Posted on 


 in ,

Dazzle Camouflage and Reframing a Problem

I love this example of reframing a problem that relates to the dazzle camouflage which was invented (by British Marine Artist Norman Wilkinson) and extensively used during World War One to help protect warships. British Zoologist John Graham Kerr had originally proposed using disruptive camouflage to break up the outline of ships, using the example of the patterns in the fur of species such as Zebras and Giraffes, and saying that the goal was to confuse rather than conceal. The British Admiralty at first rejected these recommendations until the socially well-connected Kerr was able to convince them. 

Dazzle camouflage consists of complicated patterns of geometric shapes which are painted in contrasting colours onto the ship's hull and other surfaces. Rather than trying to camouflage the ship so that it is difficult to see (something which is extremely hard to do in different light and sea conditions) dazzle patterns seek to flip this problem on it's head and make the ships more visible but only in a way that makes it very difficult for an enemy ship to estimate range, speed and heading. The goal, said Wilkinson, is to deceive the enemy into taking up a poor firing position. 


As Wilkinson said:

"The primary object of this scheme was not so much to cause the enemy to miss his shot when actually in firing position, but to mislead him, when the ship was first sighted, as to the correct position to take up." 

For years there was a paucity of research on the actual success of Dazzle camouflage but it turns out that it does seem to work after all. What a wonderful example of reframing a problem to come up with a totally different solution.

Leave a Reply