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Tuesday, May 03, 2011 - Oakland Post student editor earns national award for design
By Eric Reikowski, media relations assistant

OU student Jason Willis, design editor of The Oakland Post, earned top honors in a recent national journalism competition.
An Oakland University student recently received top honors in a national journalism competition.

Oakland Post Design Editor Jason Willis was named Student Designer of the Year by the Student Society for News Design at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

To qualify for the award, Willis put forth a portfolio highlighting his work at The Oakland Post.

“I submitted various covers and center spreads, including the Detroit Special Section and 2010 Midterm Election Section,” Willis explained. “The work was judged along with other student designers from across the country.”

Along with the top design honor, Willis claimed awards in the following categories: Redesign of a Newspaper or Magazine – second place; Special Topic – first place; Multi-page Story Package – second place; Multi-page Sports Package – first place and third place; and Sports Page Design – second place.

In recognition of his efforts, Willis has been invited to attend the Society for News Design annual workshop this September in St. Louis. He views all the accolades as validation of long hours spent in pursuit of exceptional work.

“Winning these awards has definitely given me more confidence in myself and what I'm capable of as a designer,” said Willis. “It's a very rewarding feeling to see what I spend so much of my time working on being recognized on a national level. Also, seeing The Oakland Post ranked among schools like Syracuse and University of Michigan is a great feeling, and a great thing to be a part of. “

A senior studio art major, Willis credits his time at OU with helping him refine his natural talents and skills.

“The art program here really focuses on concept and reasoning behind design, which has been a great benefit to me, said Willis. “I am largely self-taught in the technical side of design so having professional direction and guidance for the conceptual side has been extremely helpful. “

Andrea Eis, chair of the Department of Art and Art History, describes Willis’ designs as “visually sophisticated and highly professional.” She particularly admires his work on the department’s student handbook, along with brochures he designed for the art history and studio art programs.

Eis explained, “The art history brochure includes images from the Oakland University Art Collection to connect with the subjects studied in the field, while the studio art brochure has an energetic, contemporary feel without being tied to a particular art medium. With our student handbook, he designed a piece that is both attractive and functional.”

Additionally, Willis designed the new Oakland University Art Gallery website, helping to create what OUAG Director Dick Goody calls “an extremely user-friendly site, which uses the very best concepts of contemporary art and design practices.”

In 2009, Willis took an introductory course with journalism instructor Holly Gilbert, who encouraged him to join The Oakland Post. His contributions, she says, have influenced the paper in many ways.

“Jason is the quintessential renaissance student,” Gilbert explained. “He can do everything from writing, to design, to inspiring his colleagues. He's an ingenious leader who is continually moving The Oakland Post forward visually and conceptually.”

In his role as design editor, Willis has created dozens of eye-catching covers and center spreads that showcase his talent and allow him to experiment with fresh ideas.

“The Post gives students the opportunity to get their work published every week, while also allowing the creativity to explore new ideas and techniques,” Willis explained. “It is really the best of both worlds and a priceless experience that you can't find other places. I would recommend getting involved to anyone who wants to pursue something creatively.”

To view Willis’ designs, visit