Brutalism: The Design Equivalent to Someone Wearing a Fanny Pack in 2018.

We’re currently in the midst of a giant redesign at and it’s brought me to put my ear to the ground and checkout what design trends have been heating up the last year or so and uh… Hm. So… brutalism, huh? That’s a thing we’re getting into now?

You might not be familiar with the phrase—taken from the postmodern architecture trend of the 1950s to the mid-1970s—but you’ve probably seen the graphic design trend at least one place.

Back when we only speculated that there might be something wrong with Yeezy. To be so innocent again…

Basically, in the world of graphic design, brutalism is where avant-garde meets nostalgia and irony. Brutalism takes many of us back to when Geocities was still viable means to having a website and we were just happy to be able to put a background behind our body text. On one hand, it’d be unfair to throw brutalism under a bus (even if that bus is carrying better, more attractive design trends) by saying that brutalism takes no skill but, ehhh, on the other hand… look at this:

As the late, great Maurice Sendak once said, “the sad thing is, I like it!”

Like most things, there’s a few different schools of thought to brutalism. There’s minimalism like above which, admittedly, isn’t egregious but bland and simple. Then you get into the field of, “remember when we made websites in Microsoft FrontPage back in 1998?”

Complete with broken images because you totally forgot to actually upload them to the server.

To some, brutalism means recreating old UI for the modern era (which really takes a lot of skill and patience). There’s some great examples of this but this is probably my favorite:

It has a menu that actually works with the key commands which is super cool!

And then there’s a bunch that I’m going to lump all together as what I call “Fuck Any and All Conventions, Here’s Some Shit!” This really makes up the bulk of what I think a lot of people will call brutalism. It doesn’t matter if it’s not readable or functional, it’s just about the expression of: “I made a thing and lol it’s horrendous. Am I counter-culture now?”

There’s plenty of examples on but this might be one of the crown jewels:


So, remember what I said before about how brutalism doesn’t take a lot of skill? Something like that might not take a lot of skill but I’m sure it took a lot of time. It took a lot of time for something that is going to go out of style so fast that literally some of the websites on Brutalist Websites have already abandoned brutalism for something more functional.

Like, I get it. Design is getting stale. We’ve kinda reached peak functionality in the world of UI/UX and until technology changes, we’re going to keep polishing the same rock until it’s super shiny. Is that really a bad thing, though? I’m not adverse to change. I’m not old enough to yell at clouds just yet but I think we can do better than brutalism. Ultimately, purpose of graphic design is the communication of an idea through art. When we’re not communicating an idea, we’ve lost the basic functionality.

In the title of this blog post, I’ve posited that brutalism is like wearing a fanny pack in 2018 but I think that’s actually a flawed comparison. Wearing a fanny pack is pretty ugly but at least you can put something in it. It could hold your iPhone or a PB&J (maybe your blood-sugar gets low, I’m not here to judge). It still has certain functionality. Conversely, whatever the hell this is:

She got an MFA from Yale.

It has some links but in order to get to them, you’ve gotta move her… portfolio pieces (?) out of the way. Maybe it’s because I don’t have an MFA from an Ivy League school but this makes me irrationally frustrated.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love art. Some of my best friends are art. I think if you’re making art for art sake, that’s fantastic. I just want to be able to click some damn links.

Still a young man (yelling at cloud),