Zona Design

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When creative director/designer Zoa Martinez and executive producer Dennis Fluet met in Boston in the late '90s, it was, as they recount, "love at first sight." But the mutual ardor was strictly business, stoked by skill sets and philosophies of design, and the fruit of their passion would be a new company, Zona Design. "We had the same goals," says Martinez of the instant affinity. Among them: to apply their design ethic across all disciplines. As for the company's name, " Zona is Spanish for zone," explains Fluet. "We like it because it represents the idea of zoning in on a concept or design solution. It also reflects Zoa's Cuban heritage and in the long run we knew that the emerging Latin and Hispanic markets would play a part in our growth. Given that three letters from Zoa's name are part of the word, it makes a natural fit."

After founding Zona in 1999, "on plywood tables" in a New York studio, Martinez and Fluet advanced quickly on their goals, establishing a presence in the broadcast market with designs for outlets including the History Channel, HBO, A&E, AMC, NBC and a wide array of work for ESPN. They also applied Zona's operating mantra, "Design made to move," to such projects as a new line of decks for New York-based 5Boro Skateboards. The pair recently moved to a 5,000-square-foot loft in the Empire State Building. The modern space features design touches like concrete floors, a 75-foot glass partition and a huge blue wall, which, after the founders' devotion to the marriage of form and function, both invites contemplation and serves as a chroma key screen during live-action shoots.

This month, the company's design work will be seen on the History Channel's The Year of 9/11, a programming package commemorating the tragic events of that date. The company brings a wide range of aesthetics to its projects but never one "house style," explains Martinez. "I'm a pop artist," she adds. "There isn't a heavy signature to our work. It's about respecting the branding choices of the client, not about going in and putting the Zona stamp on it. " The Zona team is composed of designers from diverse backgrounds in advertising and broadcasting, and Martinez herself has worked extensively in the broadcast and ad worlds. She previously served as an AD at Y&R and a designer and CD for a number of broadcast outlets, and she's also a fine-artist whose work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Art Museum in Miami. She was lead designer on NBC's Emmy-winning 1996 Olympics package and was working as an independent CD when she met Fluet, who was general manager of Viewpoint Studios and had produced such jobs as the Discovery Channel redesign.

According to Fluet, the wide range of experience among the artists at the shop means that Zona can carry its design work beyond the on-air visuals. "Zoa and her team can work in a number of materials and types of projects," he says. "We hire based on the principle that we're the clients' problem solvers - we have to look above and beyond on-air, and in order to do that we need a team that can handle everything."

Zona first worked with the History Channel two years ago on a major package for This Week In History, which was the first opportunity for the shop to demonstrate its ability to work within a channel's existing, tight brand parameters while adding fresh design elements. For the channel's Year of 9/11 package, Zona continued on this path; with a mandate to use black and white photos edited together, Zona also used the channel's color branding to lend a more gestural feel, adding expressionistic, moving lines and color over the photos to further capture the emotion of the subject matter.

Zona's designs for 5Boro Skateboards include a stylized paint-by-number New York cab and the iconic edifice Zona calls home. Martinez actively seeks these outside-the-broadcast-box projects: "The next thing I want to design is a cigarette boat."

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