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Classification & Qualifications Appeal Decisions

Washington, DC

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Classification Appeal Decision
Under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code

Anthony A. DiFlumeri
Visual Information Specialist
Entertainment and Business
Fleet and Family Readiness Department
Naval Weapons Station Earle
U.S. Department of the Navy
Colts Neck, New Jersey
Visual Information Specialist

Carlos A. Torrico
Acting Classification Appeals and FLSA Claims
Program Manager
Agency Compliance and Evaluation
Merit System Accountability and Compliance



As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), this decision constitutes a certificate that is mandatory and binding on all administrative, certifying, payroll, disbursing, and accounting officials of the Government.  The agency is responsible for reviewing its classification decisions for identical, similar, or related positions to ensure consistency with this decision.  There is no right of further appeal.  This decision is subject to discretionary review only under conditions and time limits specified in the Introduction to the Position Classification Standards (Introduction), appendix 4, section G (address provided in appendix 4, section H).

As discussed in this decision, our findings show the appellant’s official position description (PD) does not meet the standard of adequacy described in section III.E. of the Introduction.  Since PDs must meet the standard of adequacy, the agency must revise the appellant’s PD to reflect our findings.  The servicing human resources office must submit a compliance report containing the corrected PD and a Standard Form 50 showing the personnel action taken.  The report must be submitted within 30 days from the effective date of the personnel action to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Agency Compliance and Evaluation, Washington, DC, office.  


The appellant’s position is currently classified as Visual Information Specialist, GS-1084-9, but he believes it should be classified at the GS-10 grade level.[1]  The position is assigned to Entertainment and Business, Fleet and Family Readiness Department, Naval Weapons Station (NWS) Earle, U.S. Department of the Navy, at Colts Neck, New Jersey.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code.

General issues

The appellant makes various statements about his agency’s classification review process and evaluation of his position.  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of his position.  By law, we must make that decision solely by comparing the appellant’s current duties and responsibilities to OPM position classification standards (PCS) and guidelines (5 U.S.C 5106, 5107, and 5112).  Because our decision sets aside any previous agency decisions, the classification practices used by the appellant’s agency in classifying his position are not germane to the classification appeal process. 

Position information

Both the appellant and his supervisor certified to the accuracy of the appellant’s official PD number 7089A.  However, our review found the appellant’s PD includes work not currently performed and inaccurately describes some of his duties.  For example, it describes creating mural designs and suggests producing freehand illustrations.  Although he once designed a mural for the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) building renovations, there is no evidence he performs either duty on a regular and recurring basis.  The PD also characterizes the visual materials as “to be used in the communication of highly technical information” and “depicting a variety of technical subjects.”  As discussed later in this decision, we disagree.  In addition, we find that the description of the appellant’s supervisory controls under Factor 2 in the PD is inaccurate.  We also note that Factor 9, Work Environment, is inaccurate in that the appellant does not deal with irritants and his work does not require wearing protective gear.  Therefore, the appellant’s PD does not meet the standard of adequacy addressed on pages 10-11 of the Introduction, and the agency must revise the PD to reflect our findings. 

The appellant’s position serves as marketing manager for the NWS’s MWR organization.  He provides graphic and other visual arts, marketing, and advertising services for MWR programs including, but not limited to, community recreation, fitness, sports and recreation, child development center, youth center, lodging, and school liaison office.  The population serviced includes approximately 113 active duty military personnel, 146 civilian personnel, and 23 contractors; tenant commands comprised of 415 civilian personnel, 53 contractors, and 480 ship personnel; over 200 reservists; and spouses and children.  The appellant’s position is supervised by the MWR Director, a GS-1101-13 position.

The MWR hosts more than 100 events annually for its population.  The appellant receives work assignments directly from the nine MWR program managers (hereafter referred to as “manager”), who provide him with a list of planned events requiring promotional pieces approximately one month prior to the event.  Work orders include the event title, date and time, location, brief description of the event, registration deadline, contact name and phone number, and preferred style.  The appellant independently designs the promotional piece based on the specifications, making creative and technical decisions on the size, layout, medium, color schemes, inclusion of photographs and illustrations, and reproduction methods.  In general, he creates promotional pieces as flyers, half page flyers, and posters.  He also promotes the event on MWR’s website, Facebook page, text and email blasts, and digital display monitors.  To accommodate the digital medium, he redesigns promotional pieces by rearranging elements and cropping images.  The appellant occasionally collaborates with managers on specific or unusual requests relating to style or content, e.g., the fitness department upgraded equipment and required pricing changes.

