Original dazzle camouflage designs that have been added to the
Rhode Island School of Design website

Created by artist Norman Wilkinson, dazzle was very popular in WW1, and to a lesser extent in WW2. Dazzle was not meant to camouflage the ship in a conventional sense, but to create an optical illusion, making it hard for observers using naval rangefinders to gauge the size of the vessel and the speed & direction it was headed, making them harder to be hit by naval artillery.

Apparently there is great debate as to whether the dazzle had much effect, most agreed that it was rather uneffective against submarines, but there was great credence put on the morale boosting power to the troops of seeing such large and lethal machinery bedecked in such exciting patterns and colours. It also increased the morale of people not involved in fighting; hundreds of wonderfully coloured ships in dock was like nothing ever seen before or since.