Rachel Abrams

Associate Principal, Strategic Design, Arup



Rachel Abrams is a visual storyteller, creative place-maker and design strategist. Originally a journalist and political researcher in the UK Parliament, she trained as an interaction designer at the Royal College of Art in London before moving to New York in 2000. Having worked for IBM and then branding consultancy, Imagination, she set up Turnstone Consulting, her collaborative strategic design studio, in 2006. She contributed to a range of projects improving public services and civic space by design. 

First, as a fellow of the Design Trust for Public Space, she co-edited Roads Forward, defining the future of the yellow cab industry for the City of New York. In 2010, she consulted to Karsan Otomotiv in their bid to deliver a green, accessible, connected Taxi of Tomorrow. As a creative placemaker, she led the rebranding strategy for the now expanded and renovated Queens Museum, with Grimshaw Architects and The Map Office. In 2012, she acted as Special Advisor to the Department of Transportation’s Walk NY project, leading fieldwork, research and content standards for the citywide way finding system for New York’s pedestrians, bike share and express bus riders. In 2012-13, as a board member at the AIGA New York, she defined and helped secure funding for Design/Relief, the chapter's coordinated, local response to Hurricane Sandy.

As an independent design strategist, she has developed visitor experiences for the built environment and for screen, in Big Tech, finance, media, education, telecoms and policy-making. As a visual storyteller, Rachel counts Amnesty International, the Rockefeller Foundation and MoMA among her graphic facilitation clients, and as a fellow of The Open Society Foundations in 2014, she wrote, illustrated and directed the acclaimed animated documentary, Let’s Get to Work. That same year, she founded soundpapered.com, an ongoing visual journal of live music.

Teaching graduate students at the School of Visual Arts since 2009, Rachel has served on the faculty of the Interaction Design, Design for Social Innovation, Visual Narrative MFA programs. She has written about design and policy for over 30 publications and presents her work regularly to national and international audiences.  She has an undergraduate degree in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University and a Masters degree in interaction design from the UK’s Royal College of Art.

MA (RCA), Computer-Related (interaction) Design, Royal College of Art, UK
BA (Hons)/MA (Cantab), Social & Political Sciences, Cambridge University, UK



Design for Social Value: Design and Ideology