Design

10 Incredible Indigenous Designers to Follow on Instagram

Want to support Aboriginal creatives in your community? Here are some of the most incredible Indigenous designers and artists you need to know about...

Portrait for Kelsie Rimmer By Kelsie Rimmer
Posted 13 Aug 2020
Indigenous Designers

Feature image created using the work of Nungala Creative.

Known for its rich earthy colors, intricate patterns and captivating storytelling, traditional Indigenous Australian art is as distinctive as it is beautiful. An integral and sacred element of Aboriginal culture – an 80,000 year old culture comprising of over 250 languages and 500 nations – the practise, process and sheer diversity of Indigenous Australian art is truly inspiring. 

While traditional Indigenous Australian art is an incredible art form in its own right, it has also led to a range of modern adaptations and styles. Combining the beauty of traditional Aboriginal art and culture with the modern tools and techniques of digital design, contemporary Indigenous art and digital design is on the rise.

Having just celebrated International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, what better time to explore some of the most ingenious Indigenous Australian designers, creatives, illustrators, and artists creating and sharing their work online?

If you’re looking to support amazing Aboriginal creatives in your community, here are some incredible Indigenous designers and contemporary artists to follow on Instagram.… 

 01. @mulganai

Kaanju, Kuku Ya'u, and Girrimay artist Emma Hollingsworth is passionate about sharing her incredible story and culture through the medium of art.

With almost 20k followers on Instagram, Emma’s brightly-coloured, intricate paintings blend traditional Aboriginal art with her own unique, youthful, and contemporary voice to tell stories inspired by her heritage.

Creating and selling her digital designs, paintings, and commissioned pieces on her website, Emma’s vibrant creations are sure to bring a splash of color and culture to your feed.

From a young age, I knew I wanted to be an artist. It took me a few years to learn and develop my own style, but I did whatever I could to paint and learn more about my culture.

Emma Hollingsworth - Mulganai.com | @Mulganai

 02. @sar.ra__

A contemporary Aboriginal artist from Goreng Goreng country, Rachel Sarra uses her art as a powerful storytelling tool to educate and share Aboriginal culture and its evolution. Featuring bright, vibrant colors and a combination of contemporary and traditional Aboriginal painting styles, Rachael's designs carry a message of self-acceptance, self-love, and empowerment.

Feminine, fun and engaging, Rachael’s work aims to explore her own cultural identity and encourage others to do the same, as well as challenge society's perception of what Aboriginal art and identity is.

 For me, my cultural journey has been a winding road, connected and disconnected in different capacities as I grapple with my own identity in a far greater world and system. I think it’s important to acknowledge that this journey can vary from person to person and it’s imperative that we continue to hold space for those who are still figuring it out.

Rachael Sarra - Instagram | @Sar.ra__

Selling her work at a number of stockists, including Openhouse Westend, State Library Queensland and Museum of Brisbane, Rachael also sells a huge range of incredible work on her website – including jewellery, digital designs, framed canvas prints, key rings, notebooks, pins, and totes.

  03. @nardurna

Going under the Instagram name Nardurna–meaning ‘woman’–contemporary Aboriginal artist and designer Ryhia Dank's art tells the story of her people, her culture, and how it has shaped who she is.

A Gudanji/Wakaja woman from the Barkly Tablelands NT, Ryhia grew up on country, living her culture and learning the ways. Studying Graphic Design at CATC in 2012, Ryhia's unique, contemporary style uses modern colours and design, while also paying homage to her culture and tradition.

While most of her work is hand painted, Ryhia also experiments by combining painted and digital works together, using her iPad Pro and Procreate to incorporate her art into all sorts of mediums such as textiles, digital planners, vinyl wraps, and gift cards.

I feel some people expect Aboriginal art to be "traditional Aboriginal art" as some expect an "Aboriginal woman" to be a certain way. I am breaking these stereotypes both with my art and with my personal journey. My art is a direct reflection of myself and my culture.

Ryhia Dank | @Nardurna

Selling her digital art, prints, paintings, and commissioned pieces on her website , The Block Shop, and Hard To Find, Ryhia is making a real name for herself in the design community.

