In Good Company with Neutral Zone

Initiatives by Brad Ackerman & Mallory Hern, Associate Design Directors

Our In Good Company series highlights the incredible organizations we are proud to help make a difference. Hear more about what drives their mission, the impact they’re making and how we’re lending a hand as we introduce some of our favorite partners and friends.

The partnership between Hook and the Neutral Zone runs deep and is rooted in a shared passion for creativity and community impact.

Founded in 1998 by teens seeking a venue for social, cultural, educational and creative opportunities among their peers, the Neutral Zone is a youth-driven teen center dedicated to promoting personal growth through artistic expression, community leadership and the exchange of ideas. Over the past 25 years, it has grown to include a concert venue, recording and visual arts studios, and it now hosts over 20 after-school programs with approximately 350 young people visiting weekly during the school year.

Getting Started

When we were first introduced to the Neutral Zone in 2017, conversations made it clear how closely our values aligned when it came to community impact and collaboration through the arts. We began an ongoing working relationship that continues to this day.

At first Hook donated to the Neutral Zone’s programs, but we soon realized it was an ideal place to commit some of our pro bono efforts—especially since the Neutral Zone was looking for guidance in areas of Hook’s expertise. Top of the list: a website redesign.

Giving Back

When we heard what they were looking for, we went all in. As one Hook designer recalled, “Nick Watts (now Hook’s Chief AI Officer) walked into the Design Department, said, ‘We’re going on a field trip,’ and then led the entire department down the street to the Neutral Zone to meet their team and talk about a website.”

Lori Roddy, Executive Director of Neutral Zone, also remembers that day because she had assumed Nick would show up with a coworker or two and instead, “Nick brought this large group of specialized designers and essentially said, ‘Here’s the whole team, tell us what you need.’”

Leveraging our digital expertise, we partnered with the Neutral Zone to craft a website that accurately reflects their organization. This involved reviewing their existing online content, evaluating various web platforms for sustainability and manageability, and collaborating to create a clear and user-friendly architecture prioritizing key actions like announcements, class signups, and donations. Hook not only facilitated the website launch but also provided the Neutral Zone team with the knowledge and confidence to maintain their site independently.

In a recent conversation, reminiscing on how we got started working together, Amy Milligan, Neutral Zone’s Development Director said, “You showed up without being asked and treated us like a client even though we weren’t paying."

That says a lot about the character of Hook.

Amy Milligan, Neutral Zone Development Director

Extending the partnership

Continuing our longstanding partnership, Hook collaborated with the Neutral Zone on their 25th anniversary celebration—our largest project to date. This six-month, comprehensive event branding campaign led up to the October 14, 2023 event, encompassing both a strategic event plan and diverse branding concepts for the event and year-long anniversary celebration.

Reconnecting with alumni was a core objective, so we kept that at the heart of the concepts while we brainstormed. Once a direction was chosen, Hook built a toolbox of branded materials for Neutral Zone to use all year long, from social media templates to website artwork.

“The toolkit created a structure to something that felt so unknown to us,” acknowledged Lori. “It proved invaluable during our busy periods,” added Amy.

Despite the rain on the event day, the outcome was a resounding success. The event fostered meaningful connections and rekindled old relationships.

Amy expressed her gratitude for Hook’s contributions, saying: “The array of expertise, the presentation of different concepts, the way things were organized, the go-to toolkit were all perfect.”

It was the biggest lift to get people there. And we couldn't have done it without Hook and its support. We wouldn't have had the same turnout or reach.

Lori Roddy, Neutral Zone Executive Director

The partnership between Hook and the Neutral Zone is a testament to the power of shared values, mutual respect, and a genuine commitment to making a positive impact. As the Neutral Zone continues to thrive, Hook remains a steadfast partner, ready to provide expertise, support, and a helping hand whenever needed.

To learn more about the Neutral Zone and the amazing work they do empowering youth leadership through the arts, visit their website.