Graphic designer and videographer Jason Willis visits OU

Lauren Reid, Content Editor

Local graphic designer, videographer and photographer Jason Willis visited Oakland University on Thursday, Oct. 14 to share his experiences and offer expertise, touching on storytelling in media design and his branching off to freelance work.  

Willis, an OU alumni, began his work at The Oakland Post as a design editor, highlighting the creative freedom he had in his role. 

“There’s literally nobody telling you what you can and can’t do,” Willis said. “It allowed me to push into my style.” 

During his time at The Oakland Post, Willis also worked with the Detroit News, leading into his work at Grid 4 Communications, where Willis helped revamp brand styles and build a new look for the company and eventually, the OU marketing department. 

“We worked on a lot of different sections of the [OU] website, graphics for social media — I had my hand in a lot of the different areas of design for the university, whether it was web, social, campus signage or brochures” Willis said. “Ever since I’ve been working at Oakland, I’ve been going in two different paths between design and video.” 

About two years ago, Willis started freelancing, and has since worked with Downtown Detroit Partnership, creating brochures, maps and event support, Romulus Public Schools, Eastern Market, Warrior Sports, among others. 

“[You] just have to go with the flow [in freelance],” Willis said. “You might pick up a client here, lose a client there, and it’s all just part of the process.” 

Willis enjoys working with nonprofits but unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, budgets have been cut back.

“I really like the nonprofit worlds — great stories to tell and it’s all for wonderful purposes,” Willis said. “I like when the work I do has an impact. Knowing that what I’m doing has a little meaning to it.” 

Willis also touched on what he refers to as the “4 quadrants to [a] project:” client, creativity, profit and wellbeing. As projects come, it’s important to consider these aspects before taking on the endeavor, as mentioned by Willis. 

“Managing your time is one of the most important things,” Willis said. “You’re the guardian of your time, and nobody can really tell you how to spend it. Wrap your head around timeboxing and trying to set time aside for what’s coming up throughout the week.” 

To conclude the event, Willis took questions from students, sparking discussions on edits, work/life balance, potential internships and collaboration and creative freedom. 

“At the end of the day, what people want is content and the story,” Willis said. “Whether I shoot it on a $3,000 camera or record it over Zoom (in regard to COVID-19 times), the message is still getting out there. People still need to do that sort of storytelling.” 

For more information on Willis — his projects, design and contact — visit JMW Creative.