Designed to Dazzle

Naval warfare during WWI made open waters across the globe dangerous and deadly. Stealth was necessary, but how do you makes huge ships inconspicuous?  This was the dilemma Norman Wilkinson was faced with. A British artist and illustrator, with experience in the Royal Navy, Wilkinson employed his artistic skills to camouflage Allied ships in the WWI. His brilliant and effective solution not only illustrates the power of design, but also the importance of looking at a problem from all angles.

Along with his team of about two dozen artists and art students, Wilkinson designed a combination of patterns and shapes to be painted on the boats to trick the opposition. These bewildering forms and confusing angles made it hard for the enemy to understand which direction the boats were going in and at what speed.

Pentagram re-interpreted the construction of Dazzle into a typographic exploration at the V&A during London Design Festival this year. Abstract letterforms, along with various shapes and angles cover the walls and floors of The Creative Studio at the V&A, immersing the visitors inside the Dazzle room.

Pentagram, Dazzle, London Design Festival 2018

As designers, Wilkinson’s legendary work serves as an inspirational reminder to go beyond the obvious and stay open to possibilities. It reinforces the importance of breaking free from conventional thinking and taking a risk. These are lessons that we must continue to apply to our work and our thinking. It’s why we look at cross-categories for inspiration, experiment with contractions for solutions, and take a different path for braver creativity.



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