NEIGHBORHOOD FEATURE: Rae Cohen Bernamoff + Applied Empathy Series
February 13, 2017
Name: Rae Cohen Bernamoff
Title: Associate Creative Director
Organization/Business: Sub Rosa
What do you do, and how did you get here?
I’m a creative problem solver. As the Associate Creative Director at Sub Rosa, a strategy and design studio on West 12th Street, I get to tackle challenges like modernizing the visual identity of a 140-year-old company and giving physical form to a brand that has only existed digitally. Getting here has been roundabout; I studied art history and started out creating audio guides and multimedia tours for museums like The Met and The Whitney and then left that world to start a restaurant business with my husband. What I realized over the years was that whether it was working with curators to convey concepts in the gallery or serving smoked meat sandwiches at our deli, Mile End, I loved designing and facilitating meaningful experiences that layered culture and craft. When I decided to branch out beyond the restaurants I knew I needed to find a creative community that shared similar passions, and thankfully that’s been true of my home of Sub Rosa for the past four years.
What is your most memorable experience in the neighborhood?
The opening of the new Whitney. In college, I interned with the Education Department of the Museum, and the same team of inspiring women that set me on my career path over a decade ago are still there leading the educational and interpretative charge of the institution. It was heartwarming to welcome them to their new home and to know that it’s close enough to visit during lunch.
How do you define empathy and what are its applications in your work?
Empathy is all about understanding. In Sub Rosa’s practice, understanding the needs of our user, audience, or guests – across the digital, brand, and experiential work we do – is critical. But as creative partners, we are also seeking to understand the internal cultural and financial forces shaping our client’s company as well as the external trends driving global context. We try to put ourselves in as many ‘shoes’ as possible, assessing the challenge from multiple vantages and creating more personal connections with those that will be impacted by our work. Our empathic approach enables Sub Rosa’s team of designers, strategists, producers, technologists, and all-around magic makers to develop solutions that are as functional as they are meaningful. This is true of our work across an array of clientele, which includes complex multinationals such as Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Nike, to the White House (in support of initiatives like President Obama’s Every Kid in a Park program), to progressive startups like JackThreads.
How does Sub Rosa fit into this space and why a speakers series?
Sub Rosa is Latin for “‘under the rose” or conversations had in private. This ancient symbolism guides our work as facilitators of tough conversations with clients facing daunting positioning, communications or cultural problems. Sub Rosa also fosters the team’s creative expression outside of client engagements, and luckily we have a 2,500 square foot space, AND&AND, on our studio’s first floor that is ours to program. So, the Applied Empathy series is one way that we’re highlighting our practice and engaging our community in our process. We recognize that empathy is employed differently across industries, and it’s been really inspiring to pair a range of subject matter experts – like a doctor and a technologist or an art entrepreneur and polymorphic playwright – in conversation.
What can we expect at the next Applied Empathy session?
In the past, we’ve explored themes like leadership, partnership, and socially concious business, all of which are available as podcasts at wearesubrosa.com/