+1 for Ash’s skills and ability to help. I have to say getting paid in German chocolate sounds pretty good!
I have an inkling of the frustration you’re feeling, maxflyer. A former colleague of mine working in the military had similar expereinces. Given his environment, the attitudes were often regimented and focussed on bending people to solutions; selecting and training people on specialist systems for specific results, rather than helping [I]any[/I] person be able to approach the system and have it accommodate their personal approach.
When the design was just about communication, it was easier to bring in cognitive science arguments, but when it touched on or affected process there were a lot of walls, like you say, either because of ignorance or because of territory/policy or not wanting to rock the boat. He tried analogies like test pilots, reconnaissance and HUMINT. He tried arguing that the bigger projects saw human factors as critical to the operation of processes and systems and that failing to consider them is at best inefficient and at worst insecure/unsafe. He tried stealing ideas from how aerospace approached human-centred design. It would probably have worked elsewhere, but the culture around him was pretty hard to change and I think he ended up just battling through the best he could but without really changing things much. Funnily enough the outsourced contractors there now, fifteen years later, are doing the same work but have better support, understanding and room to move.
However, I’m rambling. The important thing I need to say is there’s nothing wrong with making entries up for your folio, or interpreting/transposing real projects into something unidentifiable, as long as you don’t pretend they’re real. It’s a great way to show your approaches and design philosophy. It does make it problematic to share before & after results and user-research data as those kind of metrics are either difficult to fake or can easily become too convenient for the outcome. But that stuff is less important than showing who you are as a designer, and can/should be added later when you’ve got some more experience under your belt (perhaps by doing side projects or favours for friends/not-for-profits).