Dr Nicola St John is a communication design lecturer at RMIT University, Australia. As a colonial settler to Australia with Irish and English heritage, my own design education and industry experience has been largely absent of non-European histories, knowledges, and perspectives. This has informed my teaching and research practice to create spaces, projects, and participatory interactions to increase diverse knowledges, representation, and histories within design.

My research is largely collaborative and community based; partnering with First Nations creatives, community schools, and design organisation in participatory research projects to foster social wellbeing, student belonging, knowledge transfer, intercultural collaboration, and design entrepreneurship. My projects are largely concerned with the role and value of design within First Nations communities and the promotion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices within the design industry. I have received funding from the Australian Council for the Arts and Creative Victoria and accolades from the Good Design Awards, the Victorian Premiers’ Design Award, and RMIT Vice Chancellor’s Award for research impact.

My teaching practice encourages the incorporation of intersectional, pluriversal, and co-design methodologies within communication design practice, arguing designers are able to improve their ability to influence attitudes, change behaviours, inspire debates, and challenge understandings. I hope by promoting diverse and respectful ways of designing, students can become more meaningful, ethical, and inclusive future practitioners.

As a design facilitator, I have developed and delivered a range of design-based learning programs in Central Australia. From programs for primary years at Finke School at Apatula, senior students at Ntaria School, young adults at Stick Mob studios, to delivering skills-based training to emerging and senior artists at Iltja Ntjarra Many Hands art centre in Alice Springs. Developing and delivering design education with Aboriginal communities is grounded in culture and place-based learning, promoting digital literacy with the use of design-based tools and technologies, and enabling the creation of innovative digital outcomes.

Before joining academia, I worked in professional practice for a range of INGO’s, non-profits and community organisations. My focus has been to understanding how to communicate, represent, and translate identities, stories, and values within culturally interconnected settings. I believe communication design has the ability to reinforce our perceptions around identity, representation, and value.


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