Forget everything you know about proper functionality. Forget everything you know about legibility. Forget everything you know about conversions. Forget everything you know about web design. Forget everything you know about what you think a good user experience consists of. Forget it all, because we’re going to take a quick look at one of the bold, chaotic, unapologetic, courageous, and refreshing trends in web design today: brutalism.
Brutalism in a Nutshell
In short, brutalism can be depicted as the opposite of everything I mentioned above. It doesn’t abide by the best practices of modern web design standards – proper legibility, spacing, hierarchy, ease-of-use. Rather, it’s characterized by bold and in-your-face text, the inclusion of only necessary elements on a page, and rugged aesthetics. If traditional web design was Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1, brutalism would be the last minute of Colossus by Idles at full volume.
The term brutalism is actually drawn from the French word for “raw,” and had its origins in Europe after Word War II. The brutalist genre was primarily associated with architecture at the time, as it was a way to rebuild cities inexpensively while using raw and unpolished resources and stripped-down designs. It was also a reactionary wave in design by a younger generation that went against the grain of the light and optimistic view of design in the 1930s and 1940s.
Source: Trellick Tower
Brutalism has now made its way to our computer screens and mobile devices, and it’s not going anywhere. Brutalist web designs consist of these same harsh, seemingly disorganized, and straightforward principles that make it such an intriguing genre that has garnered so much popularity in recent years.
Examples of Brutalism on the Web
Large, In-Your-Face Text
Source: Reputation Squad
Source: Elizaveta Shneyderman
Evident Contrast in Colors
Source: The Outline
Source: Yanis Markin
Only Links on the Page
Source: Travis Scott
I do want to make it clear that I’m not opposing the contributions of brutalism to today’s web design. In fact, I find it relieving and refreshing that this genre of design has made its way to what I believe is becoming a cookie-cutter medium for designers. Sure, ease-of-use and a visual hierarchy are important to me and my particular line of work in creating the best product possible. However, there’s something to be said about the freedom and minimalistic values that brutalism provides.
There are some aspects of brutalist web design that can be adopted and translated into traditional, modern web design that you recognize today. Large text, minimal links, and stark layouts with bold colors are certainly elements that can added to a conversion-oriented website design. However, will I ever design a brutalist website in the near future? Likely not, but I can definitely say that brutalism has it’s influences in certain areas, and only time will tell if this trend will have a lasting effect on modern web design. But right now, I’m glad it’s here.