Nicola St John is communication design lecturer and early career development fellow at RMIT. Her thesis, completed at Swinburne University focused on developing locally informed and on-Country approaches to design education in the Aboriginal community of Ntaria—exploring Western Arrarnta perceptions of design practice and process. Nicola’s research explores how Aboriginal young people are imagining design from their own perspectives, and the value design education can have within intercultural contexts, building pride and fostering sustainable local employment opportunities. She is concerned with the role and value of communication design within Aboriginal communities and the promotion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices within the design industry.

Nicola is a skilled design workshop facilitator, and has 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 RMIT, Nicola has worked in professional practice for a range of INGO’s, non-profits and community organisations. Her focus has been to understanding how to communicate, represent, and translate identities, stories, and values within culturally interconnected settings. Nicola believes communication design has the ability to reinforce our perceptions around identity, representation, and value. In her teaching practice, she encourages the incorporation of cultural awareness 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. She hopes by understanding and respecting diverse cultures, the role of the designer can become more meaningful, ethical, and inclusive.

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