OCAD University
John Willis
Faculty of Design

Area(s) of Expertise

Communications design, Quant/qual research, Social & political affairs


A guy who wants to demonstrate what it means to 'have an agenda' in design. 

Born Toronto, 1962.  One partner, two children (6 and 10). Visually impaired.

  • Professional opinion researcher and communications designer with a focus on civil society, public policy, and system level challenges of access,  justice, nd sustainability.

  • Currently director of a unique consulting operation delivering  communications services, strategy, evaluation, fundraising, and opinion research to non-profits, public agencies, charities and labour unions.

  • Finding good uses for ICT in advocacy work since email arrived in 1987.  Early adopter of online research tools and platforms.

  • Activist and creative thinker in accessibility issues, urbanism, environment and energy policy, local food security, public schooling.

  • Advocate for design as an empowering process to support community engagement and deeper inclusion in society.  Looking forward to a ‘third career’ in inclusive design, system change, and policy reform that enhances inclusiveness in society.


Studied politics and critical theory at University of Watlerloo, but most of my real education was outside the academy, as an activist organizing campaigns in the 1980s and '90s on threats from acid rain, nuclear weapons, chemical pollution, and climate change. This involved a lot of late-night skulking around chemical plants, landfills, coal-fired power stations, militrarized harbours, and nuclear reactors.


Professional Experience

1989-96: Senior Project Coordinator with Greenpeace International in London, Amsterdam, and Tokyo.

1997-present: Communications and research consultancy (Strategic Communications, Inc.., based in Vancouver and Toronto) with clients in the non-profit, charity and labour sectors including the Canadian Auto Workers, Law Society of Upper Canada, Amnesty International, OXFAM, Stephen Lewis Foundation, and former NDP leader Jack Layton.

Awards \ Grants

Best Grassroots Advocacy (Print) Advertising, 2001 from the American Association of Political Consultants.

Professional Affiliations / Boards / Juries

Market Research Intelligence Association, Canadian Evaluation Society.