Harlem Children’s Zone

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, Building Up Opportunity


Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) is widely recognized as a national leader in breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty through comprehensive cradle to career programs, but its presentation of that story and associated programs was often diffuse and complex, missing the opportunity to tell a bigger, more integrated impact story.


In early 2020–30 years since its early beginnings as the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families and 20 years since its first comprehensive strategic plan as HCZ–the organization began a process to reframe its brand story, refocus its brand architecture and refresh its visual identity for even greater recognition, relevance and reach.


Because of Additive’s experience working with complex organizations who achieve extraordinary outcomes on a large scale, HCZ selected us as their partner.


Building on quantitative research completed by HCZ and its partners, we embarked on a discovery process through site visits, qualitative interviews and desk research. Through this analysis phase, Additive uncovered the opportunity to shift the story from just what HCZ does (“breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty”) to how and why it does it (“by building up opportunities in neighborhoods so that children, families and communities can thrive in work, school and life”). This shift in orientation, together with a more intentional description of its on-the-ground, all-around approach to fighting intergenerational poverty, helped clarify the breadth and depth of HCZ’s approach and impact.


Next, we worked with HCZ to organize its portfolio of offerings so that it better reflected its integrated and interconnected approach to tackling poverty.


To bring the refocused brand story and architecture updates to life, HCZ asked Additive to evolve and extend its iconic visual identity. We began by refining the logo so that it was optimized for small space, adjusting the logo symbol and associated colors for legibility and accessibility — and to reveal an “H” within the buildings. Additionally, Additive refined the logotype to echo the letterforms of the mosaics and murals found in Harlem, and reconsidered its weight and formation, so “Harlem” sits squarely under the logo symbol — reinforcing the idea of building up opportunity with and within neighborhoods. Below “Harlem,” “Children’s Zone” now travels together, reinforcing HCZ’s commitment to families and communities starting at the earliest years and throughout their lives.


Inspired by the graphic elements in the logo symbol, we created a dynamic visual ecosystem that could flex from playful to professional to accommodate the cradle to career continuum of programs.


Additionally, Additive built out the photography, illustration, iconography and data visualization styles to ensure a robust set of visual tools and developed a broad family of templates for PowerPoint, program flyers, stationery and digital email newsletters for ease of implementation.

Key Deliverables

  • Brand Analysis
  • Brand Strategy
  • Strategic Messaging
  • Visual Identity
  • Brand Guidelines
  • Collateral + Templates
  • Signature System
  • Website Design + Development


When the COVID-19 pandemic first swept New York City in the Spring of 2020, hitting communities of color especially hard, Additive partnered with HCZ to develop a mask education campaign called #StayCoveredHarlem. To support the campaign, we developed a communications plan, campaign website, motion graphics and advertising assets for online and targeted public transportation advertising–all with the refreshed voice and revitalized look and feel. The campaign continues to gain traction and is now expanding nationally as #StayCoveredTogether.


We continue to collaborate with HCZ on the implementation and activation of the brand, including providing communications support on its national COVID-19 response and recovery effort. Specifically, in late July 2020, as part of The Audacious Project, a funding initiative housed at TED, HCZ was awarded a grant to scale its COVID-19 response efforts to six additional cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Newark and Oakland. Working with national organizations, as well as community-based nonprofits, HCZ has an ambitious goal to not only deliver response but ensure recovery and resiliency.


As HCZ continues to scale its impact — and serve as a national model — Additive also helped establish the William Julius Wilson Institute at HCZ, which will serve as the leading authority on and resource for place-based, people-focused strategies, support services and tools that close opportunity gaps in neighborhoods across America and open pathways to social and economic mobility.


Additive continues to advise HCZ on how to harness its brand so even more young people, communities and families challenged by systemic poverty can access the opportunities they need to live up to their promising futures.

More Projects