The appellant’s work requires using commercial off-the-shelf computer graphics programs including CorelDRAW, Adobe Photoshop, and Shutterstock and other websites to retrieve pictures and illustrations.  He utilizes the correct techniques associated with each and the mechanics of cropping, shading, scaling, and manipulating illustrations, photographs, and graphics into the work product.  He uses the computer graphics programs to produce the visual aspects of flyers, half page flyers, posters, brochures, logos, booklets, pamphlets, business cards, monthly newsletters, banners, vinyl signs, and other promotional pieces.  The appellant devises strategies to promote initiatives, e.g., the texting program, by creating posters, banners, and business cards to be distributed at community events to encourage individuals to sign up for text messages relating to MWR events and activities.  He also designs products based on special requests; for example, he received requests from the child development center to design a children’s cookbook and to take photographs of each child to be reproduced on stickers for magnets intended as gifts to parents.

In reaching our classification decision, we carefully considered all information provided by the appellant and his agency including his official PD which, although not completely accurate, we have incorporated by reference into this decision.  In addition, to gain more information about his work, we conducted a telephone audit with him and interviewed his supervisor. 

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency classified the appellant’s position in the Visual Information Series, GS-1084, titling it Visual Information Specialist, and the appellant does not disagree.  After careful review of the record, we concur.  Positions classified in the GS-1084 series are evaluated by reference to the grading criteria in the Grade Evaluation Guide for Visual Arts Work (Guide).  Our application of the Guide to the appellant’s positon follows. 

Grade determination

The Guide is written in the Factor Evaluation System (FES) format, under which factor levels and accompanying point values are assigned for each of the nine factors.  The total points assigned are converted to a grade level by use of a grade conversion table in the Guide.  Under the FES, each factor-level description demonstrates the minimum characteristics needed to receive credit for the described level.  If a position fails to meet the criteria in a factor-level description in any significant aspect, it must be credited at a lower level unless the deficiency is balanced by an equally important aspect that meets a higher level.

The appellant only disagrees with the agency’s evaluation of Factors 1 (Knowledge required by the position), 2 (Supervisory controls), and 3 (Guidelines).  We reviewed the agency’s determination for Factors 5 (Scope and effect), 6 and 7 (Personal contacts/Purpose of contacts), 8 (Physical demands), and 9 (Work environment), and concur and have credited the position accordingly.  However, we take exception to the agency’s evaluation of Factor 4 (Complexity).  Our evaluation with respect to the four factors in question follows.

Factor 1, Knowledge required by the position

This factor covers the nature and extent of information or facts the employee must understand to do acceptable work (e.g., steps, procedures, practices, rules, policies, regulations, and principles) and the nature and extent of the skills needed to apply the knowledge.

At Level 1-6, work requires knowledge of a variety of methods, techniques, and materials used in the design, production, and reproduction of visual products to plan the technical details of, or produce, aesthetically composed visual products in a timely matter.  Work at this level requires a basic knowledge of specialized subject matter such as medicine, science, or technical equipment; a field peculiar to the employing organization; or a range of general subjects relating to the work of the organization.  This knowledge is needed to understand the specifications and generally usable, observable, and recognizable visual materials provided with the assignment with little explanation or research.  Visual materials are items to be incorporated into a visual product, such as photographs or charts to be reproduced as part of a publication, items to be illustrated, or artifacts to be exhibited.  At Level 1-6, where work includes hands-on production of visual products, it requires skill with either a variety of art media (e.g., pen-and-ink, pencil, tempera, wash, oils, acrylics, air brush, and computer generated graphics); a variety of commercial or graphic art techniques (e.g., typesetting and paste-up of copy, screen printing, building scale models, mounting photographs or manuscripts, mat cutting, fabricating brackets to support specimens and artifacts, etc.); a variety of building materials (e.g., wood, sheet metal, plastics, fiberglass and masonry); or a variety of mechanical assemblies or architectural structures.

