed experiences.

Matt contributes to the field of nonprofit design, serving on the Leadership Team for the NY chapter of The Communications Network, writing, speaking, mentoring, and conducting workshops. His work has been recognized for excellence by numerous organizations such as The Webbys, Communication Arts, Print Magazine, The Case Awards, Graphic Design USA, The W3 Awards, The Communicator Awards, and others. Matt earned his BA from Sarah Lawrence College in Writing & Visual Studies, and then conducted post-graduate design studies at the School of Visual Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, and Parsons.

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