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Brutalist Websites (brutalistwebsites.com)
447 points by ot on Apr 18, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 179 comments

IMO, the cited examples are minimalist but not brutalist. When I think of a brutalist website I think of the design elements being exposed as part of the presentation. Frames and tables with exposed borders and ugly html buttons -- not, as suggested by the OP, clean layouts driven by an invisible style sheet.

A typical JavaDoc page for example, rather than Hacker News.

I don't know that it has to be ugly. I think the good brutalist architecture is quite beautiful, as well as very pleasant to use (it's a misconception that brutalist design is meant to be _brutal_ towards it's users, although the bad stuff is -- and I think, maybe heretically, much of Le Corbusier is pretty bad).

When I think of brutalist, I think no frills, and putting the infrastructural elements forward, not covering them up with any surface-level aesthetics. Exposing the infrastructural bones, hiding nothing.

I don't think it's at all obvious what this means for a website. The very very abstract nature of all software makes it perhaps impossible to put the 'concrete' forward (double meaning intended, but primarily here as the opposite of 'abstract'), there's no there there. But I think it's interesting to think about, and the candidates listed there are contenders worth considering.

But there's a link to submit more, you should submit a JavaDoc page, I'm sure they'll list it too.

Brutalism is monolithic concrete forms like UK 70s tower blocks.

You appear to be thinking of exposed services of structural expressionism or Bowellism; like the Pompidou in Paris or Lloyd's building in London - they're not brutalism to my mind, far from it.

I'd associate it with exposed structural materials (no veneers out paneling) and a utilitarian aesthetic.

I'm familiar with brutalism. I think the ideology of the exposed structural materials is to show infrastructure without artifice. By "infrastructure" I don't just mean the electrical/plumbing or whatever as maybe hilighted in bowelism. The first definition of infrastructure in the random dictionary I looked up online is "the underlying foundation or basic framework."

As wikipedia says of brutalism, "There is often an emphasis on graphically expressing in the external elevations and in the whole-site architectural plan the main functions and people-flows of the buildings." Some have called brutalism the "truthful expression" of materials, structure, function.

I think it is interesting to think about how that might apply to web sites, it's not entirely clear to me.

Brutalist buildings don't need to be brutal, here's one of my favorites: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Geisel-L...

Many of the brutalist 70s tower blocks are wretched, but here's one I always liked: http://wibiti.com/images/hpmain/029/273029.jpg

I'm probably off the mark but a mirrored facade is a long way from brutalism to my view; the structure is certainly modernist but status too far from utilitarianism for me to call it brutalist.

Also, I like some of the brutalist 70s tower blocks too, in the right context (I'm quite fond of Goldfinger's Trellick), but your example seems to have too many ornamental curves to be brutalism (at least as far as that classification is used in the UK).

Which example? They're both widely known as brutalist examples here in the US.



I dunno, I guess it's "I know it when I see it", and we each know different things when we see them, heh.

I think that the Windows mobile "Authentically Digital" aesthetic is something like that.

Glass skyscrapers meet those requirements but arent typically thought of as brutalist.

The word "brutalism" was coined from the French "béton-brut" meaning "raw concrete."

I agree with other posters that this is a kind of minimalism. Brutalism comes from a literally concrete (the material) form of minimalism known as "Béton brut"[0] which led to Brutalism[1] - there is nothing brutal about these examples.

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9ton_brut [1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brutalist_architecture

Agreed. I think more along the lines of http://thin.npr.org/

.. which is great & I wish more sites had a "thin" version.

That is beautiful. As someone who tries to browse without JavaScript as much as possible, and so frequently sees screwed-up layout, I instinctively scrolled down to see the 'real' content before realising—no, there it is!

This is great! I had no idea this even existed, but I agree, it would be great if many more sites offered something like this. Especially when on really slow connections, this would come in very handy.

In addition the page seems to be somewhat fixated with monospace fonts. Deliberately being 'edgy' by showing non-code in monospace isn't brutalist: Times New Roman is.

What the hell does edgy mean these days?

Doing things that have no point other than to raise attention. Eg, overriding browser defaults to showing paragraphs as monospace because code is cool, even though the site doesn't have any code.

Maybe I've spent too much time at a terminal, but I find monospace fonts quite readable and aesthetically pleasing (especially Anonymous Pro, Droid Sans Mono, and Source Code Pro).

I think monospace fonts look pretty

"Brutalist" is using typographic quotes on website about programming

Yeah, I'd call it vernacular rather than brutalist.

Olia Lialina wrote a nice article about her idea of a vernacular web. I'm not sure how compatible this is with your idea, but one thing that seems to distinguish these sites from her vernacular web is that they seem very thoughtfully and deliberately designed the way they are -- there is intent and purpose where in the vernacular web she sees happenstance and barely directed expression.

