Design Trends: Thoughts on Brutalism

Design Trends: Thoughts on Brutalism

Brutalism is taking over the web. You may have noticed a number of websites that deviate from modern design practices, or at least call back to earlier forms of design. 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


Although many brutalist influenced websites may seem coarse 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 of architecture that gained prevalence in the 1950s. Brutalism as a building style is defined by its rugged concrete structures formed with repeating patterns and modules.


Like the architecture, brutalist web design is often seen as 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 and violate just about every design formula, the thoughts 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.


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


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


brutalist web design webtlak


I find some of the most memorable web experiences to be from those that exist simply because they can. Brutalism can also be very appealing to use for a webpage with nothing to sell or promote apart from its own message.

Ideally, everyone has equal access to add to the wealth of information the web provides. In that way brutalist webpages can have lot of power. I look forward to seeing how it develops and changes on the web over time.


samwas, an author on the DesignUps Nashville Design Blog

About the Author

Sam's attention to detail and insight into the design process produces great clarity. He graduated from Watkins College of Design and has been an integral part of the DesignUps team ever since. When he's not putting pixels in their perfect spot he may he may be working on perfecting his craft of fire twirling.