Through the culmination of academic qualifications, industry experience, and engagement with design and action research in cross-cultural settings, I have developed a comprehensive knowledge base around applied design research and its value within practice.

Academic Qualifications

Swinburne University of Technology 2020
PhD by Thesis
Award: 2020 Dean’s Award for best HDR Thesis, School of Design, Australian Postgraduate Award, & Swinburne University Chancellor’s Research Scholarship

Swinburne University of Technology 2012 – 2015
Masters of Design (Communication Design)
Award: Highest Achieving Student 2012; 2013; 2014

University of Wollongong 2006 – 2010
Bachelor of Media and Communication with Distinction (Journalism Major)
Bachelor of Creative Arts with Distinction (Graphic Design Major)
International Studies Minor
Award: Wollongong University Medal


Journal Articles

  • St John, Nicola. (2023). From anma (waiting) to marra (feeling good): Ways of designing in Ntaria, Design Studies, Volume 86, doi: 10.1016/j.destud.2023.101180
  • St John, Nicola. (2022). ‘I can put my culture on my t-shirt’: The value of design and enterprise in Ntaria, The Design Journal, DOI: 1080/14606925.2022.2082127
  • St John, Nicola. (2022). Designing on Western Arrarnta Country: The Ntaria Digital Drawings. Design and Culture, 1-21. doi.org/10.1080/17547075.2022.2106348
  • St John, Nicola & Yoko Akama (2021). Reimagining co-design on Country as a relational and transformational practice, CoDesign, DOI: 10.1080/15710882.2021.2001536
  • St John, Nicola & Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek. (2021). Learning together on Country: reimagining design education in Australia. Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, DOI: 10.1080/15595692.2021.1907331
  • St John, Nicola. (2018). Australian communication design history: An Indigenous retelling. Journal of Design History, epy014, https://doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epy014
  • St John, Nicola. (2018). Designing on Ntaria Country: telling stories with new tools. Visible Language: the journal of visual communication research, 52.3 December 2018

Conference Proceedings – Peer reviewed

  • St John, Nicola & Suhendra, Fanny. (2022). Towards an intersectional communication design history: a student-centred and culturally led pedagogy. In International Conferences on Design History and Studies, IDCHS 13, Bogota, Colombia, October 17-21
  • St John, Nicola. (2022). Working together with ‘ilkwatharra’ good feelings: Beyond institutional consent in participatory design. In PDC 2022 Vol. 2, August 19–September 01, 2022, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.  DOI: 10.1145/3537797.3537807
  • St John, Nicola. (2020). Design from Ntaria–a Western Arrarnta imagining. Proceedings of Pivot 2020: Designing a world of many centres. DRS PluriverseSIG
  • St John, Nicola. (2018). Desert drawing: from pigment to (Apple) pencil. Proceedings of DRS2018: Catalyst. Design Research Society, 2018 Conference in Limerick, Ireland
  • St John, Nicola. (2016). Towards more culturally inclusive communication design practices: exploring creative participation between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people in Australia. Proceedings of DRS 2016: Future-Focused Thinking. Design Research Society, 2016 Conference in Brighton, UK
  • St John, Nicola. (2016). Empathy as communication strategy: designing for indigenous cultural inclusion. Proceedings of Cumulus 2016: Open Design for E-very-thing, Conference in Hong Kong
  • St John, Nicola. (2014). Communication design as an agent in creating gender equality in India. Proceedings of DRS 2014: Design’s Big Debates. Design Research Society, 2014 Conference in Umea, Sweden


  • St John, Nicola. (2020). Ntaria Design: A Western Arrarnta Imagining of Digital Drawing and Communication Design (Doctoral dissertation, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne).


  • St John, N., et al. (2022). Solid Lines: fostering First Nations access, participation, and representation in the design and commercial art industries in Australia. RMIT University. Creative Victoria, and The Australian Council for the Arts. Retrieved from the Analysis and Policy Observatory website: https://apo.org.au/node/318268
  • St John, Nicola (2014). Towards a framework for graphic designers working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and content within Oxfam Australia. Partners: Oxfam Australia, Reconciliation Australia

Public Lectures, Panels & Symposia

  • Akama, Yoko & Nicola St John, Danny Sherman, Dan Hill, Peter West, Leander Kreltszheim,  Kate McEntee, Lina Patel, Lisa Grocott. (2023). What does being Ready for Voice, Treaty and Truth mean for Design? A conversation hosted by RMIT, 26 May 2023
  • Thomson, Ben & Nicola St John, Dewi Cooke, Emily Wong, Georgie Nolan. (2023) What do you do? The future of creative work. Invited panel presentation for Melbourne Design Week. 25 May 2023.
  • St John, Nicola (2022). Working together with good feelings. Conversations around Reconciliation in Research, Collaboration, Practice. Invited presentation hosted by RMIT School of Design. 27 May 2022.
  • St John, Nicola & Yoko Akama (2021). Reimagining co-design on Country. Design Innovation & Land-Assets : Towards Reimagining Communities. Summer Stravaig 12th – 23rd July 2021. Invited symposium presentation hosted by the Innovation School, The Glasgow School of Art
  • St John, Nicola & Prof. Jo Robinson, Celia Delaney, RMIT Communication Design Students (2021). Ethical Design in Suicide Prevention. Invited panel presentation for Melbourne Design Week. 5 March 2021.

