Design has always been treated as part science, part creativity. Function is the primary concern when creating a website, brand, or anything that needs to communicate with its audience. Attention to the hierarchy of elements, readability, and strong color usage has always been considered the “golden rules” of design.
What happens, however, when the rules get boring? What do we do whenever the endless grids, margins, and structures become repetitive and lose their effectiveness? We dive into a world of clashing colors, overset text, and harsh photography. We dive into brutalist design.
What is Brutalism?
The term “Brutalism” first came from the Brutalist Architecture style, which was a response to decades of sameness. It was made popular in the 1950s by the United Kingdom. Buildings created around this concept are concrete, minimal, and more concerned with pushing creative use of geometry over ornate details. The term itself originated from the French ‘Beton brut,’ which means raw concrete in French. This style quickly rose to popularity, and can still be seen in countries all over the world, including the USA, Russia, The UK, and many parts of Europe.
When it comes to the modern-day design scene, Brutalism retains its core mission; to upend what has been established as the norm. Brutalism in design isn’t always clean, simple, and straightforward like in architecture, but its mission stays the same. Break the rules and rebuild them.
Brutalism in Design
Brutalist Design as it’s known today was initially popularized by websites that aimed to completely tear down and reconstruct the average user experience, which has been established by years of corporate design. Most standard websites have a header and footer, a defined structure, and use icons, photos, and illustrations that define their brand. Brutalist Design breaks and destroys this pattern, sometimes ditching all three of those things. A good Brutalist design will still maintain functionality and ease of use but does its best to avoid the pitfalls of creating a website that looks just like any other page you might stumble upon on the internet. These styles of websites, once a niche, have now become incredibly popular and are used mostly by creatives, such as artists, musicians, developers, and entrepreneurs.
Brutalism has made its way into the world of graphic design and branding as well; sometimes called “anti-design”, it aims to completely reinvent and reconstruct the user experience. Why have a standard icon and Montserrat word mark for your logo when you could use bubble type? Why use muted, professional colors when you could use highly saturated reds and greens? While this structure may not be effective for every brand, it is growing increasingly common for large corporate brands such as McDonald’s to adopt elements of this style to catch a younger audience.
Brutalism is Running on a Timer (Sort Of)
Some people hate brutalism. Critics will call it garish, unpleasant, and harsh. Why suddenly tear down all the rules we’ve spent so long establishing? Brutalism, as with all trends, is running on a timer. Eventually, people will grow tired of it, and either return to the status quo or push for something new.
This doesn’t mean that it simply disappears into history books. While Roman architecture and paintings aren’t the standard today, we can thank them for serifs and structured typography. While the Bauhaus movement didn’t unify everything in design under one banner, they helped the push to standardize san serifs and minimalism. Each era or movement bucks the norm and pushes for something new. While trends come and go, bits and pieces of them always remain and become part of the essence of what design can be. Brutalism is another defining era of design, and we have to embrace it for what it is. While it may not be the future, a piece of it will live on and be a part of the history of design.