This is part of our series profiling CIA officers working in occupations not commonly associated with the Agency. We talk with them about their daily challenges and rewards, as well as some exceptional moments.
The CIA Directorate of Intelligence (DI) provides the president and senior policymakers with written intelligence assessments on national security issues. But the DI is relying increasingly on graphic designers and visual artists to help analysts communicate complex stories.
DI designers work with analysts to produce infographics, charts, graphs, videos and interactive multimedia products for intelligence assessments that go to policymakers. Here are the stories of two designers whose artistic skills led them to the CIA.
Judy, Graphic Designer, three years with the CIA
Judy first learned about opportunities for graphic designers at CIA from a recruiter who visited her college campus. Her dad was in the military, and the idea of serving her country while using her creative talents appealed to her.
Judy is quick to describe the most rewarding aspects of her work: “The best part of my job is helping analysts make their points more clearly. Sometimes, my artwork even helps get a piece of analysis read when a policymaker might have otherwise not picked it up.”
She gets to work on a range of graphic products at CIA. Some projects allow her lots of leeway to flex her creative muscles. With other products, like daily intelligence publications, she sticks to a more conservative aesthetic. Judy says, “It’s all about making it clear, easy to read, and getting to the bottom line.”
“I am one of the first people to see what is being briefed to policymakers, and I also see the final results of my work. I know that my creative talents have an impact on national security.”
Danielle, Multi-Media Specialist, six years with the CIA
Danielle came to the CIA straight out of graduate school, and she says she could not have picked a better place to apply her skills in multimedia design. “Everything I loved about design in school is what I’m responsible for here,” she says.
Every day, Danielle listens to analysts discuss their assessments, which she figures out how to present visually. Her products sometimes help analysts see something new in their data; they always help policy makers quickly grasp important ideas and information.
When Danielle first joined the CIA, she took the same training that her analyst colleagues receive. “That training helped me understand what the analysts are aiming for, so I can better visualize or model their information,” she explains.
“There are still some people who don’t yet fully understand designers’ work and think it’s secondary to the text,” Danielle says. “But we’re showing how graphics can be a really important part of the analysis.”
Danielle and the other multimedia designers at CIA have highly marketable skills that are valued outside the government. But Danielle says the rewards of working at the CIA keep her engaged in her work here. “My products influence policymakers’ decisions. So even though the work can be stressful, and people ask a lot of me, I go home knowing I’ve made a difference.”
For more information on the careers featured in this article, or to see what other opportunities are available at CIA, please visit www.cia.gov/careers.