Is This The DMV's Most Creative Office? Let's Take A Look...

Every so often, you meet someone who makes you go, "Dang, she's got her act together!" — and then immediately start to re-evaluate your priorities, productivity levels, and maybe even your choice of career. Karen Zuckerman, the founder and president of Rockville-based integrated creative agency HZDG, is just one of those gals. She launched the company over 20 years ago from her basement and is a veritable force of nature, overseeing marketing and social media campaigns for the likes of the Washington Redskins, Maidenform, Brooks Brothers, and Volkswagen.
Even better? She's a savvy, enthusiastic, relatable boss who has created a work environment filled with color, energy, and some seriously talented creative types. Truthfully, if you thought your cubicle sucked already, you'll be pretty jealous of the place these folks call home from 9-to-5 (they even have an official office band).
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Ahead, you'll get a private tour of one of the coolest offices we've ever visited, and words of wisdom from Zuckerman and her employees about style, running a small business, and how to be truly successful. Click through to see genius burn.
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Tell us a bit about HZDG. What does the company do, and what's your role?
"HZ is a fully integrated creative agency. We specialize in branding, interactive, advertising, and social media. I started the company 25 years ago when I was 24, with a graphic design degree and just a few clients. Today, we are over 110 people with offices in Rockville and New York City; our experts manage every touchpoint of our clients' brands. In my role as chief creative officer, I review all of the work to keep us true to our creative core. In my role as president, I set the vision of the agency as well as play a large part in new business. I love what I do every day."

Joie Shirt, Diane von Furstenberg Shorts, Prada Shoes.
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Describe a perfect day at HZDG headquarters.
"Let’s start with sunny, because we have windows lining our entire office. Our best days are busy days, when the office is buzzing. There are lots of small conversations happening all over the creative pit. You can feel a certain energy about the work that’s going on. It’s electric."

What’s the greatest thing about owning your own business? And the worst?
"The best thing about owning my own business is a sense of accomplishment and the pride I have in the people who work with me. The only hard thing, which is true of any business, is the responsibility of making sure that your employees and clients are happy."

An amazing chalk mural lines one wall of the upper mezzanine.
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What's your advice for young women who dream of building a business the way you did?
"This is my favorite subject. My advice is to always follow your dreams (I did!). When you are young, failure is a learning opportunity. You have this gift of not knowing too much, so use it to your advantage. Make mistakes, grow, and learn more. Have passion, drive, and love what you do. You have to be willing to work 24/7 and love every minute. Believe in yourself, take chances, and never give up."
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Lately, there's been so much conversation around the fact that relatively few women hold top positions in creative companies. What has been the biggest challenge for you?
"I honestly haven’t had huge challenges. Maybe raising three children (ages 15,18, and 21) while growing a business could be considered a challenge. But, I never saw it that way. It was just my life. I believe when you treat men as your equal, they will do the same. I’m a member of an organization called YPO (Young Presidents' Organization), which is 90% men. I learn a lot from the guys, but I think they learn from me, as well. My advice: Be confident and you’ll thrive."

A colorful nook in Karen's office showcases the company's clients, as well as her personal interests and her family.
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What do you value most about the work environment you’ve created at HZDG?
"Culture is everything to me. We spend most of our waking hours at work, so I want HZ to be a place where you can work hard, play hard, and be inspired. I try to make the environment fun and creative but constantly evolving from a design perspective. As we grow, the space continues to get more interesting."

In an area dubbed "the hive," employees can track engagement and analytics for their clients, hold video conference calls, and stay on top of news.
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This office has such a great sense of community. What do you look for in your employees?
"We’ve created a set of HZ values. We hire and fire based on these values. If people truly like each other, you’ll see it in the work. Of course, we look for creative talent in our staff, but we also ask ourselves if this person will become a part of and add to our HZ family."

Karen's passion for color shows up in small details, such as the Pantone folding chairs placed around the office.
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Who she is: Justine S. Henning
Her gig at HZDG: account director
What's the best part of working in a creative office?
"Being able to be yourself."

