Karen Zuckerman is CEO and Executive Creative Director of HZDG, an integrated agency specializing in a creative approach to branding, interactive and content marketing for social media.
Why do you submit to AIGA 50?
I like that it happens every two years. Many times, there are projects still in the works when other competitions come out. I also like how selective and eclectic the submissions are as opposed to some of the other competitions out there.
How do you select the work you would like to submit?
We do it as a company. Everyone gets to submit what they feel is the best work they’ve done over the course of two years. We put it on a table and narrow it down to what we think is our strongest work based on how many projects we choose to enter. We also try to submit a mix of things and show different styles so that the work portrays the depth and breath of what we do as a company. Our designers are proud of the work they do and we want to highlight those achievements they’ve worked so hard for.
How did HZDG come to life?
We’ve been in business for 24 years and I started the company two years out of college, just myself. I moved to the DC area and I was looking for a job at the same time as freelancing. Within six months, I got enough work as a freelancer that I had to hire someone. I started taking on work and grew from there. I’ve always been the hardworking entrepreneurial type so it was a natural thing for me to get into. The growth of the company was very organic, from one to 95 employees over the course of 24 years and growing.
How do you know when a project is finished, aside from a deadline?
I pride myself in knowing when something is great. I see it and say to whoever is working on it within our firm, you’re done. Somehow, it’s obvious. Sometimes you do work on a project until the deadline gets to you, but often times the deadline is before you. Designers tend to want to finesse and finesse things and as a creative director for all these years, I just know when it’s that great. Just this morning, I walked into the office, looked at the project we were doing and said you’re done; walk away. Don’t wait until that last moment or end of the day.
Let’s talk about the work at HZDG. Are most project ideas based on intuition, intellectual or formal approaches?
All three. As designers, we use our intuition and experience to drive a lot of what we do, but there’s formal research that’s done. Sometimes formal research just validates our intuition, which is a great thing. Intuition and intellectual approaches go hand in hand. We have studied design and its history, and utilize the formal approaches we’ve learned when it makes sense. For us, intuition is always a big part of the process.
What do you think about the interactive design industry right now in the D.C. area? What about in the future?
I think DC is doing a great job staying ahead and adapting to new trends in technology and interaction design. The talent pool has also steadily increased as designers continue to broaden their skills, making DC a force to be reckoned with.
I’m proud of the work that’s coming out of DC and expect to see even more innovative solutions in the future. We are getting more national and international work because of our interactive expertise and I expect it to broaden even more, with clients from all parts of the world.
Do you have a motto in life?
For myself, it’s what I’ve been saying to everyone for 24 years: Just make it cool.
For my company: Integrated. Creative.
Is there anything that you haven’t done that you want to do?
Speaking more at conferences and writing a book, with a subject matter that involves both my personal and business life.
This year, we are highlighting “50 Reasons You Are a Designer” (some silly, some serious) on our call for entries. Why are you a designer?
I like to be surrounded by talented groups of creatives.
I love everything visual.
It makes me happy.
I love beautiful things.
I like to play all day.
Karen Zuckerman was also a speaker at the 2011 DC Design Week Event, Download.