At Level 1-7, work requires the knowledge of visual arts methods and techniques described at Level 1-6, in addition to knowledge of the subject matter area supported or depicted that is thorough enough to plan visual products that interpret subject matter content information provided with the assignment.  Employees typically are required to apply knowledge of a subject matter or program area in order to (1) develop original designs, concepts, or visual styles for publications, exhibits, or presentation materials that present to the public the ideas or image desired by the organization, that evoke certain responses from viewers, or that reduce the cost of production, installation, or maintenance of the visual product; (2) transform spoken or written description of items, processes, issues, or events into visual representations without benefit of existing pictures, models, or diagrams; or (3) graphically or physically reconstruct biological, medical, geological, architectural, archeological, technological, or other kinds of artifacts, specimens, or materials that have been significantly damaged, distorted, or altered.

The appellant’s position meets Level 1-6.  His work requires knowledge of the various methods and techniques required to produce the visual aspects of MWR’s promotional pieces.  Similar to Level 1-6, he uses his knowledge of the general range of subject matter areas related to MWR programs to create requested visual products.  The appellant receives work orders from managers through emails, which contain the pertinent information to be conveyed by the visual product.  His work requires skill with a variety of computer graphics programs and techniques, printing procedures, photography, and reproduction methods to produce visual products as expected at Level 1-6.  His knowledge is used to determine the color modes and differentiation ideal for various reproduction methods, file formats suitable for print reproduction, ideal resolution of photographs so as to not compromise its visibility when reproduced, etc.  In addition, the appellant coordinates with the Community Recreation manager on the planning, designing, and setting up of special events.  For example, at the MWR’s Halloween event for adults, he created the room design to replicate a carnival midway by hanging tent material from the ceiling to drop down.  For a Father-Daughter dance, he created a backdrop by hanging sheer curtains onto which he projected video images he filmed during the dance.  The purpose of such work is to attract attention by creating special effects using lighting, video displays, and/or music and sound.  The appellant must understand the kinds of equipment available and its capabilities, limitations, and impact.  His work is comparable to the following illustration provided by the Guide at Level 1-6:

Plans the visual aspects of publications, exhibits, or presentations where the general format and specific themes to be illustrated are predetermined.  Selects photos, illustrations, specimens, or other visual materials from among those provided with the assignment or found in the files.  Judges the reproducibility of the material and any enlargement or reduction necessary to achieve the specified visual effect.  Specifies appropriate typefaces and sizes along with other typographical elements from among an approved group.  Prepares layouts of pages, two-dimensional exhibit panels, or presentation materials such as photographic slides, overhead transparencies, and posters.

Similarly, the appellant plans the visual aspects of the MWR’s promotional pieces.  The illustrated themes (e.g., sports event, casino night, and dance) are generally predetermined by the program hosting the event.  The appellant also designs and distributes, after coordinating with managers on content, the monthly newsletter intended to promote MWR activities and services.  This and other work requires his selecting appropriate pictures and illustrations, determining placement of text in relation to visual aspects, deciding on the type and style, planning the effective use of color schemes, and otherwise planning the overall layout and appearance of a polished finished product.

The appellant seeks to credit his position at Level 1-7, asserting in part that he develops original designs, concepts, or visual styles and meets with management and subject matter experts to plan illustration projects and advise them of technical advantages and disadvantages of various formats and styles.  The supervisor emphasizes that the appellant’s work requires designing new, rather than recycling previous, promotional pieces for MWR events including casino nights, fitness clubs, lunch and learn meetings, golf trips, and holiday and other special events.  Regardless, such themes (i.e., the event and relevant details) are clear and unambiguous and do not require the subject matter interpretation, to plan visual products or develop original design concepts without the use of existing materials or information, anticipated at Level 1-7.

We considered the following illustrations provided by the Guide at Level 1-7:

Plans original visual treatments for printed publications or exhibits, or the visual aspects of oral presentations.  Meets with the client (e.g., author, editor, or program official) to learn the information objectives of the project, the points to be emphasized, the relationships to be stressed, and the relative degree of importance of various pieces of the information to be disseminated.

