Being a Graphic Designer in the Army

I know what you’re thinking: “I didn’t know the Army had a graphic designer.”

Don’t worry; most people don’t know that, including many who are in the Army.

My official job title was “Multimedia Illustrator,” and according to the Army’s job description, “a multimedia illustrator is responsible for the graphic artwork, layouts, posters, graphs or charts for publications or presentations used by the Army.”

While I was in, I was assigned to a Psychological Operations (PSYOP) unit. The goal of PSYOP is to use information to influence the enemy by playing on factors such as emotion or reasoning. This can be done in a variety of ways, many techniques of which are similar to civilian advertising. I was responsible for the layout and design of the print materials, such as wanted posters for leaders of Al-Qaeda. These handbills were passed out to local populations by soldiers on the ground, and the leaflets were dropped by the tens of thousands over various towns and villages.

In Iraq, there were some unique design challenges. For example, every design has a visual flow which is the way that your eye moves or is led around a composition. Generally, that flow will go from left to right and top to bottom because that is the way we read. In Arabic, however, they read from right to left, so I would have to flip the flow of my design layouts, making it look backward to me, but knowing it would be more visually pleasing to the target audience of the Iraqi people. Another challenge was the way to utilize the negative space or white space. Negative space can often be preferable in a design. Still, for PSYOP products, any open space can give the enemy an opportunity to add their own wording and change the messaging on the product. 

Being a graphic designer in the Army isn’t much different from being a graphic designer anywhere else, except you may hear an occasional explosion in the distance while working in Photoshop or be pulled from your desk to be a gunner on the next convoy. But the daily requirements of being a professional Soldier means you will always place the mission first, whether on the battlefield or designing artwork.