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Journey to GCHQ: How we designed a new GCHQ recruitment campaign

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Graphic showing the words 'GCHQ is for people like you' along a timeline dotted with characters designed to represent case studies for the Journey into the Known GCHQ recruitment campaign

How we developed the successful new GCHQ recruitment campaign 'Journey into the Known'

One of our favourite recent projects was to create and develop recruitment campaign designs for Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). We're proud of our work so we’ve been busy submitting our designs for a few awards (to see how we got on, view our Design Communication Awards blog post) but we also want to share them here too.

The brief

GCHQ are actively diversifying their workforce and wanted this recruitment campaign to attract more women and young people to the organisation. Many people of all types can, and do, work at GCHQ. To encourage new people to apply, we had to break popular stereotypes to show that GCHQ is a modern and supportive place to work, no matter your career path or life circumstances.

Campaign aims:

  • increase Instagram following to 10,000
  • prior to the campaign, GCHQ’s Instagram following had a 70/30 male/female split. We hoped to swing this by 5% to achieve 35% female followers
Graphic of four mobile phones each showing a static frame from an animation created by Design102 for the Journey into the Known GCHQ recruitment campaign. The first phone displays the text ‘I didn’t know where my degree would take me’ against a purple background. The second phone displays the text ‘At uni I was all about maths and cheerleading’ against a pink background. The third phone displays the text ‘and my language skills unlocked a new path’ against a green background. The fourth phone displays the text ‘while I was a theatre rebel working in the West End’ against a blue background.
GCHQ Journey into the Known Instragram Stories

What we did

We designed a campaign that celebrates the varied career paths and characteristics of female GCHQ employees. To illustrate the different pathways to GCHQ, and to capture the highs and lows of the journey to get there, we developed a retro game theme that we thought would be apt.

Using brief summaries of real employees’ stories, we designed friendly, lookalike avatars to accompany career milestones and personal highlights.

We broke down everyone’s #JourneyToGCHQ into a short, snappy story – and challenged stuffy stereotypes by using cartoon graphics, lively animation and fun music. The animated journey line leads you through each story’s twists and turns, encountering personal setbacks and unexpected steps on the way.

Image of a young woman with a cup of tea and a laptop featuring several stickers on its lid of graphics designed by Design102 in the Journey into the Known GCHQ recruitment campaign branding.

The results

We smashed our targets! Prior to the campaign, GCHQ’s Instagram following was split 70/30 by gender, weighted towards males. The current statistics now show a 57/43 gender split, with the number of women aged 18-24 alone up by 2%.

GCHQ’s Instagram following increased from 9,000 to 12,400, well above the 10,000 target. 4,767 people clicked on the sponsored ads, and the campaign was picked up by The Sun.

What’s next?

We’ll be building on this success, with upcoming GCHQ stories featuring LGBTQI+ and BAME staff, and staff with disabilities.

Stay tuned to GCHQ on Instagram to see the new stories: @GCHQ

If this campaign has piqued your interest, or you’ve got a project we can help with, just drop us a line at

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