Brutalism in Graphic Design: The Ultimate Guide to Brutalism Style

Bold. Honest. Unapologetic. Hideous. In the past years, Brutalism web design has been gaining increased recognition among designers the world over. In digital design, Brutalism is a style that attempts to appear raw, unadorned or haphazard. Just like many design trends, at first it was mostly contained in cutting-edge spaces such as in art museum sites and designer portfolios. The style mimics web design in the 1990s (think the Drudge Report).

At times, this aspect of Brutalism is expressed as a naked HTML site. Proponents of Brutalism love its honesty and daring approach. Brutalist designers want the web to remain true to itself, not contrived.

History of Brutalism in graphic design

Whoever said that art is derived from pain might have been predicting a term in design like "Brutalism." This term is derived from the French beton brut, meaning "raw concrete." It refers to the Brutalist architecture movement in Western Europe that lasted between the 1950s to the 1970s.  Brutalist architecture was devoid of any decorations, including paint.  The buildings were exposed concrete.  These buildings were meant to promote honesty and equality.  They were just plain and simple. While the movement was started in the 1950s, it still remains appealing today.

Brutalism in web design

Brutalism found its way back to web design in 2016. It is exactly what one expects it to be: plain without any decorations.  Decoration, in this case, is the sophisticated aesthetics created by applications such as JavaScript and CSS.  Such designs have a raw look to them. They look as though they were created back in the day when the internet only had HTML.

Principles of Brutalism in web design


The main purpose of websites is the delivery of content. Therefore, as per the principles, there should be careful optimization for desktop and mobile screens of all sizes. Users should be able to scroll down the page to view more content.

The sites are designed for speed

The faster a page loads, the more efficient it is. A Brutalism web designer shows empathy for the user and knows that their time is valuable. For this reason, Brutalist web pages are constructed using minimal code and very little markup.

Unnecessary decoration is not needed

Vanity has no room in a Brutalist design.  Any types of elaborate illustration and ornate topography are omitted because they detract from the desired content. This approach is described as utilitarian and rugged. The goal is not to create a pretty website, but rather one that serves its intended purpose and functions well.

Hyperlinks should be obvious

Clickable areas should all be highlighted, and all links have a role to play. A case in point, text hyperlinks should always have a different color and should be underlined.

The websites are designed using striking contrasting images and colors

While black and white is a common choice, some sites utilize limited choice of clashing colors to create a high visual impact. Images are used minimally.  Designers prefer to use raw and unfiltered images.

The aesthetic is aggressive, confrontational and sometimes nostalgic

Over the years, Brutalism has increased in popularity, acting as a backlash against the principles of conventional web design that are more concerned with harmonious typefaces and colors. These sites give off a retro-feel that takes users back to the first days of the internet when designers only had access to limited fonts such as Times New Roman and Arial.


This school of web design gives users a refreshing experience.  Brutalist websites are mostly used by freelancers, creatives and brands who are hoping to get an appeal to a contemporary audience. The approach is also a smart choice for those looking to stage a one-off event or an exhibition. Nevertheless, Brutalism is not a good fit for everyone. Some find Brutalist websites cold. This design is only for brave designers who are well-aware that their designs will appeal to a limited audience.

While this style does not work for all brands, it can be adapted to fit in various niches. At CorelDRAW, we are versatile in what we do. We prioritize making graphic design features that match the taste and preference of our diverse customers, all at an affordable price. Explore our website today to learn how you can incorporate brutalism web design for your website.  Download your free trial today!

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