Pentagram has brought a truly dazzling installation to the V&A as part of London Design Festival, presently running until 23 September 2018. Commissioned for the First World War centenary by 14-18 Now, the exhibition commemorates one of the most intriguing design features that came out of the war. Dazzle is inspired by a type of camouflage used during the First World War, known as dazzle camouflage where abstract shapes and angles were painted onto the surface of war ships in an experimental, protective method pioneered by British artist Norman Wilkinson.
The ship’s decor drew on the avant-garde movements of the time such as Cubism and Vorticism, as well as animal camouflage. The radical geometry of shapes were designed to skew the enemy’s perception and make it more difficult to detect the ship’s position, direction and speed. Not to mention providing a stylish mode of transportation.
Pentagram has revitalised the idea of dazzle camouflage, re-imagining the ships’s graphic origins into a typographic exploration using letterforms from Suspense, by war-time poet Wilfrid Wilson Gibson. Dazzle immerses the viewer in the celebrated poetry of the era through a flowing network of monochrome, intertwining letterforms. The overlapping compositions accurately pay tribute to dazzle camouflage while re-interpreting war-time memorabilia through contemporary design. The lively amalgamation of patterns and textures complimentarily reflect the Gibson’s poem; “Beneath an airless sullen sky of slate, Dazzled destroyers zigzag relentlessly”.
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