Understanding Brutalist Web Design and Development

Steve Waddell
Director of Education and Training

You may have heard the term “brutalism” before—most likely referring to the architectural style that emerged in the 1950’s following the end of World War II. A recent trend has emerged in web design and development that takes inspiration from this architectural style, pictured on the right, that features simple geometric designs. Let’s take a look at what brutalism means in web design and development. 

Brutalist Building

Think about the websites you enjoy visiting. They may feature bright colors, pictures and videos that draw you in and keep you engaged. Although fancy websites are popular, the brutalist style of no-frills websites has made a comeback. Brutalist websites are a throwback to the early days of the internet when websites were very basic in style. With a raw and bare-bones look, brutalist websites are functional and easy to navigate. You most likely have already visited brutalist websites and just didn’t know it. For example, let’s look at the Craigslist homepage:

Craigslist Image Design

Notice how there are no pictures, videos, or distracting colors. Everything is laid out very simply, making it easy to get the information you are looking for and navigate to the page you want. 

Wiki Brutalist Style

The Wikipedia homepage features another brutalist design:

 

Notice the similarities between the two. Both websites feature black text and blue hyperlinks on top of white backgrounds. They are very easy to navigate—you aren’t likely to get lost and you won’t be distracted by any pictures or videos. Brutalist websites aren’t the most technically challenging websites to design, but they deliver a very effective user experience. Other popular and successful brutalist websites include the news site Bloomberg and nonprofit network Freecycle

 

With the rise of WordPress, the brutalist trend may have hitched a ride—just think about how stark the early standard templates are for WordPress sites. The popularity of blogs also may have contributed to some of the brutalist appeal. See an example of a WordPress site below. 

Wordpress Style

The next time you are designing or developing a website, consider paying respect to the early days of the internet by creating a brutalist-themed website. It’s a good way to stand out from the “same-ness” of the loud and complicated websites that we see today. It can grab the attention of your visitors and make as much of a statement as you would with a more elegant website design, making sure they remember your website as different from others.  

 

Read more about brutalist web design and development 

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