Björn Rust (he/him) is a post-industrial designer, researcher and educator, developing context-sensitive solutions in service of people and the planet.

Recent writings

  1. Place-based innovation for sustainable and resilient human systems
  2. Beyond orthodoxy toward design-led economic policy
  3. Opportunity hoarding


I apply design and technology to find inclusive, people-centred solutions to positively influence the health of human systems.

Currently, I am working with Nesta as a design lead to prototype and test innovative approaches to increase the average number of healthy years lived in the UK while reducing health inequalities. Before Nesta, I served as an innovation manager at Elrha's Humanitarian Innovation Fund, leading the development of innovation skills and capabilities and the distribution of grants within their disability and older age inclusion portfolio. Previously, I worked with Oxfam Australia as a research lead and technical advisor to promote digital inclusion and address humanitarian challenges in the Pacific through the region's first distributed ledger technology (DLT) based cash and voucher assistance.

If you care about more resilient and equitable societies, I'd love to talk.

Professional Experience

Ongoing () Design Lead @ Nesta London, GB

Leading design within Nesta's 'A healthy life' mission, working cross-functionally to develop innovative approaches to increase the average number of healthy years lived in the UK while narrowing health inequalities. Guiding the mission in people-centred and evidence-based strategic design approaches to create meaningful and lasting change.

Consulting on design methods, leading user research to uncover insights, facilitating co-creation workshops, rapidly prototyping and iterating on potential solutions, and managing end-to-end design projects across channels that balance user needs and the organisation's social objectives.

Innovation Manager @ Elrha London, GB

Led skills and capabilities building for the Humanitarian Innovation Fund. Working collaboratively with colleagues, grantees, and external stakeholders to document, develop, decolonise, and deliver accessible, context-sensitive, and future-aware technical resources. Including tools and processes for managing and enabling innovation within humanitarian contexts, through supportive cultures and environments.

  • Reported to and liaised with statutory and institutional donors FCDO and Dutch MFA
  • Coordinated and delivered non-financial grantee support, incl. convenings, workshops, and presentations
  • Managed researchers exploring the present and future needs of humanitarian innovators and innovation managers
  • Managed and co-created ethics resources with McGill/McMaster universities and participatory resources with MIT’s D-Lab
  • Managed FCDO-funded grantees exploring how inclusive disaster preparedness can enable inclusive humanitarian response, for people with disabilities and older people
Research Lead @ Oxfam Australia Naarm (Melbourne), AU

Led research outcomes for Oxfam’s UnBlocked Cash pilot, while contributing to programme design and technical advisory across all aspects of the project. The role included horizon scanning, partner evaluation, designing and delivering programme design and learning workshops, refining research methodologies, coordinating stakeholder inputs, and managing monitoring, evaluation, accountability, and learning.

Digital Futures Consultant @ Aurecon Naarm (Melbourne), AU

Evaluated and supported the needs of the Digital Futures team in its mission to digitise Aurecon’s businesses. Guiding product design and developing frameworks to support future products for it and the adjacent 3D visualisation and creative technology business Unsigned Studio.

  • Evaluated and redesigned the user experience and interface of the firm’s suite of digital tools
  • Developed digital design system and style guide for future applications
  • Developed brand identity and strategy for computational design unit
  • Led research to redesign the internal knowledge management and communications platform
  • Facilitated workshops for needs identification and stakeholder engagement
Sessional Instructor → Module Leader @ RMIT University Naarm (Melbourne), AU

Taught design and innovation theory with a focus on complex systems and community-led solutions for built environments, including patient-centered design and qualitative research methodologies in service of culturally and emotionally sensitive guerrilla information systems for oncological treatment. Developed and delivered original material on the role of designers in the Anthropocene and encouraged students to explore the social implications of this proposed epoch by presenting climate science alongside emerging technologies and speculative futures.

Ongoing () Co-Founder @ Of_Substance Naarm (Melbourne), AU → 🌍

A multi-disciplinary design practice developing community-led solutions and foresights to shape the future of our built environments in service of people and planet. Merged lean startup and social entrepreneurship principles with accumulative academic research to create a space for cross-sectoral partnerships, methodologies, and innovation. Built innovation capabilities within humanitarian and third sector organisations. Adapted and tested solutions in local contexts.

  • Authored ‘The Social Impacts of Distributed Ledger Technologies in Disaster Response and Development Interventions’, which was presented during A Smart Sustainable Future for All (2018)
  • Presented on DLT-based Design Cash and Voucher Assistence during the Design Informatics Lecture Series (2020)
Design Lead → Design Director @ Local Peoples Naarm (Melbourne), AU

Led human-centered solutions for purpose-driven brands and institutions. The role was that of a practical designer and a design thinker, responsible for all projects, their clients, and its team, including the in-house impact-oriented publication Matters Journal. The design director was responsible for creative direction, asset management, event design, collaborator outreach, editorial design and production, while assisting with product development and editorial strategy.

  • Launch the carbon neutral pilot issue of Matters Journal (Mini Matters) for Pause Fest 2018
  • Delivered projects in partnership with Monash University's Materials Science and Engineering department
Associate Creative Director → Creative Director @ Squint/Opera Australia Naarm (Melbourne), AU

Created and directed creative content for the built and unbuilt environment. The creative director pitched creative work, managed client and stakeholder relationships, maintained effective teams while developing insights, experiences, and stories in support of masterplans and placemaking strategies.


