17 brutalist websites for your brief, pitiless attention Functional. Minimal. Single purpose - even if that purpose is stupid. Let’s explore the Marmite of web design.

As part of our recent piece on UI design trends, we mentioned brutalist UI as being at the extreme end of current graphical user interface (GUI) design. Rob Whiting, Head of Product Design at The Spencer Group, believes the future of UI is in “subdued colours, large, easy-to-read typography and simple, task-focused interactions.”

Brutalist websites take this design theory to the very limits.

work hackathon homepage

You’ve likely already heard of brutalism before in the architectural world, but it’s a wildly misinterpreted term. According to Dezeen, “Brutalism’s etymology actually lies in the French term ‘béton-brut’ – literally ‘raw concrete’ – the movement’s signature material. But Brutalism was concerned with far more than materials.”

From the 1950s onwards, designers grew tired of a watered down version of modernist architecture, which was intended to replace traditional, neo-classical styles with something entirely functional – created from brand new building materials, such as concrete and steel.

Brutalist architects developed a style that didn’t care for comfort or easy-on-the eye aesthetics – instead these buildings are stark and minimalist, and perhaps more importantly – you can see exactly what materials they’re made from and often the inner workings are exposed. Their ‘confrontational’ appearance is a byproduct of these materials and their form.

brutalist architecture in Japan

Which brings back round to brutalist websites…

On the comprehensive Brutalist Websites directory, the ‘about us’ is basically adapted from the Wikipedia description of brutalism…

“In its ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy, Brutalism can be seen as a reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of today’s web design.”

However many of the examples (of which they apparently receive hundreds of every day) fall more into the modern, skewed example of brutalism: displeasing to the eye, unpopular and purposefully antagonistic.

But that’s not what we’re looking for here, I’m more interested in the original definition of brutalism: functional, transparent and minimal. Sites that won’t appear on Awwwards any time soon, but do offer something close to what we mentioned earlier in terms of “large, easy-to-read typography and simple, task-focused interactions.”

And much like their architectural counterparts, it’s an incidental byproduct that these may appear so unwelcoming. Let’s take a look at a few examples from BrutalistWebsites.com and a few others I’ve found along the way…

Brutalist redesigns

Pierre Buttin’s brutalist reworks of existing apps and their swipable-pinchable-zoomable interfaces is an effective and immediate way to get the message of brutalism across.

spotify brutalist redesign

Exposure

A single webpage payment service that allows any artist who has been promised the currency of ‘exposure’ in exchange for their work, to generate an invoice for their generous client. The exchange rate is 1 Exposure = 1 unit of your chosen PayPal currency.

exposure homepage

Craigslist

Nathaniel Smith of tilde.town (itself a stripped-down experience marooned in a lost age) stated in the Washington Post that brutalist websites are more common than you think. “Look at Craigslist. This is totally a brutalist website… and commercially, very successful.”

craigslist homepage

Freecycle

Similar to Craigslist, but with remarkably even fewer bells and whistles.

freecycle advert

Trust Issues

The Trust Issues podcast, which tackles the wildest conspiracy theories, has a gloriously minimalist, purple-lined online home, replete with a draggable, easy to use media player/contact form.

Trust Issues homepage

W.A.S.T.E.

W.A.S.T.E. is Radiohead’s online home, and it’s a world away from the complex melancholia and multi-textured artistry of their last couple of albums. Instead this is perfunctory, stark and wilfully antagonistic towards modern ‘acceptable’ website design.

radiohead website

You should have seen this

When the world has moved on from the internet to a new plain of existence and/or time-wastery beyond our imagination, this will be the definitive document of our current time.

you should have seen this homepage

Colorama

Oh the scroll. OH the scroll…

colorama homepage

Work Week

Light a fire beneath your working week (or in fact any period of time you wish to set) with this helpful tool.

work week homepage

This is Shit

This is Shit will create a bespoke poster for your event/album/gig/anything for a small donation, which is given to charity.

this is shit homepage

The only proviso is that, as the artist states, it will be shit. However if you like his eye for illustration, then it’s a bargain and you should definitely by him a coffee. The website is as simple and direct as the message.

this is shit design

Are you eating dinner with your father?

Delivers a simple message that bears repeating once in a while… with hammers.

are you having dinner with your father

Sophie Adams lol

So far all I can work it on this page is that I can drag the windows around and make the Chat room window close and reappear. I don’t understand what’s going on, but I’ve been on it for 30 minutes now. Maybe that’s the point.

sophie adams lol

This is a motherfucking website

Part angry screed of spleen venting, part satirical joke. There are plenty of piss-taking one-page websites (some of them are in this list) but this one seems to have more longevity then the rest. Plus it’s responsive.

The Juice Box

It’s a juice bar, what else do you need to know? Also check out the very satisfying ‘divider’ style navigation.

Aint Wet 

Potentially the most idiot-proof ecommerce ever built.

aint wet

Click here to save the world

Click here to save the world…

click here to save the world

👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏

ChrisBolin.co

And perhaps the ultimate brutalist webpage. You even have to go offline to see it…

offline content

Well, I think we’ve all learnt something here today. Personally, I’ll be making all my text light purple, swearing more and turning the mouse pointer into a hammer.

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Christopher Ratcliff
Christopher is the Content Marketing Manager of WhatUsersDo. He's also the editor of wayward pop culture site Methods Unsound. He used to be the deputy editor of Econsultancy and editor Search Engine Watch.

2 Responses to “17 brutalist websites for your brief, pitiless attention

  • Alright, Brutalist doesnt mean UGLY it mean “bare bones” a website stripped to its basic functions and styling

  • Christopher Ratcliff
    Christopher Ratcliff
    3 months ago

    Yep, that’s what I get at in the intro – “functional, transparent and minimal”

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