I agree.

I've always associated craiglist and 4chan with the brutalist movement.

4chan is quite "web2.0" for a board. BBS'es on 2ch.net could be better example, with their borer="1" tables, wall-of-text navigation, CGI scripts and adorable brick background

To piggy back off your point, the implication that the design of the Drudge Report (which I remember my father reading a decade ago) is almost certainly not "a reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of todays [sic] webdesign."

Indeed. The Drudge Report was already well-known in news junkie circles when it leaked Isikoff's Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky stunner in 1998!

The examples are a misappropriation of a 20th century aesthetic notion to web design.

There may be some similarities but, really, perhaps we need new terminology to describe these things ?

Web design and architecture are almost too easy to compare with the same language. They aren't directly comparable but the history seems to flow similarly.

If we consider the 90s web to be antiquity, and the gradients of the 2000s as the dark ages, then one could make the case that (starting with iOS 7) flat design is neo-classical, and the further movements to use a flat base but play with elements that pop out (https://stripe.com) is our version of baroque.

It's easy to notice these historical similarities, but unfortunately it also makes it easy to assign a style of web design to match a style of architecture, even if there is nothing truly comparable between the two.

If borrowing the term from Architecture, then a brutalist website should be one that (only) uses the 'raw' (original) elements of design and functionality (cannot separate both in web design), namely: page layout + font face + color palette for the graphic design component, and links + media for the functional (hypermedia) component. As such, I do not see how modernizing the style through functional paradigms, like a flat design UI, breaks the original canon. However, we could argue that anything else, like flashy add-ons such as element transitions, drop-downs, fades, etc, do break the canon and are just a response to trends, just like a bunch of useless zippers and pockets do not add functional value to a trendy jacket but definitely help sell it.

Efficient use of resources and fast loading is a entire different subject. Enter the engineer, leave the architect. It is absolutely possible to program any design paradigm to perform fast and efficiently.

I wonder what the website equivalent of concrete is.

"There is often an emphasis on graphically expressing in the external elevations and in the whole-site architectural plan the main functions and people-flows of the buildings."

This might suggest ways to express navigation that are explicit and not hidden

We already had the website equivalent of béton brut in the formative stages of the web. Just about all websites were the correct color.


Another thing I thought of was using the <table> tag for layout.

It's austere, as well as an anti-pattern when used exclusively. Despite this, it just plain gets the job done. It has also proven quite sturdy/reliable, even on popular sites like this one.

One of the things I kind of miss about the table based layouts of yesteryear was it seemed to be a lot easier to make sites that looked good in terminal/text based web browsers. The modern idea of doing all of your actual layout in CSS doesn't degrade as well for text based browsers.

Here's a challenge for you frontend hackers out there: show me a now standard <ul> based horizontal nav-bar... that also renders horizontally in w3m and lynx.

Why does it have to render horizontally? I think the goal is that the text-based layout is just a simple outline, and CSS is used to get a spatial layout. It sounds like you want a little of both worlds. You're right tables can be hacked to do that, but you're going against the grain of the technology, and I'd ask what you hope to gain?

I think many "frontend hackers" spend their time focused on what can be done and not enough on what should be done. This is a side-effect of our hyperspecialization culture which discourages designers and developers pushing back on each other, out of fear of stepping on each others' expertise. But I think that fear prevents the kind of real collaboration that's required to make a great UI.

I've always felt a little uncomfortable using <ul> for a horizontal nav bar (although I'm aware that is a common usage). <ul> is a block level element and so is not semantically correct for a horizontal set of elements.

> <ul> is a block level element

This just happens to be the default style. At its core, <ul> is an unordered list. Whether you happen to arrange the items horizontally, vertically, or any other way, is just presentation. Which is precisely why CSS is separate from HTML.

> it just plain gets the job done

Depends on the job.

I'm tempted to reply that a brutalist website would be one that keeps decoration to a minimum, but.....that wouldn't fit, because (for example) the Geisel Library has plenty of decoration, it's just in concrete and glass.

Maybe a brutalist HTML page would have the tags embedded, kind of like the WordPerfect codes.

A bit like the Hotmetal editor from 90s? :-) http://literacy.kent.edu/Midwest/Graphics/hotmetal.jpg

I think that exposing and styling some of the hidden elements - <script> or <noscript> or <meta> or <link> or whatever - would also be in keeping with the ethos. Unless that's what you meant and I'm just repeating you, I'm not sure.

I'm not sure if I understand the categorization of it all, is it non modern web design, or no fluff?

