Sheila Berger

Brutalist Web Design: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The brutalist aesthetic is nothing new. The term has mainly been associated with architecture defined by unflattering, utilitarian design.

Garish, tacky, and what most people would call ugly, brutalism is having a moment in the world of web design. Even sites like are embracing the brutalist look.

Then there’s, a gallery proudly showing off other sites designed with this in-your-face style. But brutalism is more than just an aesthetic—it can also be a philosophy for an extremely simple, basic approach to information architecture and user experience (UX).

Brutalist web design advocates for creating broad generalizations and avoiding a complex analysis of the user. In a world where detailed user flow charts and painstakingly researched user personas have become the norm, the wisdom of this approach is questionable.  Could this design style ever really thrive, let alone become a standard? Most people would probably question the logic behind it, if not the overall aesthetic itself.

Mainstream web design showcases the exact opposite. In fact, the web has become oversaturated with beautiful sites that more or less all look the same. Tastemakers like Apple and Google have been proponents of beautiful and elegant design, and most of the internet has followed their lead. Brutalist web design may be a reaction to that tasteful, elegant style that’s flooded the internet.

Ironically, the early days of the web were unintentionally brutalist in both design and approach towards UX. Whether or not the web could ever circle back to a more primitive state is doubtful, but this mini brutalist web design movement has a lesson to teach: be careful of the status quo and allowing your site to fade into a sea of similarly designed sites. Elegance and subtlety have their place, but sometimes simple and obvious can work better. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel or ignore web design best practices, but you do need to stand out from the crowd by inventing a market space that you can own.

About Sheila Berger

Sheila is a Front-End Developer at Merit. Her experience ranges from large responsive eCommerce sites, to WordPress multi-site builds, and custom animations. Sheila navigates complexity and projects like a well-trained Ninja.

See More



The Process Behind Disruption

Disruption might be the biggest business bandwagon of all time. But ask most people what their idea of disruption is, and they’ll stare at you with a blank look or start rattling off a set of disjointed ideas.

Trevor Stauffer
How to Not Become an Expert

Experts are impressive, but there are some trade-offs. First, there’s the obvious opportunity cost to hyper-specialization: all the other things you won’t be able to do. But there’s another, more subtle cost: you risk losing the beginner’s mind. As you restrict your inquisitive nature, your sense of wonder fades. You become uncomfortable with ambiguity. You forget how to learn in new ways about new things. You might begin to start liking the idea that you’re an expert and slowly, unconsciously start closing your mind to the opinions of non-experts. Then, to the experts who don’t agree with you. The process continues, and eventually you find yourself totally isolated, lost in your own ideas.


Digital Media and Market Invention

But before you rush off to the first digital media strategist you can find, consider this: does good digital media marketing really mean just matching the trends of the day? Or, since those trends will always be shifting and evolving, might there be some underlying strategy at the base of all that (very important) surface-level stuff?

Harrisburg Office
2201 N Front Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110
Portland Office
917 SW Oak Street #303, Portland, OR 97205