District 51

Design and digital for a better world.

District 51 is an ethical strategy and design shop. We’re a project of a digital strategist & a designer; one with a history of high-profile positions in the public and private sectors, and one a former educator and coach; both with a long history in the district. For us, like so many others, the election in 2016 changed everything. We’ve been socially conscious and politically active throughout our careers, but things are different now, and for us, they aligned in a way that it made sense to go all in on trying to help those creating a better world, and doing it in the areas we know best.

District 51.

Our name is a nod toward the District’s longtime fight for home rule, and we exist to address what is typically an area of major weakness for most businesses; creating a strategy for and effectively using digital media to achieve their goals. When used well, it’s a complete gamechanger, but too often, it’s either an afterthought or a field that changes too rapidly for organizations without a dedicated team to keep up.

We’re believers in growth driven design; deploying highly effective websites through an entirely data-driven web development process. That, a comprehensive digital strategy, and in-depth UX research form the core of what we do.

We use our experience in the private sector, the principles of lean startup, and a very, very light footprint to keep our costs down, work efficiently and effectively, and help our clients do as much good as possible.

As is often heard these days, we can do better. America and the world can do better, and all of us personally can do better. We believe that, and we want to help others who believe it too. So let’s talk if you want to get started.

The Founders

Chris is a district-based digital strategist. He focuses largely on helping non-profits, non-governmental organizations, and social enterprises maximize their financial sustainability via digital efforts. His ideal projects are built around the creation of positive societal change, especially if his passions for travel, athletics, & technology act as the catalyst.

Outside of his work with District 51, he’s a runner, traveler on his way to the Century Club, advisory board member at Uproot Poverty, and regular volunteer with 2 great animal rescues, Rural Dog Rescue & Rocket Dog.

He graduated with honors from Université de Perpignan, where he completed a B.Sc in International Business. He holds a number of technical certifications as well, including a variety focused on Growth-Driven Design and Inbound Marketing through Hubspot, Digital Marketing via General Assembly, and SEO and Search Metrics through Google.

Joel Adams began his career in design at Cornell University where he studied audio production, linguistics and psychology. After finishing an additional certification in Audio Engineering he spent over 12 years in the music industry before refocusing his work on visual and web design.

Recently Joel has become passionate about UI / UX design and how growth driven principles can be affected by multicultural UX research.

Joel is also an avid runner and coach and has worked with elite youth and masters athletes for over 10 years. He has two super cool kids who enjoy gymnastics and swimming.

Our Mission

Be better than yesterday (also; every project is our best project).
Just like we believe in the idea that as a society, we can do better; we also believe that we personally can do better. We constantly push ourselves to learn new things, step outside our comfort zone, and raise the bar higher than it was yesterday. Consequently, we believe all our work should be our best work since we’re constantly striving to be better than we were yesterday.

Remember why we’re doing this.
We traded the stability of corporate for the freedom (and risk) of entrepreneurship for a lot of reasons. While the lack of meetings and flexible hours are a bonus to be sure, the real prize is getting to work with those we believe in. We work with other people and firms who share a common vision on projects we care about, and aim to make an impact.

Make no small plans.
A bastardization of a quote attributed to Daniel Burnham (and a nod to the long Chicago stint of one of the founders), it’s most famously used to justify massive and unnecessary urban planning projects, but also tidily sums our thoughts as mentioned above. We work to make an impact, both in the projects we choose, and the work we do on them. What does that mean? We choose substance over flash & little accounts we believe in over big ones we don’t. We’ll take a project that captures our attention and delivers real change in lieu of the big payday ten times of ten. If you choose to work with us, you can both expect and count on that.

A win/win situation isn’t the lofty ideal, it’s where we start.
Another oft-remembered memory and lesson from corporate is that there’s often a downside to a deal. A win/win where everyone walks away better off happened, but was the rare and happy exception rather than the rule. In keeping with the whole “sleeping well at night” thing, we’ve flipped that on it’s head. We’ll only take you on as a client if we think we’re the right fit, and if we don’t, we’ll point you in the right direction. If luck would have us ending up together, we’ll do an amazing job for you, and if you’re happy with the work we’ve done, we hope you’ll tell your friends. For lack of a better phrase, everyone should walk away from their experience stoked.

We treat you (and your time) with respect.
As small biz owners ourselves, we know how tight time and budgets can be. Indeed, we keep a light footprint and use a lot of the principles of lean startup to be cost-effective and light as possible, so our margins reflect that. When we speak with you and (hopefully) do projects for you, we work quickly, deliver on or ahead of schedule, and keep the kind of eye on your budget that we do our own.