The Truth About Brutalism In Web Design

Home » Web Development » The Truth About Brutalism In Web Design

When you’re trying to grow a business online, “monetize website” should be at the top of your to-do list. The first step is to design a great website that keeps your visitors’ eyes glued to their screens. But standing out from the crowd isn’t easy. To stay ahead of everyone else, you need to continually expand your knowledge of best design practices.

If you’ve fallen into a design rut, it’s time to learn about – and experiment with – something new. Brutalist web design could be the inspiration you need. In this article, we’ll look at what Brutalism is, how it has influenced modern web design, and why you should consider drawing on its principles in your future projects.

What Is Brutalism?

Brutalist designs emphasize substance over style – yet this philosophy produces work that has a distinct look. It places content first and aesthetics second. The term (also known as “New Brutalism”) was originally used to describe a style of architecture that developed in the 1950s and 1960s. Brutalist buildings were typically made of blocks that showcased the building’s raw materials, usually concrete or brick.

Brutalist structures are built with functionality in mind, and Brutalist architects specialize in libraries, hospitals, colleges, and other large buildings. In some cases, designers highlight utilities by leaving pipes, water tanks, and other components exposed. Brutalism prides itself on its lack of pretention and commitment to transparency.

How Does Brutalism Translate To Web Design?

In Brutalist architecture, exposed raw materials are a design feature. The same principle applies to Brutalist web designs – they deliberately expose and emphasize a website’s content. Visually appealing or decorative elements are a secondary consideration or may be omitted altogether.

Brutalist websites stay true to what websites were originally for – to showcase important content and provide a platform by which visitors can communicate with the creator. There is no single Brutalist design, just a set of principles to follow. Although many Brutalist sites appear minimalist, this isn’t always the case.

What Are The Characteristics Of Typical Brutalist Websites?

  1. They are readable

Websites exist to deliver content. Therefore, as per Brutalist principles, all content should be carefully optimized for both desktop and mobile screens of all shapes and sizes. Content should be set out in a clear, logical fashion. The user should be able to scroll down the webpage to view the content.

  1. They are built for speed

The faster a page loads, the better. Brutalist web designers empathize with the user and understand that their time is precious. The longer a user has to wait, the more likely they are to go elsewhere. Brutalist websites are built using minimal code with as little markup as possible.

  1. They contain no unnecessary decoration

Vanity has no place in Brutalist design. Ornate typography and elaborate illustrations detract from the content and are therefore omitted. This approach is rugged and utilitarian. It isn’t about creating a pretty website, just one that serves a purpose, and serves it well.

  1. Hyperlinks are obvious

Clickable areas are highlighted as such, and all links serve a purpose. For example, text hyperlinks are usually underlined and a different color to the surrounding text. Clickable buttons should be styled so that they work precisely as a visitor would expect. This includes the back button. Some Brutalist sites use novelty cursors, such large arrows that morph when you hover over a link, to further emphasize functionality.

A user might find the website’s design or message surprising or even jarring, but the experience should be seamless. If a site has multiple pages, navigation menus are simple and readily discernible from other text.

  1. They are based around striking, high-contrast colors and images

Black and white is a popular choice, but some sites use a limited palette of clashing colors for high visual impact. Images are used with great care. A typical Brutalist-style website will have only a couple of images, which may carry a literal or metaphorical meaning. Raw, unfiltered images are normally preferred over slick, professional photos. Static images are preferred over animations.

  1. They have an aggressive, confrontational, sometimes nostalgic aesthetic

Brutalism has grown in popularity as a backlash against conventional web design principles that emphasize harmonious colors and typefaces. These sites may have a retro feel that harks back to the early days of the internet when designers had access to a minimal number of fonts such as Arial and Times New Roman. Crude color palettes are another way of creating an “old-school” vibe.

In the world of architecture, Brutalism is associated with 20th-century anti-capitalist, socialist politics. On the web, some designers use Brutalist designs as a rebellion against the so-called “best practices” of the 21st-century. You’ve probably noticed that a lot of websites now look the same, relying on a similar set of templates and drag-and-drop design tools. Brutalist design can be conceptualized as a way of fighting back against the homogenization of the internet. It celebrates expression rather than adherence to bland corporate concepts.

Brutalist websites are popular with freelancers, creatives, and brands who want to appeal to a contemporary audience. A stark webpage can be an effective, memorable platform for an important message or brief introduction to an individual or business. This approach is also a smart choice if you are staging a one-off event or exhibition and want a webpage that communicates key details and opening times.

However, Brutalism isn’t for everyone. Some people find Brutalist websites cold. This style is for brave designers who know their work won’t appeal to all audiences. You need to think about your target audience before taking this route. If you are trying to reach a conservative audience, or a demographic who appreciate a more calming style of website, Brutalism probably isn’t appropriate.


This school of web design makes for a novel, refreshing user experience. Brutalism doesn’t work for every brand, but it can be adapted to most niches. If you are selling products or services online, you may be interested to know that this style can boost conversion rates, mainly because faster-loading websites attract buyers and retain their interest.

Some web design competitions, such as Awwwards, now have special categories for Brutalist sites. They are the perfect starting point if you want to see these principles in action. If you want to learn more about how these designs differ from other similar paradigms, take a look at sites in the Retro and Minimalist categories.

Even if your design doesn’t comply with all Brutalist principles, you can still learn a lot from Brutalism. Whatever your design preferences, an intriguing, easy-to-navigate website should always be your end goal.

John Culotta
John is the chief editor here at WebDesignDev. He is a creative who enjoys writing, research, and all things design related as well as (formerly) a full-time musician. As an entrepreneur, he has many years of experience in designing websites, packaging, logos, photo editing, and the development of his own top-selling products on Amazon and Shopify. You can see his motivational Instagram account or connect on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

Leave a Comment