Brutalism Web Design Principles
by Alex Cosper

Brutalism, which is a web design style that relies on raw appearance, have been going viral in recent years. The irony of brutalism is that it isn't supposed to do well in today's online marketing, yet in some cases it defies the odds. Here are some facts about this re-emerging design and how it differs from minimalism.

Origins of Brutalism

The roots of brutalist design trace back to the post-WWII era in Europe when destroyed buildings needed to be rebuilt quickly. The raw look of industrial designs was not so much an intended look, but a rough look based on lack of extra finnesse that's put into design for artistic visual effects. The result is somewhat of an eyesore compared with architecture that was deliberately designed to have an attractive appearance. Many of these large buildings had exposed concrete construction.

This design ethic - or some might say lack of ethic - has crossed over into cyberspace as a stripped-down no frills type of web design. While some professionals and consumers may call it a design trend, others call it anti-design. The concept has even been reported by the New York Times and Washington Post. The Post article goes as far as saying that brutalist design looks "bad." A more objective view is that brutalist designs avoid the "best practices" adopted by the digital marketing community.

Design Overkill Backlash

One of the reasons that designers and website owners are taking a closer look at brutalism is due to too much graphic design overkill. Too much emphasis on color harmony and perfect shapes and lines has led to some designers pulling back on pretty elements. Some of the main characteristics that define brutalism are ruggedness and lack of concern for creating a comfortable feel. Other characteristics include plenty of whitespace, plain typeface and not many on-page elements.

These sites are constructed with imperfect hand-coded HTML, as they resemble what websites look like in the 90s. An example is Craigslist, which is merely a site with a white background full of blue links. The site has not changed much in appearance since it launched in the 90s. Many critics now see template-driven websites for what they are: sites built quickly based on redundancy. It's causing both designers and business owners to rethink web design strategies. The last thing website owners want is for their sites to look like hundreds of other sites. The key to success is to stand out in the crowd.

How Brutalism Differs From Minimalism

As much as brutalism may sound like a revival of minimalism, the styles have differences, despite the fact both present bare aesthetics. Even though minimalism uses lots of negative space (white space), this space is used for artistic impact. It directs the eye to the focal point element by treating the white space as a canvas, adding a touch of class. Minimalist designs use dark or colorful backgrounds. They may also encompass large eye-catching photography or beautiful, sharp typography. Brutalist design, by contrast, doesn't seek a beautiful appearance at all and is more of a showcase of useful elements without artistic concerns.

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