Thoughts on Brutalism

Brutalism is taking over the web. You may have noticed number of websites sites that are deviating from modern design practices, or at least call back to an earlier form of web design thinking. Loud headlines, repeating patterns, and basic web elements make these webpages stand out from more precise and meticulously crafted sites.


brutalist architecture sloveniaOFIS Architects – Izola Social Housing


Despite that many brutalist influenced web designs may seem corse and almost aggressive, the term brutalism has nothing to do with the word ‘brutal.’ Brutalism comes from the French word ‘béton brut’ or ‘raw concrete.’ It was first used to describe a form architecture that gained prevalence in the 1950s. Brutalism as an building style is defined by it’s rugged concrete structures formed with repeating patterns and modules.


Given Brutalism’s history in providing an low-cost urban housing combined with emerging socialist principals of the time, A rise in popularity of brutalist styles on the web makes more sense. It gives control to average users who need a web space of their own. In an ideal internet, everyone has access and the ability to have space of their own. By nature, it make design much more accessible and gives more variety to the web.


Like the architecture, brutalist web design is often seen as an ugly, overstated, haphazard, or even unnavigable. But, that’s very far from the truth. While many brutalist sites certainly take design to a bizarre extreme or buck any design formula all together, the thought behind a stripped down page that relies on only essential elements have a lot of value. The core messaging and typography then have more room to shine. It doesn’t have to be choppy or even totally subvert too many design expectations.


In the early web, few people owned a copy of any sort of layout software, so and the best way to build a website was entirely from scratch. If you wanted personal website, there weren’t too many options but to do it all yourself. Since then, design become much more refined. But a super refined and polished design may not always be the best approach.


Craigslist is often sighted a classic example of brutalism in practice. And while many view the design as ugly, It might feel strange to have it designed too differently from it’s current lightweight form. The function and speed of the site are the most important things to consider. The format is such the just about anyone from anywhere could use it.


brutalist web design webtlak


I find some of the most memorable web experiences to be those that exist simply because someone wanted to stake their claim to a space on the the web. Brutalism can be very appealing to use for a webpage with nothing to sell or promote and is only message.

In an ideal world where everyone has equal access to the wealth of information the web it provides, brutalist thought can have lot of power. I look forward to seeing it develops and changes on the web over time.



About the Author

Sam is the lead visual designer at DesignUps. Sam's attention to detail and insight into the design process produces great clarity. When he's not putting pixels in their perfect spot he may be pursuing some of Japan's finest anime.