Meets with management and subject matter experts to plan illustration projects.  Advises on the technical advantages and disadvantages of various formats, styles, media, and methods of reproduction, suggesting those that will best meet the information objectives of each project.  Applies subject matter knowledge to research source materials, often to the extent of personally dissecting, disassembling, or reconstructing items to be illustrated, in order to translate information into original illustrations without benefit of established formats or clear, unambiguous visual models or samples.

We conclude Level 1-7 is credited to positions responsible for visual arts projects involving original or new subjects or themes as to require further coordination and discussion with management, subject matter experts, and others in order to plan, execute, and complete various phases of the project (note the illustration describes employees having to learn the information objectives of the project).   Conversely, Level 1-7 is credited to positions responsible for visual arts projects involving subjects or themes of such complexity or ambiguity as to require applying knowledge to research source materials in order to recreate the illustrated item.

In contrast, the subject matter of the appellant’s visual arts projects relates to MWR events.  He designs flyers, half page flyers, posters, and other promotional pieces (e.g., booklets to advertise lodging information or to distribute with program-related data to accreditation reviewers during onsite assessments).  He also updates MWR’s Facebook page to promote upcoming events or highlight past events, posting the event description drafted by the manager along with appropriate photographs, videos, or visual aspects.  He takes photographs at sports and other events, cropping, sizing, adjusting, and incorporating pictures when appropriate to Facebook posts and other promotional pieces.  We recognize the appellant’s work requires a high degree of originality and creativity, but this and other work falls short of Level 1-7 in that his MWR-directed promotional pieces are designed to promote a particular recreational, social, or community activity by conveying general information (what, when, and where) and thus not subject matter that may be characterized as either original, new, or of the complexity or ambiguity evident in Level 1-7 illustrations.

Level 1-6 is credited for 950 points.

Factor 2, Supervisory controls

This factor covers the nature and extent of direct or indirect controls exercised by the supervisor, the employee’s level of independence and personal responsibility, and how the work is reviewed or controlled.

At Level 2-3, the supervisor makes assignments by defining objectives (e.g., specifying what subject matter is to be depicted and for what purpose), priorities (e.g., specifying what degree of emphasis each aspect of the subject matter is to receive), and deadlines, and assists the employee where projects call for substantial departures from established styles or formats, or from customary methods or materials.  The employee plans and carries out the successive steps of producing the visual product, and independently solves technical problems that arise in the course of using common materials, methods, or techniques.  The employee is personally responsible for the aesthetic quality of the visual product.  Completed work is evaluated for compliance with established practice and policy and for meeting the objectives of the assignment.  Only methods that represent substantial departures from customary practice are reviewed in detail.

At Level 2-4, the employee is given only the broad objectives and resource limitations of the project.  The employee consults with the supervisor or client to develop specific ideas on the appearance and contents of the product (e.g., specific photos, illustrations, or artifacts; typography; color scheme; lighting effects; size and placement of artifacts; or number of views to be illustrated).  The employee independently plans and carries out visual arts projects; resolves most differences of opinion or interpretation with clients or contractors; and coordinates the work with clients, contractors, and others such as project team members or structural and fire safety experts.  Completed work is reviewed only in terms of its effectiveness in meeting the overall objectives of the project.  This is generally based on the degree of client satisfaction.

The appellant’s supervisory controls meet Level 2-3.  Similar to this level, he independently plans and carries out his work, solving the technical problems that arise and contacting the manager or the requestor when necessary to clarify or obtain specific information.  He works within the bounds of defined objectives, specifications, and priorities typically driven by the registration, event, or other date.  He works directly with managers, who define objectives (e.g., specifying the subject matter to be depicted) and other event specifics.  Like Level 2-3, the appellant plans and carries out the successive steps of producing the visual product for which he is personally responsible for the aesthetic quality.  His supervisor is available for guidance or assistance with unusual problems, e.g., resource and budget matters, equipment needs and recommendations, departures from customary methods and procedures, and sponsor-related issues.  The appellant’s work is evaluated by the supervisor for conformity to deadlines, satisfaction of managers and serviced population, and accepted practices.  As at Level 2-3, his work methods are not normally reviewed.

