The Cohen-Miller Report: Read Outside The Box

by Emily Cohen

I absolutely love reading business publications and learning about the best professional practices that exist outside our own insular creative profession. Our creative world often functions rather incestuously, utilizing unproductive or customized (and well-designed) business practices [or lack thereof]. That is why I ravenously digest Fast Company magazine cover-to-cover; I revel in their blog postings and scan the business section of the behemoth weekend NY Times. I look to articles about other businesses and leaders of various professions for inspiration thinking, philosophies, etc. How do others manage their firm, clients, business partners, projects and teams?

Every week I see something that inspires me to think outside my own comfort zone. What I find may be small, but incredibly impactful, like a distinctive, probing question employers can ask potential candidates during the hiring process. My last posting on the 80/20 rule came from a very brief mention of the rule in an article about a senatorial judiciary process, of all things.

I teach a professional practices course within the Communication Design BFA program at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). One of my assignments is to research articles about business practices outside our industry that students find inspirational. They are simply required to write a short paragraph summarizing the practice, why it is inspirational, and how they envision applying this new learning to the design field. This is a very difficult assignment for students and it is often done incorrectly. They are already so programmed to be insular to the creative world, that they have difficulty looking beyond their comfort zone. Most prefer to critique design and branding and advertising strategies – which is not the assignment. On some occasions, a bright and inquiring student inspires me with their findings. Best Buy’s ROWE policy, which I blogged about a few weeks ago, was one such situation where her student taught the teacher.

Emily has consulted with design firms and in-house corporate creative departments for over twenty years. During this time, she has provided confidential, best-practice insights and advice. She helps creatie teams improve operational effectiveness and helps companies build efficient teams and processes.

Emily currently serves on the board of advisors of InSource and on the AIGA In-House task force. Emily has also served as Secretary for the AIGA/NY Board of Directors and has 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. Learn more at and