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What Is Neubrutalism In Web Design?

Modern web rarely excites: most websites look alike, sacrificing flashy design in favor of accessibility and ease of use. In the end, it’s convenience, and not looks, that win over the users. Neubrutalism is a relatively new trend that goes against all that. What is it?

What is Brutalism?

It all started with architecture, where Brutalism is well-known and somewhat ridiculed. Appearing in the middle of the last century, it challenged the status quo by stripping all the buildings of any decorative elements, resulting in striking, massive buildings of grey. Now considered dated and rarely loved, this style is mostly associated with the Cold War.

Neubrutalism is not the same but it too was created to battle the old postulates. It’s neither bleak nor grey though, but every bit as disruptive as its grandfather.

Neubrutalism in web design

As we mentioned, there’s no rulebook per se: Neubrutalism exists as a tool of disruption. But it has a few telltale elements. First of all, is high contrast — a lot higher than we are used to in the Material era. Let us remind you that in accessible design, ultra-high contrast is a big no-no.

Shadows, too, are stark, sharp, and never blurred. But the most recognizable element is color. Most websites nowadays have a safe “palette,” with soft, low-contrast being prevalent.

Neubrutalism is all about clashing colors that create an eye-catching, if not to say dizzying, image. Reds and greens, blues and oranges — whatever it is, just make it as in your face as possible without them being overly saturated. That’s the secret ingredient: try to keep saturation at 75-80 percent at the most.

As for illustrations, they are one of the most recognizable elements of Neubrutalism; High contrast, thick borders, and sharp shadows are all present, as well as colorful backgrounds. The parallax effect is the king, too. Scrolling effects, big navigation elements (like bigger-than-normal pointers), etc. — do whatever you can to stay different.

Being animated is the key, though — the style is created to “wow,” but on their own, desaturated clashing colors don’t do much. Now, sprinkle some parallax on them, and you’ve got yourself a visually stunning website.


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Is Neubrutalism ugly?

As it usually happens with such styles, Neubrutalism has found a lot of opposition. I keep hearing my designer friends describe it as ugly and deliberately distracting. It’s not “nice.” It’s like it’s trolling us with the misaligned elements and mismatched colors. Some of the time, it looks half-baked on purpose. Other times, it makes navigating the page hard to use. It’s not as much of a design style as a statement. Some companies want that. Some brands need to send a message saying, “we are different.” You can’t win them all, but if a brand has a specific demographic in mind, sometimes being considered offensive can seem like a good thing.

Personally, I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter. Neubrutalism shocked and confused me, but that’s the point. It’s not gorgeous, nor is it easy to use. It breaks the rulebook in more ways than one. It can be downright bad for your SERP score. And yet, as a business card, it’s hard to beat. The more optimized and “normal” your website is, the harder it is to remember it. Now, take the “in your face” nature of Neubrutalism and use it wisely, and people will remember your brand. How fondly is another matter entirely.

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