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MSU student artist Semaj Willis strives to inspire campus communities with his graphic design business

February 20, 2024
Cover art created by graphic designer and MSU student Semaj Willis. Photo courtesy of Willis.
Cover art created by graphic designer and MSU student Semaj Willis. Photo courtesy of Willis. —

For so many, music and arts are commonly used to de-stress or brighten up a day. For Michigan State University engineering senior Semaj Willis, creative art has been an essential part of his life right from the beginning.

“My mom would paint in front of me …she grew up very creative,” Willis said. “So, I kind of always dabbled in making art on my own.”

Willis is a graphic art designer in his free time and creates cover arts for various local magazine publications through his business, Trophy Maj. He has designed cover art for many known graphic design companies, including Image Control Studios.

His drive came from wanting to motivate others to embrace their creativity, he said.

“What really got me started, taking something I was passionate about really finding a way to make something I can help other people,” Willis said. “So, I found myself being able to bring to life people’s creative desires in their mind.” 

Willis has also designed a variety of cover arts for local artists’ albums, as well as tour promotions for Detroit rapper and singer Veeze. 

“But as of right now, how I feel is like it’s great you know to get my notoriety to be seen but I also have my eyes on expanding further in my career,” he said. 

However, artists can experience creative blocks, oftentimes due to experiences in their own lives. Willis uses these experiences as inspiration to develop his work.

“So, for times when I am in creative blocks, I find gaining new experiences is a method to feel my creativity and display what I feel at that moment,” Willis said. 

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MSU engineering senior and graphic design artist Semaj Willis. Photo courtesy of Willis.

Finance senior Dylan Kemp, who has been friends with Willis for most of his college career, said Willis has had a huge impact on him not only through his art, but also as a person. Kemp said Willis' work ethic and dedication to Trophy Maj has developed exponentially since it was first launched. 

“His projects are just amazing,” Kemp said. “Semaj isn’t a person who takes pride on his work, he doesn’t really speak on his work too often … seeing the development of his work speaks for itself.” 

He has reviewed Willis' work on multiple occasion's, and the time and effort poured into the art has always shone through, he said. Kemp also helps Willis improve his creativity by assisting him with business ideas and logo creation.

“Everyone knows that Semaj is a very profound designer, (and) a lot of students come to Semaj for flyers, or different creative ideas that involve campus events,” Kemp said. “Everybody just appreciates him for what he does, everybody looks to him for any creative input.” 

Willis has collaborated with other student creatives throughout campus, such as Coutur3culture, a clothing brand business launched by apparel and textile design senior Damond Hardwick. Hardwick said Willis helped with digital sketches for Coutur3Culture, and he will continue to collaborate with Willis for a “bigger project."

“He’s amazing at what he does,” Hardwick said. "Supporting Black businesses can lead to more diverse voices and perspectives being heard in the business world, promoting a more inclusive marketplace."

Willis's overall goal for Trophy Maj is to make the business grow and expand past what it's currently at.

“I just want to be a service of production overall,” Willis said. “I want to produce content that motivates people … not just content based in a social media space, but more so in reality.”

Also a videographer, Willis is currently working on his own clothing brand, called Seihport.

Hardwick encouraged people to support Willis by simply following his business profile on social media

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“A simple like and repost goes a long way,” Hardwick said. “If you’re a creative who needs any graphic design work, he’s your guy.

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