State Government of Victoria, Places Victoria, Lendlease, Mirvac, ISPT, Sydney Opera House, Anzac Memorial Trustees, Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Arts Centre Melbourne, Foster and Partners, Fender Katsalidis, Woods Bagot, Hassell and Denton Corker Marshall, among others

Sessional Instructor @ Queensland College of Art Mianjin (Brisbane), AU

Developed and delivered classes on photography for industrial designers.

Ongoing () Founder/Principle Designer @ Gestaltivist Mianjin (Brisbane), AU → 🌍

Founded this transdisciplinary platform to consolidate and expand upon a legacy of independent design projects. Supported collaborators and clients through evidence-based and environmentally sensitive product and service development. Employed a rigorous approach rooted in industrial design practices, combining exploratory user research and need identification, rapid prototyping, iterative testing, and manufacturing support to de-risk projects. Later, focusing on systems thinking, co-creation, creative problem-solving, workshop and sprint facilitation in service of comprehensive design strategy and product-service systems development.

Awards (by date)
  • Queensland New Design — Finalist (2007), the jury awarded 'System69' the top prize for its high market potential.
  • Capital Growth — Industry Prize Winner (2011), the jury was impressed by 'PIGs' innovative and technologically ambitious solution, awarding the top cash prize.
Exhibitions (by date)

Tokyo Design Week (2010 & 2015), NYCxDesign, One Can, Caught Living Between Music & Design, Tastemakers at LA Design Week (2013), Singapore Indesign, Dwell on Design, Prototyping: Making Ideas, Capital Growth: The Piggy Bank Project, Brisbane Indesign

Press (A–Z)

Brisbane Magazine, Core77, Dezeen, DQ, Dwell, Habitus Living, Indesign, Indesign Live, Inside, LA Times, map magazine, NOTCOT, Queenslandersign, Queensland Homes, Yanko Design, Yatzer

Ongoing () Co-Founder/Creative Director @ Scrag End Mianjin (Brisbane), AU → 🌍

Independently publishing socially conscious, evergreen food media exploring the impact of our consumption.

Exhibitions (by date)

International Food Design Conference

Press (A–Z)

Australian Infront, It’s Nice That, Monocle (Issue 72, The Menu Edition 165 and The Globalist - Edition 825 and 830), Stack, Selectism, We Heart

Industrial Designer @ Street & Garden Furniture Co. Mianjin (Brisbane), AU

Consulted with clients and designed solutions for urban environments, including public amenities and architectural details. Managed marketing and communications. Implemented software solutions and developed best practice.


State Government of Queensland, Brisbane City Council, South Bank Corporation, among others

Pro Bono

Mentor @ United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Innovation Accelerator 🌍

Present foundational ethical considerations and tools for practising innovation approaches in the humanitarian context for the Humanitarian Grand Challenges cohorts.

Ongoing () Judge/Mentor → Lead Judge/Mentor @ School of International Futures 🌍

Evaluated applications for the Next Generation Foresight Practitioners (NGFP) main award and coordinated communications to attract more diverse applicants from low- and middle-income countries, who are working on humanitarian problems. Ongoing mentoring with 2021/2022 winning applicant.

Ongoing () Editorial Commitee Member @ Médecins Sans Frontières 🌍

Ongoing commitment to review project abstracts and co-design MSF Scientific Days agenda with innovation experts from across the humanitarian sector.

Community Prototyper @ OpenIDEO 🌍

Supported innovators with one-on-one mentoring during the 'Healthy Bones, Healthy Ageing Challenge'. This challenge asked: How might we reimagine older adults’ care experience after breaking a bone due to osteoporosis to ensure their first fracture is their last?

Project Lead @ World Vision International-Cambodia Phnom Penh, KH

Developed and delivered a participatory practise framework to inform the design of a multifunction cross-sectoral space for WVI-C staff, partners, donors, and recipients to interact and collaborate.

Researcher @ Oxfam Australia—‘OxLabs’ Innovation Hub Naarm (Melbourne), AU

Supported the design, delivery, and reporting of Oxfam’s Australian Aid-funded ‘blockchain’ pilots to increase disaster preparedness in the Pacific region. Designed research methodologies and defined measurements to evaluate the cost, quality, and time-efficiency of distributed ledger technology-based, intra-institutional transfers and cash and voucher assistance for the humanitarian sector.


Year Institution Programme Grade
2019 Oxford Brookes University/UNITAR Postgraduate Certificate—Humanitarian Action and Peacebuilding 3.3/4
2019 RMIT University Master of Disaster, Design and Development 3.7/4
2007 Queensland University of Technology Bachelor of Built Environment—Industrial Design Major 5/7
2003 Griffith College Diploma of Design Studies—Communication Design 5.5/7

Short Courses

Year Institution Programme Grade
2024 UCL Institute for Innovation & Public Purpose Rethinking Capitalism
2022 Bond Planning and practice in monitoring, evaluation, accountability, and learning
2018 Acumen Academy Introduction to Human-Centered Design
2018 Acumen Academy Social Entrepreneurship 101
2017 UnSchool Disruptive Design Workshop
2016 IDEO U Leading for Creativity