Ntaria Design

  • 2019

  • Next Gen

Designed By:

  • The Students at Ntaria School
  • Supported by Nicola St John

Commissioned By:

with support from Swinburne University of Technology

Designed In:


Ntaria design is an innovative communication design enterprise in the remote Aboriginal community of Ntaria (Hermannsburg). It was developed through a grass-roots education program to build capacity and knowledge in communication design for Aboriginal youth. As the students explain, “It’s important for people to know our culture through design.”

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  • The communication design outcomes were created by the Senior class from Ntaria School. The design challenge for the students was to create a range of visual outcomes that expressed what it means to be a contemporary Aboriginal designer within a remote community today - informed by the past and present. The designs emerged through a series of workshops, taught by design research student Nicola St John from Swinburne University. The workshops were about creating change at the local level - building digital design capacity while exploring remote youth identity and giving voice to their contemporary experiences, design practices and outcomes.

  • The development journey of the students' design enterprise took part over a collective 12 months, engaging with and teaching the students communication design skills, particularly digital drawing. This enabled the students access to new digital tools and mediums to express their cultural heritage and contemporary identities. The students' design outcomes reveal that young adults in Ntaria are visually connected to their traditional imagery and iconography. It highlights this inextricable relationship between the past and the present, the richness and beauty of their cultural heritage and how this can be applied and build Aboriginal perspectives within communication design contexts.

  • Through digital illustrations and their application onto a range of printed outcomes, students reinforced their contemporary cultural identities through new technologies, instilling a sense of pride, respect and a powerful youth voice. Through the design exercises, students discovered what Indigenous design could mean within Ntaria and the potential of communication design to create future employment and enterprise opportunities within the community. Design gives young Aboriginal people a voice. Students were able to reinforce their cultural identities through communication design, telling stories in new ways and feeling happy and proud of their design outcomes.

  • The design outcomes submitted here were developed as part of the students emerging social enterprise - Ntaria Design. The students sell cards, t-shirts and bags within their local community. This enterprise gives students the opportunity to learn about digital design and sell their artworks in pop-up shops. Not only do the students feel proud of what they created, they could now see that their work had value, particularly to tourists who were interested in the stories and the process behind the work. It’s about exploring the student’s capabilities to create a truly new and innovative visual style that resonates with them and how they see themselves within their community and the world. Students have collected objects out bush, drawn stories from their country and culture and adapted these with new technologies. The students’ digital drawings are full of vibrant energy. The digital drawings perform as assertions of Aboriginal youth identity. They act as a visual testament of the detailed observations of the young adults as they re-make their own worlds, inhabiting that of the old and the new, integrating them into a single vision of the present moment. See also: https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2017/08/30/meet-young-indigenous-students-designing-prints-future-stories-past https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2017/08/18/indigenous-youth-tell-traditional-stories-contemporary-way https://knowing.swinburne.edu.au/post/164816443289/design-in-the-desert-looks-to-new-technologies