Club Monaco Dress, Necklace from Loehmann's, Joan & David Oxford Heels.
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You run HZDG alongside your husband, Jerry. What’s the best part about working with your significant other? The trickiest part?
"The best part is you can really trust your partner. Also, who else would support me in my mission to create Dormify, my newest venture? The worst part is [that] with your husband at work and kids out of the house, you have no excuse to go home! You are always at work, 24/7. We’ve worked together for 19 years, so the line between work and home has blurred. But, it’s okay because it allows me to multitask: 'Can you sign that offer that’s on your desk and pick up Andrew from practice on your way home?'"

The lobby of the HZ office has the vibe of a boutique hotel, thanks to a swanky, partially enclosed waiting area.
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Do you have a style philosophy?
"Keep it simple. And you can never have too much black and gray."

Tell us where you shop — local spots, online stores, the works.
"I’m somewhat of a creature of habit. I don't have a lot of time, so I shop in big chunks. Locally, I shop at Emily Grace, Saks and Neiman Marcus. Since I travel between our offices and other places for client meetings, I am also able to shop at some of my favorite stores, like Intermix, Saks, and DVF in New York. I’m obsessed with Fred Segal in Santa Monica. When I’m in Margate at the shore in New Jersey, Knit Wit is my go-to. But my all-time favorite boutique is First Impressions, outside of Philly, for casual, fun stuff. And, of course, I get décor items from my other venture, Dormify.com, for my kids’ bedrooms and dorm rooms, and even for myself."

Karen's streamlined, crisp-yet-comfortable office makes vivid use of her favorite color: orange.
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HZ's team of programmers get down to business during a meeting — but first, a Nerf gun war!
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Fill in the blank: “If I weren't president of HZDG, I’d be an _______ ."
"...architect or interior designer.”

We already know you’re pretty creative — any other secret talents we should know about?
"The first thing that popped into my head is that I ran track for a year at Penn State. I was a sprinter. My first love was sports, and I’m pretty competitive. So, on occasion, if someone challenges me, I'll race."

Did we mention she loves orange?
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Who she is: Randi Fishman
Her gig at HZDG: executive assistant
What's the best part about working in a creative office?
"There is always something new and exciting going on, and it's such a collaborative, fun enviornment to be a part of."

Rehab Sweater, DL1961 Jeans, Dolce Vita Boots.
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Inside the workspace devoted to Dormify, the vibe is all girl-power, all the time. We dig.
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With roughly 95 employees in the Rockville office, HZDG maintains a steady hum of activity. This sea of workstations is known as "the pit," where graphic designers, programmers, and other creatives work in seamless harmony.
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Tell us about the band. Are there raging parties happening at HZDG that we should know about?
"Well, I would say our holiday party is pretty raging! And that’s coming up in January. When the band plays, they are like rock stars! We have a lot of really talented musicians, and are planning to have them play at our monthly happy hour. For now, they practice after-hours but they are always available for hire."
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Who she is: Allison Zuckerman
Her gig at HZDG: senior interactive producer
What's the best part of working in a creative office?
"I love the energy and the passion. Everyone here brings something new and unique to the table every day; I love that almost all meetings are fun, because we are all doing what we love. I love delivering work and being proud of it. I love the hallway chatter and the funky clothes; everyone is so dynamic, making no day a normal day."

Top from Bloomingdale's, Gap Pants, Aldo Shoes.
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Dormify staffers maintain an inspiration board that draws on runway and editorial fashion, artwork, prints and patterns, and bright hues.
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The upstairs mezzanine level is peppered with comfy seating areas where employees can take a breather and recharge their creative batteries.
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Who he is: Brody Rose
His gig at HZDG: art director
What's the best part of working in a creative office?
"You are encouraged to be yourself...as long as you take care of business."

Brody wears a T-shirt he designed for HZDG.
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Brody's incredible color-coordinated collection of Hot Wheels cars.
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What are HZDG's core values?
"Honesty, respect, kindness, collaboration, teamwork, fun, humility, and passion."
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A sneak peek at the newest offerings from Dormify. How cool is that photo-frame decal?
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A peek at some of Dormify's new goodies for students — and anyone else who loves stationery.
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Who he is: John Friedman
His gig at HZDG: copywriter
What that means: "I work with designers to create concepts in both traditional and digital mediums. Then I do what I love to do — write."
What's the best part about working in a creative office?
"Never having to use exclamation points. And being able to start sentences with 'and.' Like that."

We were big fans of John's shawl-collar cardigan and colored denim.
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