The appellant’s supervisory controls do not meet Level 2-4.  Although his supervisor does not review his finished work products and methods for technical accuracy or an acceptable level of aesthetic quality nor does he submit his work to her for review, the appellant nonetheless works in a more structured and defined setting than that described at Level 2-4.  He functions independently to plan and carry out assignments involving MWR events, services, or activities where the essential facts are readily evident and not in dispute.  Consequently, he does not work from only broad objectives in planning and producing visual products nor does his work require the resolution of differences in opinions or interpretation with customers expected at Level 2-4.

Level 2-3 is credited for 275 points.

Factor 3, Guidelines

This factor considers the nature of guidelines and the judgment needed to apply them.

At Level 3-3, the subject matter is well defined and the aspects to be depicted are already decided.  Unlike the next lower level, formats or methods have not been specified in detail with total accuracy.  Guidelines consist primarily of examples of previous similar, but not identical projects done for the organization; examples of similar, but not identical visual products found in books or magazines; or sketches, construction drawings, photographs, virtually intact specimens, or other materials provided by clients.  The employee uses judgment in transforming these ideas and visual materials into finished visual products that achieve the desired purpose and effect.  The employee is expected to recognize where precedent projects, design specifications, or materials offered by clients must be adapted, decide how they should be adapted, and recommend these changes.

At Level 3-4, the subject matter to be depicted is either novel or vague, and the form and content of the visual product are left to the discretion of the employee.  Because of the unique nature of projects, guidelines are scarce or of limited use.  Guides that do exist typically consist of rough sketches, simplistic diagrams, or damaged specimens provided by clients.  The employee uses initiative and resourcefulness in researching the subject matter to be depicted (e.g., specimens, historic structures, or aircraft), searching for appropriate visual elements, or testing new materials and methods to use in creating a visual product.

The appellant’s guidelines meet Level 3-3.  As at this level, he performs his work in accordance with objectives specified by the manager or other requestor, who typically provide the information to be conveyed by the visual product.  He uses creativity to transform the basic facts into a dynamic visual product with the desired purpose and effect of marketing the activities of the MWR.  The appellant creates new visual products but, like Level 3-3, he has a library of similar, though not identical, products as examples.  The subject matter of his promotional pieces, to promote recreational, social, or community activities to its population, is recurring in nature with the aspects to be depicted clearly defined by the requestor.  Based on specifications, the appellant decides the format, design, method, medium, and distribution of promotional pieces.  Similar to Level 3-3, he accesses computer-aided design packages and websites containing numerous pictures to be used or adapted, using his own judgment to design the product including layout, color and shading, and text size and font.

The appellant’s guidelines do not meet Level 3-4.  Although the design of the visual product is left to his discretion without benefit of directly applicable guidelines, he does not work with vague or novel subject matter or unspecified content as expected at Level 3-4.  Instead, he is provided with concrete information including the what, when, and where facts related to the MWR event.  Because the appellant’s visual products constitute promotional pieces of the MWR, his work does not require the research of subject matter depicted (of specimens, historic structures, aircraft, or the equivalent), search for appropriate visual elements, or the test of new materials and methods to create a visual product described at Level 3-4.  Bureau of Navy Personnel Instructions 1710.11C apply directly to the operation, management, and administration, but not to the marketing of, Navy MWR programs.  The scarcity of agency guidelines, however, is not a direct result of the uniqueness of his products.  In addition to design software and equipment manuals, the appellant’s guidelines include his locating YouTube videos to operate camera, video, or other equipment.  The supervisor also states his work requires following general principles, e.g., from the Commander, Navy Installations Command, to remove pricing information on promotional pieces, and norms such as being respectful of an individual’s religion and other differences.  Regardless, the guidelines accessible to and by him are not limited to the rough sketches, simplistic diagrams, or damaged specimens descriptive of the work at Level 3-4.

Level 3-3 is credited for 275 points.

Factor 4, Complexity

This factor covers the nature, number, variety, and intricacy of tasks, steps, processes, or methods in the work performed; the difficulty in identifying what needs to be done; and the difficulty and originality involved in performing the work.