Teaching & Outreach

RMIT University 2020 (ongoing)

Lecturer, Communication Design – Early Career Development Fellow
School of Design, College of Design and Social Context

  • 3rd Year Academic Advisor
  • International Selection Officer
  • Course Co-Ordinator: Communication Design Studies

Swinburne University of Technology 2016-2019

Sessional Lecturer & Tutor:

  • Methods for Design Research (Masters and Honours Unit)
    The design studio component of this unit focuses on the use of design methods to undertake, analyse and report design research, with an emphasis on visual methods, information design and publication design.
  • Design Ethnography (Undergraduate Unit)
    This unit emphasises design and ethnography as integral to solving design problems. It focuses on the relationships between design, ethnography and anthropology.
  • Design Strategy for a Global Context (Masters Unit)
    This unit explores the importance of designing for different cultures, groups and communities. It examines various cultural theories and methods, which can be incorporated as part of culturally sensitive design solutions.

Online Academic Mentor:

  • Creativity & Innovation in Research (Postgraduate Unit)

    This unit falls within the Graduate Certificate Research Innovation and Management, a research training program for commencing PhD students. My role supports the design, development and delivery of this training program, focused on developing student engagement and communication of their research impact to both academia and industry.

Workshop Assistant:

  • Marngo Designing Futures Workshop 2017
    Poster Design Workshop with Indigenous High School students

Ntaria School

Facilitator: Design and Enterprise Unit 2017-2018
Curriculum design and delivery of ‘Design and Enterprise’ Unit to Senior Students in Term 2 and 3 in the remote Indigenous community of Hermannsburg (Ntaria), NT.

Finke School

Facilitator: Design Workshop 2017
Workshop design and delivery of two-day creative digital drawing workshop to Primary School Students in the remote Indigenous community of Finke (Apatula), NT.



  • Victorian Premiers Design Award. Highly Commended in Design Strategy for Solid Lines


  • ACUADS Innovative Research Award
  • RMIT Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Impact – Early Career Researcher
  • RMIT University Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
  • RMIT School of Design Peer Recognition Award for Teaching


  • Victorian Premiers Design Award. Finalist in Design Strategy for The Jacky Winter Statement of Commitment to the First Nations of Australia.


  • Dean’s Award for best HDR Thesis, School of Design, Swinburne University
  • School of Design Peer Award in recognition of teaching contribution, RMIT University


  • Good Design award winner. Ntaria Design was awarded in the Social Impact category of Australia’s peak industry design awards.
  • Jacky Winter Artist in residence. Awarded an artist in residence program at the Jacky Winter Gardens


  • Research Student Image & Photography Competition award recipient



  • Advance Higher Education 2023 Global Impact Grant. Intersectional design history pedagogy (International)


  • ACUADS Grant Scheme. A Decolonial Design History Educators Network (International)


  • Creative Victoria. VicArts Grant. First Nations Futures in Design and Commercial Art (Victoria).
  • Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. First Nations Futures in Design and Commercial Art (National).


  • Strong Communities for Children, Australian Government, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Grant: Old way/New way: Telling Ntaria stories. In collaboration with the Hermannsburg Potters, Ntaria School and Tjuwanpa Outstation Resource Centre. This project established a youth-led design enterprise within the Hermannsburg Potters. Through digital illustrations and their application onto a range of printed merchandise, students reinforced their contemporary cultural identities through new technologies, instilling a sense of pride, respect and a powerful youth voice.


  • Northern Territory Government Youth Engagement Grant: Working with Western Arrarnta young people to develop Ntaria Design: an Indigenous, student-run micro-enterprise through innovative digitally designed products.


  • Design Research Society Student Research Grant

Other Writing











Industry Experience

Freelance Consultant Design strategy & Communication design – 2016 (ongoing)

My freelance work focuses on facilitating clients to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communication designers and artists in ethical and inclusive ways. Clients include:

  • Reconciliation Australia
  • Oxfam Australia
  • Indigenous Governance Awards
  • Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation

Oxfam Australia Marketing & Media Coordinator – 2014 till 2016

My role focused on developing innovative marketing and media campaigns around empowering people through ethical trade and social enterprise. This involves developing meaningful, dynamic and creative strategies and outcomes to encourage Australians to support the work of Oxfam Australia in alleviating poverty. Key projects include:

  • Developing marketing and design strategies, aimed at increasing awareness of Oxfam’s range of ethical products, the labour rights movement, living wage and associated social enterprises
  • Developing a cohesive brand strategy to represent the changing public messaging of Oxfam’s ethical trade division to position Oxfam as Australia’s leading ethical retailer
  • Project managing and Art Directing a team of key stakeholders, designers and photographers to produce a range of Oxfam collateral, including print, digital and social media campaigns

Oxfam Australia Graphic Designer – 2013 till 2014

Working within the Creative Studio team, responsible for producing Oxfam’s print and digital communications.

Mediation Communications Graphic Designer- 2011 till 2013

Lead graphic designer for a small design agency in Melbourne with a focus on community and sustainability.

Modpod Creative Brand Strategy, Marketing and Design – 2010 till 2014

I have been working on this project in a full-time and freelance capacity since 2010 for a variety of charities and NGO’s providing brand strategy, project coordination and implementation, print and digital work. Clients included: Women’s Health Victoria, Youth Action (formerly YAPA), Equal Playing Field (formerly Rugby League Against Violence), Room to Read, Aquavida.

FairSalsa Project Manager, Brand Strategy & Design – 2010

Developing a not-for-profit salsa school in Peru, a youth engagement project targeted at providing education and a sustainable income for disadvantaged local youth members.

Lao Youth Travel Cross-cultural Design Project – 2009

Working as a graphic designer in Laos, my role was to complete a cross-cultural branding project for an eco-tourism company, including brand strategy, print and digital design components.