Presenter’s Notes: Emily Cohen on Managing a Cross-Generational Creative Team

Emily Cohen DesignCast


Emily Cohen helps creative teams work better, and knowing what makes people of all ages tick is an important part of maintaining harmony at the office. Here she answers some questions on the topic as a prelude to her upcoming InHOWse SchoolHOWse DesignCast. Register now to save $10!

Can you tell us a little more about your Design Cast topic? What personal and professional experiences led you to this topic?
This event is my response to those who manage and work with different generations that are increasingly bewildered by their colleagues’ behaviors. Over the 20+ years I’ve been consulting with creative professionals, but particularly in the last 5 years, I have observed a growing disconnect among generations within the work environment. Since I advise creative teams on the best strategies for managing their clients and staff, I frequently hear the same communication challenges: Millennials can’t relate to Baby Boomers who willingly work “crazy hours” and “don’t have a life” and, alternatively, Baby Boomers don’t trust the younger generation who seem distracted by various social networks, are unfocused and have unrealistic career expectations. I created this event to provide more perspective and understanding, and to share some generation-specific communication and management tips to help alleviate the conflicts and embrace the differences.

What’s keeping you busy these days?
I split my precious and increasingly limited time across three passions that are equally important to me personally and professionally. The first, is being a mother of two great, albeit hormonally challenged, teenagers, one of whom is going through the college application and selection process. The last two passions are related. I run two separate consulting practices, one for in-house creative teams ( and one for design firms ( I absolutely love the design profession and am passionate about the value creative solutions have on business. This passion drives my ability to consult with creative teams on optimizing their operational and organizational structures. My challenge is how to balance these three areas and give my family and diverse and demanding clients equal time and value.

What is your favorite and why:

  • Website – – I’m an avid reader, and this is a great site that helps me keep track of all the books I have read and want to read.
  • Mobile App – my kids have gotten me hooked on Alchemy – it’s a mobile game that keeps me busy when I have 5 spare minutes in the day to do something mindless.
  • Book – I always like to read a fiction, non-fiction and then business book. In that order, I’ve read three great books recently:
  1. Fiction – “City of Thieves” by David Benioff – I am not a big fan of World War II books, but this story about about two prisoners in WWII Russia who are given a chance for freedom at the face of a seemingly impossible task is the exception.
  2. Non-Fiction – “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot – an engaging and riveting history of a pivotal moment in medical history and the story of the woman whose cells made a difference to millions.
  3. Business Book – “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath – I love this book, because I constantly struggle with the implementation phase of consulting, that is helping my corporate clients manage internal change. This book has given me a fresh perspective and creative ideas on how to create more lasting and impactful changes.

What was your first job in the design field?
My first job was during college when I took on a night job as the senior designer at a magazine and was responsible for design through production. This may show my age, but back then, I had to spec and then cut and paste typeset copy into layouts. After college, I worked in-house at Pottery Barn’s corporate headquarters where I essentially did a lot of labor-intensive production work to support in-store signage, including mounting posters onto foam core. Neither position was much fun or even creative. However, I was exposed to amazingly talented people and experienced two entirely different work environments and management structures. That diverse experience gave me a strong foundation of experiences that helped nourish my future career path.

Do you have a pet project—a side business or a charity to which you donate time or services?
This may appear selfish, but my “side business” is raising my kids and taking care of my family. If I can raise children with the morals and values that are important in this world, then, in a very small way, I feel like I have helped shaped the future. I want my kids to be street smart, book smart, hard-workers, caring, compassionate, worldly and most of all happy. My goal is to give them the skills to make smart decisions in the world and understand that they aren’t alone and have to share this world with everyone else on this planet.

Emily Cohen has consulted with design firms and in-house corporate creative departments for more than twenty years. During this time, she has provided confidential, best-practice insights and advice on staff, client and process-management strategies, conducting client surveys and writing winning proposals, creative briefs, RFPs and contracts. She helps creative teams improve operational effectiveness and helps companies build efficient teams and processes. She served on the board of advisors of InSource, on the AIGA In-House task force and as Secretary for the AIGA/NY Board of Directors. Emily has also taught classes and conducted seminars for many leading design schools and organizations. Emily is a frequently-requested speaker on business-related issues for the creative industry and has spoken at The Association Of Registered Graphic Designers Of Ontario (RGD Ontario), HOW Design, In-HOWse Managers, Mind Your Own Business (MYOB) and Design Business Association (DBA) conferences, as well as at numerous AIGA events. Learn more at and