At Level 4-3, the work involves a variety of visual arts projects, each with its own sequence of different technical processes.  Themes or subjects, as well as the general format (medium, color scheme, overall dimensions, etc.) to be used, are already established or specified by others.  The emphasis is on technical proficiency in the development of visual products.  At this level, the employee makes decisions necessary to work out details of the final visual product (illustration, publication, or two-dimensional exhibit layout, free-standing three-dimensional exhibit case, sequence of slides or transparencies) after the subject, theme, and general format have been determined and presented to the employee in the form of sketches, scale models, plans, or diagrams.  The employee applies knowledge of the characteristics of a variety of art media and visual materials and methods to produce finished visual products.  These products typically present factual information or depict specific operations or occurrences, and are based on design concepts and subject matter content provided by others.

At Level 4-4, the work involves varied projects requiring the application of a wide range of methods, techniques, materials, or art media.  The projects are conventional, but no format or visual style has been specified and the employee must visually interpret the subject matter to be depicted.  Visual products have been produced before on the same general subject matter and in the same general manner of presentation, i.e., illustration, publication, exhibit, sequence of visuals to accompany a speech, training class, or briefing.  The emphasis is on planning, research, and collaboration with persons knowledgeable in the subject matter to be depicted or presented.  At this level, the work requires decisions on how best to present specified subject matter information.  These decisions include assessing whether there is sufficient subject matter information and visual material immediately available, and identifying possible sources of additional information and material needed to develop a visual product.  The employee also must decide which images, views, or artifacts to present and how to give particular visual emphasis to some of them through size, color, texture, variations in the degree of detail, typography, lighting, or location.  Projects typically require departing from past approaches used in the design or production of similar products in order to create a new visual effect, or to adjust to differences in time or money available, in location or space available, in certain details of the subject matter itself, or in aspects of the subject matter to be emphasized.

The agency credited the appellant’s position at Level 4-4, and he does not disagree.  However, we find the appellant’s position meets Level 4-3.  Similar to Level 4-3, he creates a variety of visual arts projects with each involving its own processes, e.g., flyers, posters, newsletters, booklets, brochures, and other promotional materials and displays using various methods and formats.  Subject matter, content, and aspects to be depicted are specified by the manager or other requestor.  The appellant’s projects require a high degree of artistic skill and creativity in the use of various art techniques and media.  Like Level 4-3, he decides the technical details involving the layout, color, and font size as well as the processes necessary to create, print, transfer, and reproduce the visual material.  He prepares drafts based on requestor instructions while considering factors such as the medium, size, and intended audience.  The appellant contacts the requestor when necessary to obtain additional information and occasionally receives feedback prior to finalizing the product.  Similar to Level 4-3, his products are based on provided subject matter content and present factual information or depict specific operations or occurrences.

The appellant’s position does not fully meet Level 4-4.  His work is similar to Level 4-4 in some respects in that his projects are conventional, describe the services and activities of an organization or serve as a basic reference guide, and involve application of various methods, techniques, and materials.  The Guide, however, emphasizes that work at Level 4-4 is on the planning, research, and collaboration with persons knowledgeable in the subject matter to be depicted or presented.  Since the appellant’s projects do not involve particularly technical or complex material but rather depend on organizational and other general information, the promotional pieces he creates do not require the planning, research, and collaboration with subject matter experts stressed at Level 4-4.  Unlike the higher level, his work is limited to making decisions on the design and distribution of visual arts products.  Because he is normally provided the specifics required to start and finish projects, the appellant’s work does not involve the decision-making described at Level 4-4 involving assessing the sufficiency of information and visual materials available nor does it require identifying possible sources of additional information and materials required to develop the visual product.

Level 4-3 is credited for 150 points.





1. Knowledge required by the position



2. Supervisory controls



3. Guidelines



4. Complexity



5. Scope and effect



6. & 7. Personal contacts and Purpose of contacts     



8. Physical demands



9. Work environment





This point total falls within the GS-9 range (1,855-2,100) on the grade conversion table provided in the Guide.


The appellant’s position is properly classified as Visual Information Specialist, GS-1084-9.

[1] Even though the appellant identifies the GS-10 as the requested classification, we note he requests crediting of his position to a higher level for Factors 1, 2, and 3.  The resulting total of 2,625 points would fall within the GS-11 range (2,355-2,750) on the grade conversion table of the applicable position classification standard.

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