 04. @hausofdizzy

Proud Wiradjuri woman and jewellery designer Kristy Dickinson is the creative mastermind behind Haus of Dizzy – a Sydney-based company that makes bold and playful jewellery with a strong message.

Producing brightly colored, quirky accessories promoting Aboriginal rights, culture, inclusivity, and empowerment, Haus of Dizzy is quickly gaining a huge following with its eye-catching, statement designs.

Designing jewellery that represents Indigenous pride, feminism, environmentalism, and LGBTQIA+ rights, Haus of Dizzy's mission is to instil confidence in young aboriginal people, empower them to express their individuality, and to celebrate pride and connection with their identity as Indigenous Australians.

"Going up to the country when I was little and talking to my aunties, sitting up at the kitchen table and hearing them all yarning around, that was my connection to my Aboriginality," Kristy told The Guardian.

Haus of Dizzy pieces are designed to make the wearer feel something: pride, power, confidence. Or sexy and assertive. I get so many customers who say, ‘When I put these earrings on I feel so good.'

Kristy Dickinson - The Guardian | @Hausofdizzy

Check out Haus of Dizzy's incredible accessories, products and designs on their website.

With over 64k followers on Instagram, Clothing The Gap is the latest fresh and dynamic Indigenous fashion label producing fierce streetwear and accessories – with a powerful message.

An 100% Aboriginal owned and led social enterprise run by female health professionals, Clothing The Gap’s work is all about uniting non-Indigenous and Aboriginal people through fashion and causes, with 100% of profits actively supporting Aboriginal health promotion and education programs throughout Victoria.

With a mission to influence social change and unite non-Indigenous and Aboriginal people through fashion and causes, Clothing the Gap's fashion label, campaigns and designs are influenced by the Aboriginal Community, what's going on in the world, and educating wider Australia on these issues.

A spokesperson for the brand told Envato, "Aboriginal design is a great opportunity to learn more about culture and history. While the system often fails to recognise Aboriginal people and its culture, we have to make our own effort to learn and do more."

We want our merch to elevate Aboriginal voices, experiences, and opinions for social change. We are not invisible anymore. While our voices were silenced, fashion allows us to be heard. We are still here and we are still fighting.

Clothing the Gap | @Clothingthegap

Learn more about Clothing The Gap and their incredible fashion label on their website.

Established by proud Warumungu / Wombaya woman Jessica Johnson, Nungala Creative is a 100% Aboriginal owned and operated design and communications agency producing incredible innovative content and contemporary design with a distinct Aboriginal voice. 

Studying Graphic Design and Media at University with the motivation of applying it to First Nations context, Jessica's work is about addressing mental health, well-being, and education, and reminding the Indigenous community–particularly queer youth–they are loved, sacred, limitless and have belonging.

Creating bright, vibrant and playful content across print, product, animation, illustration, social, and, brand development, Nungala Creative’s work strongly reflects the visibility, strength, and empowerment of Indigenous people. Drawing inspiration from late 80s and early 90s Land Rights movement posters, Nungala Creative uses Adobe Creative Suite, Indesign, Illustrator and After Effects to create their trendy digital designs.

"First Nations people are as contemporary as we are ancient, so the transition from traditional to digital art is seamless," says Jessica. "As the worlds oldest storytellers, our narratives are transcendent and so is our work. There are always protocols that need to be adhered to and that is a core aspect of Aboriginal Art."

The world needs to see us in all our diversity as much as we need to see ourselves. For many of us our culture is all we have, it's our inheritance. Increased demand and appetite for our art and design gives us the means to succeed and generate sustainable career pathways that can be potentially life changing. 

Jessica Johnson | @NungalaCreative

You can find their incredible work on Instagram, as well as a massive range of beautiful products and services on their website.

A contemporary Aboriginal artist and four-time finalist of the Archibald Prize, Blak Douglas is well known for the powerful visual impact and strong anti-establishment message behind his paintings.

