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On the search of Roundles

Published on January 29th 2015

A graphic designer always find something related to design wherever he or she visit. And I shall not escape from this routine. So after my trip to Singapore Air Force Museum, I was thrilled about “Roundels”. So this is how Wikipedia defines it “A roundel is a circular disc used as a symbol. The term is used in heraldry but also commonly used to refer to a type of national insignia used on military aircraft, generally circular in shape and usually comprising concentric rings of different colours. Other symbols also often use round shapes.”

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Roundels around the world

On the search of Roundles

The first thing I notice is the similarity between Viet Cong’s roundel and US’s. And even when Vietnam has been independent, the overall shape of the roundels still not changes a lot; the major adjustments were only focus on the color. Surprisingly, China’s roundels is more likely to be inspired by the US’s rather than Soviet Russian.

I was curious about which country had started this idea. After a quick research I found down, during WWI, the aircraft did not have any marking to denote their nationality. As a result, very often, they came under fire troop from the homeland ground. The French Air Force decided that they need a distinctive feature to differentiate friend and foe. As a result, the first roundel was born, which used 3 colors inspired by French flag and the “target” shape.

Britain found this was a brilliant idea. So in august 1914, they painted their Union Jack on the plane, but soon, it was misleaded to Germany’s aircraft. So in December, British followed French sample and adopted the “target shape” in Red-Blue-White, but reverse the order. Nowadays, the British Royal Air Force roundel is the most popular among its brothers and sisters. During the 60s, the mod youth-subculture adopted the Royal Air Force roundels. It was called “Mod Target”, and became a part of a subculture, which was called “Mod”.



The term “Mod” derives from modernist, a term used in the 1950s to describe modern jazz musicians and fans. Mod was born by the baby-boomer generation in UK. Those youngsters had their life totally from their parents and grandparents, who lived through WWI and WWII. They were born in peace with spare cash they earned the British economic development. They became style-conscious fan; they listen to Jazz, follow Italian fashion, architect and design.

According to the documentation, Mod or modernist were all about creating a new modern person that was different from anything they had seen in their older generation. What interested me the most is how gradually the term “Mod” and “Modernist” became related to riots, and turned into the “buzz word” and then exploited by trend follower from all around the world.

According to the documentation, Mod or modernist were all about creating a new modern person that was different from anything they had seen in their older generation. What interested me the most is how gradually the term “Mod” and “Modernist” became related to riots, and turned into the “buzz word” and then exploited by trend follower from all around the world.

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