When Designs Turn Brutal

2017 has seen the advent of many new trends in webdesigns, and all of them are here to stay (and rock) in 2018 as well. These include the use of vibrant colours, bold typography, custom illustration, asymmetric design – just name it. It’s the reign of outlaws. But the most rebellious of them is perhaps Brutalism. Sounds rough, ha?

So, what is this thing about being “brutal” in webdesign?

Let’s say that we designers just got exasperated using the same old Bootstrap template that makes every website look like a sibling of another. The issue has probably been best described by Jeremy Karbows in The Only Bootstrap Page. Well done, Jeremy!

The answer to this recurring problem can be called Brutalism. The term comes from the mid-twentieth century brutalist architecture that featured large blocks of concrete and/or bricks gaping from buildings. In the case of websites, brutalist architecture takes the form of unpolished pages, unconventional menus and links, and really unexpected typography. Few websites might be misleading enough to make one think that the stylesheets have gone wrong.

One of the best examples of brutalism can be found on Apelido & Apelido. The site is a crazy genius mix of old-fashioned typography and sections, interactive animations and playful surprises. The most interesting feature is the guestbook where people can draw their comments (or whatever they want to).

Another smart example includes Offline Only that demands that you “disconnect to connect”. The idea is to save humanity from internet addiction. Deep!

Try the navigation menu at Emma, a website dedicated to a non-profit organisation of the same name for artistic and cultural practices. At first glance, it looks a word search game, and for the first few seconds one might be scratching the head trying to figure out where (s)he has landed.

Some websites go an extra mile and make it intentionally difficult to learn the purpose of the website or its branding as well as to navigate through. This is, as you might have guessed, does not go well with many viewers. Several others, however, have embraced the revolution with love and cheers. Yayy!

One typical feature of a brutalist website is its basic and resource-light HTML. It wouldn’t be wrong to conclude that the style has brought back old-fashioned pages with a splash of fun, interactivity and creative freedom.

While it is thrilling to step out of the line and do something unconventional, it is equally dangerous to push the limits. (Sounds like adventure? It is!) This can be said in reference to e-commerce websites that need to perform every function perfectly not just till the checkout but until delivery and return, if need be. Some daredevils that have successfully implemented brutalism in shopping websites include Kayne West’s online clothing storeFluffEntire WorldBalenciaga, and the list goes on.

You know what they say about rules, that they are meant to be broken? Well, this is it. One just needs to make sure that breaking the rules works well.

So the next time you see a website that doesn’t make sense, know that it’s a brutalist website. Just play along.