The CIA's New Recruitment Strategy is... Design?

Tyrese Leverty | 18 January 2020

The CIA's new icon. (

In advertising, we are often asked to build awareness, change someone's mind about a brand, or get people to purchase a new product. Whether the client says it or not, it is often with the end goal of increasing sales. However, the strategy of recruitment is just as daunting of a task and, when your agency's superpower is creating ideas that move people to think or behave differently, the act of getting others to apply for a job doesn't seem like too far of a stretch.

Bought a product that you, later on, end up regretting? We've all done it. Impulse buying is so easy in today's age when we're online all the time but we would be lying to ourselves to say that we didn't get over it quickly. On the other hand, to make the life switch that comes along with starting a new job, only to realize that you're miserable there after some time... now that's a fear that keeps many of us right where we are in our current position. Then, how do you convince someone to want to work at the CIA? Well, they seem to think that they've found the right approach and it comes in the colors black and white.

Embracing the "new year, new me" mentality, the United States of America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) launched a new campaign aimed to recruit new workers by way of website and brand redesign. Take a scroll through their website and you'll see that they've seemingly stripped away almost anything we used to associate with the CIA and left just those three letters. Instead, it contains straight lines that somehow have movement, black space created with the background, and representation by prominently featuring minorities first on the site? Incredible! They made no mistake to stray from the overabundance of red, white, and blue and the seemingly must-have staple that is a waving flag on a windy day positioned in the background that you can find on almost every other government website, but what does this mean for their recruitment and their organization overall?

All of this change hints that the nation's intelligence agency is looking to go in a new direction. Forward. They'd like to bring you along with them, too!

Diving into the materials, we can see that they're making their effort toward recruitment quite obvious as the only link featured outside of the hamburger menu is a button labeled "careers" coupled with a call to action button below. They spend a lot of time honing in on their story, what they do, and what working there is like which, arguably a homepage should do. However, when you realize that many of the photos show young professionals and that the design parallels the clean, contemporary influences like Apple and Louis Vuitton, you understand their emerging target audience. The black is a nod to security and, although they're not the department of defense, it still makes sense because of their claim to be the "nation's first line of defense." Lastly, their use of lines throughout the branding can be assumed to represent wires or information lines that must be core to their identity. Throughout it all, their messaging is clear: we are a current place to land a career for those who are looking and the work we do is of great importance to us and to the U.S.A.

Will these clean lines and carefully placed website buttons actually pay off to make the CIA the hottest government department on the block? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure: this redesign has surely turned more heads than normal toward them -- and for something other than counterterrorism or cyber threats. For that reason alone, the future looks promising for the CIA's ability to recruit new, young talent and, if they keep it up, their ability to stay relevant to job seekers in today's cluttered landscape.

Cheers to you, CIA, for starting off 2021 strong by not only fighting international crime but eliminating bad governmental design, too! Your move, MI6.