Based in Sydney’s inner west, Blak started painting as a hobby after studying Graphic Design at UWS Nepean, then quickly developed a knack and began painting murals in Public Schools in Western Sydney. Working with sacred beings from Kindergarten through High Schools, Universities through to Prisons, Blak's basic message is "keep it out of jail and on the canvas".

Charged with passion and emotion, Blak's work aims to explore the dark history of colonial Australia and bring light to the injustices faced by its indigenous people. Combining traditional Aborignal dot work and textures with a contemporary color palette and thick black linework, his work is as eye-catching as it is moving.

"Drawing upon my graphics background, I often stylise imagery and rely heavily on projecting such imagery thus creating my landscape montages," Blak told Envato. "I couldn’t live without the Adobe suite and in particular ‘Illustrator’, the most magical of design programs. Physically however, the generous support of 3M™ Australia and Colourmaker Industries™ enable the creation of an array of painted artworks."

There’s always fodder for my work whilst First Nations peoples remain subordinated on their own countries, from my own bloodline commensurate across the continent. Most of my peers make art based on the same fact.

Blak Douglas | @BlakDouglas

You can find Blak's incredible work at dealers Art Atrium, JEFA Gallery, and Nanda/Hobbs Gallery, as well as on his website.

Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung and Gamilaroi designer, digital illustrator and contemporary Aboriginal artist Madison Connors has been drawing, painting, and storytelling since before she can remember. Guided by her ancestors, Madison aims to ignite a sense of connection and a raw emotion through her work and the creation stories that come from within.

She explains, "My experiences as an Aboriginal woman have shaped my ambitions and my perspectives on the world, which in turn translates into my visual representations. For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to create a positive change by sharing, teaching and creating artwork that provokes conversation."

Madison’s work is all about providing a sense of healing and embarking on her personal journey to completely understanding her culture. Using various mediums to create her art – such as acrylic on canvas, adobe illustrator, adobe sketch, adobe draw, affinity designer, and procreate – Madison is a talented graphic designer, illustrator, and artist all rolled into one.

It is important to continue to see Aboriginal art across various mediums to keep conversations flowing. When viewing Aboriginal art, there needs to be an in-depth dialogue and genuine interest in Aboriginal people and culture to really understand the artist's vision, the connection, their community, and the symbols they use.

Madison Connors | @Yarli_Creative

Find Madison's work as well as a range of products and services on her website.

A proud Gamilaroi Yuwaalaraay woman from Walgett New South Wales, Lakkari Pitt’s art is a contemporary take on the knowledge that her Elders and significant people in her life have passed down throughout generations.

Born into a big Aboriginal family and brought up with strong connections to Country and the different communities she is a part of, the intention of Lakkari's work is to respectfully share stories, language and other aspects of culture to empower her family and her mob.

"I have always loved the story of the meaning behind my hometown Walgett, which means where two rivers meet (the Namoi and Barwon rivers) in Gamilaroi language," says Lakkari. "This is what first made me want to paint, my first major artwork was a piece called Wabu which means riverbend in Gamilaroi language."

Selling a range of original prints, paintings, and digital graphics, Lakkari’s work utilises soft neutral colors and intricate patterns to explore the movement, essence, and stories of Country. You can find her beautiful artwork and designs on her website.

My identity is extremely strong and I am so proud of my culture and who I am. My work is respectfully inspired by listening to my uncles and aunties and other mob yarn, share culture and life experiences.

Lakkari Pitt | @Lakkariart

Specialising in unique Aboriginal art, murals, home decor, and graphic design, Aboriginal owned and operated design agency Chaboo Designs features the spectacular work of a range of indigenous artists and designers.

Showcasing pieces from graphic designer Casey Coolwell, artist Kyra Mancktelow, and muralist Dylan Mooney, Chaboo Designs offers a stunning range of traditional and contemporary aboriginal artworks, products and design services on their website.

Love the artwork in this article? So do we! This feature image was created using the incredible work of Nungala Creative.

At Envato, we see a future where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have equal opportunity in achieving success through education and employment. Head over to the Envato Foundation to learn more about how we support and partner with indigenous charities and organisations.