Department of Clip Art

A brief history of the US government’s awful graphic design

The revelation that major US technology companies are participating in a National Security Administration surveillance program was shocking enough. And that was before we saw the top-secret slides used by the government to describe the spying operation. They are, to put it mildly, heinously ugly…


The slides immediately attracted scorn on Twitter, even inspiring graphics luminary Edward Tufte to weigh in:

The US government, though, is no stranger to bad graphic design. The Department of Defense is a particularly egregious offender, with its hopelessly complex network diagrams


over-the-top collages


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…and tacky flow charts.

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But the military is hardly the only offender.

From the Department of State:



The Environmental Protection Agency:



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The US Small Business Administration:


From New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (pdf):

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And, finally, from the Department of Homeland Security, a design that’s not exactly ugly but certainly disorienting:

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