World War Three: Design for Informed Extremism

Text | Talha Ahmed Kehar

Visuals | Courtesy Animal

Issue 48

Design campaigns are often concerned and conflated with commercial ventures. It often feels like most design campaigns are aimed at selling us something, a product, a lifestyle, a happiness that is just within reach but tied to materials and objects. This is not to say that marketing or advertising are to be looked down on but rather that these two fields have come to be seen as inseparable from design. Though design may play a large part in sales it is in fact more that. 

Design is a marriage between form and function, a merger between aesthetic value and information. As designers it is our job to build this marriage, creating a balance and harmony where the viewer is both visually and intellectually engaged. Ideally taking away some layer of information that may make their life better. 

An example of this is a recent project by Indian based creative agency Animal. Animal is an independent creative agency established in 2014. In the short time since its conception this agency has generated identities, advertisements, films, events, and websites with a focus on design and strategy. 

Most recently animals launched what may only be described as an artistic campaign with a powerful message. Titled “World War Three” the campaign is an enlightening look into the nature and structures of war. In this project, Animal gives weight and form to the institution of war by developing an identity and brand for it, giving it not only a face but patterns of behavior. The campaign consists of a logo design, print publication, posters, animated visuals and proposals for various offices and organizational structures.

The identity for this project is clean and corporate but reminiscent of something one might see in dystopian sci-fi. The logo is three angled lines with a curved base in the shape of a “W” for war. The lines resemble a crown or claw, insinuating power and aggression. The colors choices in the project are equally evocative, with high contrast shades of “soot” and “white supreme” as the primary color pallete and “blood red” used for accents and highlights. The colors are a nod to the polarizing nature of war, a stark boundary between ourselves and the enemy.

Along with a logo for the war, Animal also provides us Logos for departments within the war including “Technology and Troll Training”, “Accountability Aversion Centre” and many others that drum up a feeling of discomfort.

Animal appropriates and modernizes fascist propaganda with their “Heroes” posters. Hitler, Mussolini, Kim Jung-Un are featured in these posters that valorise their contributions to the institution of war. One may shift in their seat with discomfort at the thought of these men responsible for so much destruction and death being celebrated. A particularly disconcerting poster is one for the department of denial that features American president Donald Trump. Seeing the heroes of this institution we are made aware of what exactly this institution values and what it doesn’t, It is devoid of humanity and compassion. 

There is beautifully minimal packaging design for the bureau of Domestic deaths which is packaging plague and malaria. Dopamine patches are also packaged by the department of denial. These fictitious elements are playful but also highlight very real possibilities in the present era of chemical and disease warfare. 

There is also a uniform design for each department of the war. A black jumpsuit with a white arm band, resembling a the ones worn by Nazi’s, more than anything the design gives the look of something clinical, mechanized and very methodical.

World War three quotes Walter Benjamin “All efforts to aestheticize politics culminate in one point, that one point is war”.  In this statement Benjamin is referring specifically to the propaganda of the Nazi regime that used aesthetics to mask and exacerbate the underlying social tensions in society, such as building a panic about the Jewish community and vilifying the Jews. Similarly communications by the German state at the time elevated the station of the Fuhrer and created a cult of personality around him. These were contributing factors to lack of internal protest to the fascist policies of Nazi Germany which inevitably resulted in war. 

In this campaign Animal bypasses the political and builds an aesthetic for war, in doing so they arrive at something deeply political and meaningful. World War Three gives insight into the use of propaganda, how nefarious it can be, the tools it uses and makes it clear how we can identify similar systems in our day to day. The propaganda displayed in Animal’s work is overt and blaring but in reality communications would be much more subtle and subdued. 

We live in an era where overt war seems like a distant possibility; however it would be ignorant to assume the features of war such as violence, suppression are not in effect.  Globally there is violence perpetrated against minorities and marginalized groups that rival if not trump the atrocities of the world wars. There are countless refugees of violence in Syria, Sudan and Venezuela that have been displaced from their homes and are still seeking shelter, for these groups war is not a possibility it is a reality and they feel its consequences on a daily basis. 

When we look locally the most evident example is the recent conflict between India and Pakistan in Balakot which made many of us think the possibility of war was upon us. The general consensus among the masses on both sides was a blind patriotism and fervor for war. However, we forget that in war there are no winners, only loss. 

By attaching a corporate identity to mechanisms like war the team at Animal shocks the viewer into a state of alertness. The approach is not to tell the viewer that war is wrong but rather to bring them face to face with the cold and clinical exterior of war that only seems to care about being efficient in its violence and destruction. Moreover, the Animals campaign shows us that corporate design need not only focus on promoting a business or selling a product but can be socially conscious and impactful.

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