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Steve Mushin (Stephen Mushin)

Author, Design, Drawing and Creative Thinking Teacher, Education Consultant, Entertainer, Illustrator, Inspirational Speaker, Social Issues, STEM Teacher

Steve Mushin’s graphic novel style STEM book Ultrawild, An Audacious Plan to Rewild Every City On Earth (Allen and Unwin, Nov 2023) was described by The Guardian as:

‘a brain-meltingly intricate and inspiring compendium of the gigantic ideas needed to repair the planet.’

Steve is an industrial designer, hack engineer and illustrator. He collaborates with scientists, and engineers to develop outrageous, but scientifically possible inventions to rewild cities back into jungles.

Steve runs creative thinking, illustration and design workshops with primary and secondary schools, universities and businesses, where he uses his ‘design thought experiments’ as starting points for madcap STEM explorations.

In 2015, he was awarded an Australian Design Honours for work in sustainability design education.


Steve’s website

The Ultrawild book website

Video interview: The Wheeler Centre

Steve’s Instagram

Teaching resources: Ultrawild

Interview: Radio New Zealand

Profile: Australian Design Centre

Article: Sydney Morning Herald

Where were you born?

I was born in Scotland in a small city called Dundee – recently famous for the return of beavers after a 400-year absence.

What other jobs have you had?

My design work spans science-based adventure playgrounds (I recently designed a giant steam-punk mechanical millipede at CERES park in Melbourne in collaboration with my friend, sculptor Nick Curmi) to working with scientists and engineers to imagine future materials, buildings and transportation. I’m a massive nature lover and also work as a teacher at an ecosanctuary. 

What themes are recurring in your work?

Hilarious sounding ecological machines – which no one thinks could possible work (but actually could) – to solve very serious problems. Back-of-napkin calculations that prove how crazy ideas could actually work. Using explosive gas produced by rotting waste to do useful things like blast compost cannon balls where they’re needed…

What have been the highlights of your career?

My recent exhibition in Japan, and workshops in Tokyo where I worked with locals to imagine how we could turn the city into a forest by recycling all of its waste to create soil.

What have been the highlights of your career?

My exhibition of drawings and models in Tokyo – where I ran workshops to imagine how we could transform the city into a forest. Finishing my book Ultrawild (it took me 7 years!).

Where have your works been published?

My comedy science future inventions were exhibited by The Australian Design Centre as part of CUSP (2013), a touring exhibition of futures design thinking.

In August 2014, my exhibition Now If What Then: Farming Tokyo was exhibited as a solo show at Spiral contemporary art gallery in Japan, in collaboration with the Tokyo University of Agriculture.

My designs have also been exhibited in Sydney at the Grace Cossington Smith Gallery (2015), at The Glasshouse in Port Macquarie (2016), and at MRPG gallery and Docklands Library Gallery in Melbourne (2017).

What are you passionate about?

Drawing. Brainstorming ideas. Telling stories. Collaborating with all kinds people to imagine and prototype ideas. Having great conversations with people who like animals and plans and ludicrous sounding ideas.

Haven’t I seen you before?

Doubt it. I spend most of my time making things in secret workshops.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I’m convinced that absolutely everyone has outrageously good ideas – ideas that could turn the world upside down overnight. Problem is, we don’t realise how good our ideas are. Or we don’t happen to know people with billions of dollars. The billions of dollars thing can be a problem…But it IS pretty easy to make sure everyone learns the basic brainstorming and design skills that help bring good ideas to life. And if we can do that, we could see the world change much faster than we can possibly imagine.


On Steve’s Book Ultrawild:

 …a brain-meltingly intricate and inspiring compendium of the gigantic ideas needed to repair the planet by rewilding every city on Earth. From compost-firing cannons to water-filtering sewer submarines, Mushin’s bonkers, brilliant, boundary-breaking inventions give permission to eager 9+ conservationists to push their imaginations to the limit, rather than yield to despair.

The Guardian’s Best Books of 2023

This book is actually beyond audacious. 

It holds BIG ideas and is radical, liberating, scary, mind-bogglingly empowering and also funny. It’s very, very funny.

