Aaron Brethorst

Round peg in a square hole, rabid generalist.

“We Can’t Spy…if We Can’t Buy!”

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Slate’s posted a tremendously embarassing-looking unclassified Powerpoint deck from the CIA. The twelve pages present a sort-of who’s who guide of Powerpoint design mistakes. I don’t really fault the CIA procurement executive who created it, though; it looks like the result of an official template run amok, coupled with the world’s worst collection of stock art…from 1993. Here’s the blow-by-blow for each slide:

    <li>OK, let's get it out of the way now: the fonts they're using suck. The yellow-on-blue color scheme really does nothing for me. The official seal makes perfect sense, but the fonts are just a disaster. C'mon: this is 2007, why are you using Times New Roman at the bottom?</li>
    <li> The slide title presented here is next to impossible to read. A heavily desaturated yellow on a bluish, semi-transparent background does nothing for my 24-year old eyes. Imagine what a career CIA analyst pushing fifty must feel like when he squints at this. Also, the phrasing of the bullet points on this page is rather painful. Please stick to a handful of descriptive words or to a sentence structure, but not both.</li>
    <li> Dude, 1993 called and it wants its clip art back. The 1950s-esque atomic structure representing "technology" is my personal favorite. What's yours? Once again, the color contrast is <em>killing </em>me. Furthermore, at a structural level, I cannot figure out how this slide (entitled "Multiple Areas of Concern") relates to the Overview slide we just saw.</li>
    <li> Font colors. Again. Also, I hope that this was a slide that took all of ten seconds to run through. Key takeaway: "things have changed." We get it, no need to run through point by point.</li>
    <li> This slide actually made my left eye bleed. I'm reminded of the guy at the beginning of <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096928/quotes">Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure</a> who said <em>"Everything is different, but the same... things are more moderner than before... bigger, and yet smaller... it's computers... San Dimas High School football rules!"</em></li>
    <li>The heavy-handed metaphor employed on the sixth page is just annoying (get it? Acquisition is <em>key </em>to their success!)</li>
    <li>Jesus, why not just put the full text to War and Peace on this slide? The little scroll clip art at the bottom is cute, though, I'll admit.</li>
    <li><a href="http://swivel.com/graphs/show/9324187">This is how much of the slide looks like Pac-Man</a>.</li>
    <li>Oops, they probably didn't want to share this info. Also, would it kill them to use XP theme support? The UI tends to look better when it's enabled.</li>
    <li>It's like a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swot_analysis">SWOT</a>, but lamer! I really dig the painful bastardization of the word "AGILITY" on the right. Tres chic.</li>
    <li>Just like slide 7, I hope that this was not read verbatim. There's way too much text present on this slide. I don't think it would make <a href="http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/000931">Tufte</a> very happy. It's bad form to switch between using periods and not using periods on slides. I try to avoid them, personally.</li>
    <li>Huh? This looks like the same data seen on #9. What the heck?</li>