The new trend of brutalism first returned to prominence through Pascal Deville, the creative director at Freundliche Grüsse — his website http://brutalistwebsites.com collects the most brutal examples of brutalism. Their Brutalist aesthetic is marked by a “ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy”. The style appeared as a reaction to the frivolity of the ornamental Beaux-Arts style of the 30s and 40s architecture and sought to expose the construction of a building with a return to basic materials. Originating from the French word for ‘raw’ (brut), Brutalism was first coined by Hans Asplund referring to architecture that made no effort to complement its surroundings.
On the internet, Brutalism can be seen as a reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of today’s webdesign.
The style is actually minimalism on steroids. Let’s think about it in two approaches:
- its popularity keeps rising as a return to early days of the web
- it raises web conversions, bucking once trendy, now stale clean lines and simple designs
You’ll definitely know it when you see it. There’s an almost sliding scale for brutalism, it often mimics code visualization with a dark background, monospaced typography and white and lime green text. Some webdesign experts contend that a truly brutal design does not contain images. Now, to identify this crazy style:
- no distinct hierarchy
- lack of animation
- monospaced typography or a single font throughout
- often black or white stark background, with no texture or shading
- no shadows, gradients or patterns
- elements seem unintentional
- one-page websites with simple navigation or without it
- the design looks like it has visual mistakes, such as alignment or overprint mishaps
- no true color palette, wrong color schemes that hurt eyes
Is brutalism mainstream? Users love it or hate it. To move beyond the realm of one-off uses portfolio sites , it has to be a little bit softer and easier on the average user. More designs with brutalist concepts and especially typography will gain in popularity. Brutalism influences design but does not overtake some of the other more common design styles.
This is because designers are beginning to incorporate more modern flair into these stark aesthetic patterns, from hints of animation to extended navigation utilities to increase usability. Now, to get a real feel for it:
Marc Schenker, the webdesigner at Depot’s, argues that this style can really boost conversions. This isn’t something that normally comes to mind when you think about a design style, but he makes rather convincing case if you find the appealing style appealing. Research shows that faster sites increase conversions. Without high-resolution images or lengthy videos to bog a site down, it can load far faster than expected. This is significant because a one-second speed delay in page can cause a 7% drop in a site’s conversions. Sounds powerful? Yup!
Take a look at Craigslist for example. Arguably not the internet’s finest work, each page offers an indeterminate cluster of hyperlinks against an intrusive white background — it’s literally a public whiteboard. This simplicity in the back-end results in quick loading times and easy to read the code, adhering to pinboard’s philosophy that “your website should not exceed in file size the major works of Russian literature”. Anna Karenina, for example, is 1.8 MB.
The way a design focused on usability has turned UX into a product, disputably killing the potential for creativity.
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Originally written for Cadabra Studio.
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