Kid’s Book review

…big on ideas, big on facts, and big on problem-solving… this book will challenge the reader to question, imagine and rethink the realms of future possibilities for inventions and most importantly rewilding and saving our planet

Read Plus

Stephen worked with our Year 9 students in a half-day workshop, in a thinking environment to engage our students’ problem-solving skills. His talents as an industrial designer encouraged our students to think ‘outside the square’ as his workshop provoked students to examine ‘elephant in the room’ scenarios dealing with authentic real-world issues.

Stephen engaged our Year 9 students with his warm and welcoming manner. He built a rapport with all students. He allowed each of them to share their thoughts and ideas and made them all feel valued and an important part of the workshop. I would highly recommend a session with Stephen if you are looking to engage students in a collaborative, problem-solving environment where all ideas matters and can contribute to the design of solutions to authentic real-life environmental and lifestyle issues.

—G. Kinch, Dean of Studies, Korowa Anglican Girls’ School, June 2016

Stephen engaged all of our girls from the moment they came into the room. His warm and welcoming manner had them on side from the outset. He allowed each of them to share their thoughts and ideas and made them all feel valued and an important part of the workshop.

It is not easy to be able to work with a wide age range but Stephen handled it masterfully. The concepts and ideas explored were talked about for days after he left.

I would highly recommend a session with Stephen.

—J. Lang, Head of Junior School, Korowa Anglican Girls’ School, June 2016

The incursion with Steve Mushin was delightfully surprising. His crazy and out-of- the-box thinking definitely got all of us buzzing with excitement and fresh ideas. We all enjoyed creating and designing inventions that will solve our world’s biggest issues and I know that we will be using his creative thinking in our own real-life situations.

—Year 9 Student, Korowa Anglican Girls’ School, June 2016

Stephen has worked with our Grade 5 and 6 students and our Year 12 students on special projects to promote creativity and sustainability in our school. His programs are always very organized and well thought out, he always worked closely with classroom teachers to ensure his programs meet the needs of the students and the curriculum. His ability to encourage students to think outside the square was particularly valuable and allowed students to stretch their thinking beyond the ordinary. His half-day programs allowed time for students to explore their ideas and then to create models that were both beautiful and demonstrated their new learning. I would highly recommend Stephen as his programs are inspiring, fun and engaging.

—T. Hueneke, Librarian, Cornish College, 2016

Having Stephen come to our school was awesome. He helped us to explore our creativity and at the same time have lots of fun. We all loved how his ideas for inventions could change the world in the future and were amazed at how creative he was!

—Grade 6 Student, Cornish College, 2016

Stephen Mushin was brilliant, spot on, and appropriately pitched for Yr 6. He was a great artist to have to engage with the students, and he was clear in presenting design principles and strong on introducing environmental issues.

I could see the pennies dropping about the new way of thinking imaginatively and creatively that Stephen was introducing. He pitched random ideas that presented the girls with a beautiful freedom to consider their own designs and think in a wider context. Stephen also provided resources and ideas that prompted the teachers to think about his open ended projects and ideas.

—L. Keyter, Abbotsleigh, April 2015

The time with Stephen was very interesting because of his ideas and approach…The main benefit was that it got the students thinking of the extreme lengths to which we might need to go to solve environmental problems. I was able to relate aspects of his polar bear idea to some real Australian examples (Tasmanian devils, saltwater crocodiles), which made students realise that the ideas were not as far-fetched as they might think.

—S. Filan, Abbotsleigh, April 2015

Stephen Mushin recently presented his highly successful ‘Biomechanical Machines of Tomorrow workshop at Scienceworks as part of Test Lab, a pop-up, STEM based makerspace.
Stephen’s workshop gave kids and adults an opportunity to imagine, dream big, solve the problems of today, and most importantly conceive new and playful approaches to the world we might live in tomorrow. His workshop was extremely fun for all involved, and participants reveled in having ownership of their designs, sharing them with the group. It ignited the creative funny bone in everyone, and offered a new assurance for creative problem solving.
We could not have been more pleased about our experience with Stephen and his ingenuity as a workshop facilitator. He was an absolute hoot to work with.

—S. Carluccio, Test Lab Program Officer, Scienceworks 2016

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