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Typefaces (2021 rebrand)

Contributed by Will Chase on Jan 5th, 2021. Artwork published in
January 2021
. (2021 rebrand) 1
Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

The Central Intelligence Agency has long failed to recruit younger and more diverse candidates. Maybe it’s their history of orchestrating deadly military coups, or their litany of human rights violations, or perhaps, as Vice points out, it’s that many of the diverse candidates they’re trying to attract can trace their heritage to places that the agency has undermined and destabilized.

Regardless of reason, it’s their image as a stuffy Ivy-league boys club that motivated the CIA’s trendy rebrand. In a direct appeal to younger candidates, the updated website is more reminiscent of a Millennial direct-to-consumer popup brand than a staid government agency, and prominently displays their careers page and updated jobs portal. The main website showcases a suite of fonts from Swiss foundry Grilli Type. It features GT America for titles, headers, and body copy, exclusively using the extended and expanded widths. Other headers and pull-quotes are set in GT Sectra, while some UI elements use GT America Mono. (2021 rebrand) 2
Source: License: All Rights Reserved. (2021 rebrand) 3
Source: License: All Rights Reserved. (2021 rebrand) 4
Source: License: All Rights Reserved. (2021 rebrand) 5
Source: License: All Rights Reserved.
GT America Mono in use for captions.
Source: License: All Rights Reserved.

GT America Mono in use for captions.


  • GT America
  • GT America Mono
  • GT Sectra




Artwork location

8 Comments on “ (2021 rebrand)”

  1. Creative Director/Artist Ryder Ripps takes credit for the rebranding.

    [edit: see Connor’s comment below. According to an article by Paper, both the CIA and Ripps have denied the involvement of Ripps in the design. – 14/01/21/FH]

  2. This Use has sparked quite some discussion in the type scene. As tweets are quick to disappear and hard to find/navigate, I’m compiling some of the voices in this place.

    There seems to be a consensus that working for the CIA (as graphic designer) is unethical, for the reasons Will pointed out in the first paragraph. Type designer Gareth Hague called the rebrand out as being “morally bankrupt”. But what about type designers/foundries? Having the CIA among the users of one’s fonts isn’t cool either. Type foundry Monokrom Skriftforlag (jokingly) comments: “Damn, that’s a rough blow for Grilli Type. Must be devastating having your typefaces appropriated by the CIA.”

    Can type providers do anything about it? Signal Type Foundry claims: “You can’t control who licenses the stuff on your site, so I don’t think @grillitype is at fault in any way [unlike] the agency who wittingly helped the CIA with a rebrand”. Type designer Luke Prowse asks for more honesty: “They didn’t ‘appropriate’ it, they licensed it like any other customer. They just happen to be the very worst kind. Calling it appropriation assumes foundries aren’t complicit in the system that allows this to happen”, and adds: “This isn’t a criticism of Grilli or any one else. It’s just the modus operandi of selling fonts without dubiously enforceable moral clauses. What is a criticism is designers selling tools that support capitalism and then bemoaning that they were used to support capitalism.”

    Type designer, researcher and educator Dan Reynolds calls for higher standards, and argues that “[…] font licenses for org rebranding of this size are usually purchased offline, not over a web shop. Offline sales involve negotiation, and also give a foundry the option of declining to make a bid at all. I would not ever recommend that a foundry license to this particular institution.” And type designer Erin McLaughlin wonders: “[C]an we just stop automating sales, and restrict who can buy stuff?” As exclusion clauses in the End User License Agreement (EULA) may be difficult to enforce (or maybe not?), JTD Foundry recommends a more pragmatic solution: “[D]onate the money from the sales to a charity that works against the actions of those who bought the license.”

    To be continued.

  3. Grilli Type clarifies: “Regarding the CIA’s usage of our typefaces: the licensing was purchased directly through our online shop by their agency. We had no advance knowledge of this use, and no part in their redesign in any way.

  4. Thank you very much Florian for adding all this helpful context and discussion around what is indeed a controversial issue. My personal feelings on the redesign aside, I’m glad for the discussion it has sparked.

  5. This redesign looks like the CIA wearing someone else’s coat. I am curious how long they will wear it, and if they’ll add any blogs to the stories section. My calendar app will send a reminder do a follow-up in January, 2022.

    Also, over on Twitter, Mark Davis found out that the Kids section was copied from the old website to the new one.

  6. I decided to remove the one image of and the font credits for the Spy Kids section: Its design goes back to 2019 (three cheers for the Internet Archive!) and hence is not part of this rebrand. Will commented on this part that it “aims to highlight the family-friendly side of the CIA, with stories about spy dogs, trick-or-treat at the CIA, and fun games for the kids. This section features a whimsical logo in Pacifico, headers in Roboto Slab, and body copy in Roboto.”

  7. Certainly the art director/designer is able to make his own choice whether to do work for the CIA, as well as choose typefaces to meet his stylistic and messaging intent.

    I think, thought, that an innovative, creative use of Public Sans (an open source font developed by the U.S. government) may have provided an interesting approach.

  8. Ryder Ripps did not actually design this…

  9. I wonder if Grilli Type should add an extra clause to their licenses: “This font may not be used in the destabilisation of governments”

  10. Thanks for the correction, Connor! I’ve removed the credit again.

  11. As a follow-up: one year later, the website is still up and actively used, with new stories and jobs.

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