99% Invisible: Design that changed a ⚓️ World War - The Design Alchemist
99% Invisible: Design that changed a ⚓️ World War - The Design Alchemist
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99% Invisible: Design that changed a ⚓️ World War

99% Invisible: Design that changed a ⚓️ World War

The Art of War lays heavy in a large stack, of numerous stacks, of books in and around my home. Historians and readers alike have been left captivated by this meditation surrounding one’s perspective of the “rules of war.” Published in China in the 4th or 5th century, yet with a confirmed author still unknown, The Art of War is thought and believed to be the work of Sun Tzu, a Chinese military leader. But yet authentication still argued to this day, an intriguing aspect that resonates deeply within readers even now in the 21st century.

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia.org

This literary legacy has been gifted and passed along to Kings, Queens, Heads of States, and Generals the centuries over … but the above-forward quote calls attention to this month’s post. For you see The Art of War concentrated on the use of one’s mind to over-power, outsmart, confuse and calculate strategic efforts against one’s enemy. The focus was never the battle of braun, epic casualties, and gun smoke. Mind over matter? Brain -vs- Braun? Yes, but could a war spark a global art, design, and fashion movement??

From huckberry.com, Razzle Dazzle Camouflage
In WWI and WWII, over 6,000 Allied warships used camo to confuse the enemy.

Confusing the enemy and secrecy was at the forefront of innovation never anticipated during the height of our first World War. At sea in 1917 after heavy losses of British merchant and naval ships to German submarines, a marine painter Admiral Norman Wilkinson, also a lieutenant commander on the Royal Navy patrol, devised and promoted a plan to paint British ships in a “dazzle camouflage” as a strategic move to save his men. Over 400 ships were adorned with this complex print of black and white jagged stripes, contrasts which created confusion and chaos amongst Britain’s adversaries, Germany.

Painting the vessels with this design made classes of ships completely unrecognizable to the enemy. As well, it saved numerous ships from being torpedo targets as the enemy could not devise in what direction nor the mathematical location of the ship in which each was heading. The approach was met with incredible success, saving thousands of lives.

The Dazzle Camouflage went on to be the inspiration behind Picasso’s cubist technique, making its influential way through the Royal Academy of Arts, onto the spinning wheel of sculptures and canvases of artists and hence the fashion runway. Many circles claiming that Razzle Dazzle was the epitaph of the modernist movement. But before it enveloped into a movement, 99% invisible is what launched and saved thousands of lives and ships. A true example of “art”, which helped to create modernism forever … upon changing the trajectory of a World War.

Michelle Witherby
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