In the spring of 2016 I wrote my Master’s Thesis on the digital design phenomenon of Web Brutalism. Here is a recap!
First of all, Web Brutalism is a design movement in web design where the design of websites is niether user-friendly nor aesthetically appealing. This is achieved both by the visual expression of the website and through the code of the websites, and thus the websites appear rough in appearance, making the website difficult to use and comprehend. Websites such as Hacker News, Pinboard, The Drudge Report, Adult Swim and Bloomberg Business Week examplify what is going on — see below for more examples:
Much has been said about Web Brutalism in the past couple of years. The Washington Post, several articles on Fast Coding, Tutsplus and here on Medium, and even an academic article by Aaron Ganci, from the Indiana University Herron School of Art and Design, and Bruno Ribeiro, from the California Polytechnic State University, has described the movement. While these articles mainly described the movement in a more descriptive manner, I approached the subject from another perspective;
What is Web Brutalism an expression of?
So here goes the recap: I liked the subject of Web Brutalism because of its apparent disregard for usability, web conventions and webdesign standards, which I fully understand and can relate to as designer myself. During the process I read a lot about digital culture, usability history and political- and design activism, and I worked my way forward using Grounded Theory and qualitative data analysis — all of it from a phenomenological perspective.
As a part of the empirical work I interviewed Associate Professor Klaus Bjergager, Creative Director Pascal Deville, Software Developer Nate Smith, Ph.D. in Webdesign Lisbeth Thorlacius, Webdesigner Christian Miller and Webdesigner Justin Reynolds. This resulted in Web Brutalism being an expression of a specific genre, a counter reaction to standardization, usability and a commercialization of webdesign, a subcultural community and a philosophical issue in regards to an ongoing battle between modernism and postmodernism in webdesign and beyond.
When discussing the empirical findings Web Brutalism appears to be in a paradoxical situation where a popularization of the movement could undermine its own existence, exemplified by the potential of Web Brutalism becoming an instrument for profit optimization within a competitive business market. Based on this business perspective, combined with a notion of design activism and disruptive aesthetics, it can be argued that Web Brutalism is able to renegotiate the contrast between breaking with the conventions and compliance of web usability.
Conclusively I suggested that Web Brutalism contributes to the field of design by emphasizing how artistic and creative approaches to web design should not be overlooked when discussing the development of websites. As a result, Web Brutalism contributes to the encouragement of interaction, participation and reflection upon the subject of contemporary web design, which is necessary in the normative discussion of the future of web design and the field of design research in general.
That’s it! Now, let me know your thoughts about Web Brutalism?