Because you can't compare some to others:

https://context.co.de/ pretty nice, reminds you of man, nice and simple, one could even call it minimalist or whatever...

http://ethanbond.com/ not a bad idea for a simple resume page. it's clean cut.

http://drudgereport.com/ I will never go through that.

http://trendlist.org/ just looks like css is not loading.

http://laurelschwulst.com/ I want to tear my eyes out.

Its interesting to me that many of the people who are in the "who's who" of our space have a very bare-bones web presence.




It seems to me that web design trends tend to change faster than most people's patience for maintaining their personal site, so it makes sense that anyone with a sufficient amount of work to do who is not a web designer would choose a very simple "just get the info out there" design. Specifically these guys you posted have been in computing forever and are very, very busy.

Personally I can't justify more than updating bootstrap every six months or so. I'd rather spend that time on open source or with my family.

Those aren't the who's who of visual design though.

I particularly enjoy how going to http://javascript.crockford.com/ doesn't load any javascript.

Funny thing about Stallman's site is that I can't click "Fiction". Due to the italics change it moves around and disappears from under my cursor. You associate simple sites with usability, but in this case it's just as perilous as any other.

Tried this in 4 browsers (Chrome, Firefox, IE, Opera) and couldn't reproduce - the text does move a little if you hover which makes for a somewhat amusing shifting effect as you slide the cursor around in the box, but at no point does it move so far it "disappears from under my cursor", and I can still click the link.

I know the behaviour you're referring to as I've seen it before on other sites, but not this one.

I think it depends on the window's width. There's a sweet spot, right when "Non-Political Articles" (but not the | accompanying it) is aligned to the edge of the container box, where I can reproduce in Firefox the jumping behavior described by the GP.

You're right, but that hover is the one "designed" part of the page.

Indeed it's more like "it does not fit in the typical buckets so let me create a catch-all exception called brutalism".

http://craigslist.com/ is pretty straight up

The first two in your list are quite good. The rest is really just eccentric and unusable.

The Drudge report is used by several million people every day. It happens to be one of a handful of sites on the Internet my mother in law can actually parse and use reliably.

I aspire to make something as unusable as the Drudge Report someday.

Everything is right in front of you. Nothing hidden behind obscure icons, or lurking out of view waiting for a scroll or mouseover event. I have something very much like it as my browser home page -- a simple local HTML file, no CSS, with links to stuff I commonly use.

As a designer I think the design is really bad. It may work pretty well from a functional point of view, but the readability could be improved dramatically with just a few typographical adjustments. If you gave this page to a designer and said, change nothing but the font, font size, colour, padding, and margins you could keep the functionally the same but it make much more comfortable on the eyes and easier to decipher.

There's no reason browsers should have trouble rendering an unstyled page in a readable way. It's a pity they stopped working on it on the (unfortunately correct) assumption that most pages are written by control freaks who put huge efforts into one or two idiosyncratic visual presentations.

As much as I would like to see browsers having nicer default styles (and all browsers ignoring website CSS), it will never happen because too many websites will break as a result since many of them implicitly rely on certain defaults like black text on a white background, link colours and other stuff.

I feel like browsers could improve their defaults without breaking that: make the background slightly off-white, text slightly off-black, add some small margins at the edges. Or even just import the Bootstrap 2 stylesheet as a default.

Been there. In Konqueror (oh the olden days), the default colors came from the system color scheme. When I was using an inverted color scheme (White on Black), some websites were unreadable because they set the text color to something dark, but left the background color at the default (which was implied to be something light, but was actually dark blue for me).

Do note that Drudge Report is far from an unstyled page. I'd say the styling it does have is far worse than the default browser styling in terms of readability.

Firefox's "reader mode" works really well on most websites. I kind of wish it were possible to have it on by default.

> If you gave this page to a designer and said, change nothing but the font, font size, colour, padding, and margins you could keep the functionally the same but it make much more comfortable on the eyes and easier to decipher.

I guarantee you they would piss off more people than they would please, but nevertheless feel quite self-satisfied.

They'd piss off a vocal minority opposed to any change, while the vast majority would never consciously notice the improvement to their reading experience.

I noted below that it has an Alexa rank of 130. Pretty good for an "unusable" site. :-)

It still looks like something a college student in 1997 would have made as a deliberate parody of bad websites. Literally all the text on the front page is monospace and underlined. Why?

Virtually all of the text is underlined because virtually everything on that page is a link.

It dates from a time before it was considered "good design" and "usability" to hide the links from the readers.

If everything's a link, then you hardly need special notation to call out the links from the non-links. It's not a conscious effort to make links more identifiable; it just didn't occur to the creator that you can do something with links other than underline them.

That's what I was thinking. Not all the websites look "brutalist" to me, some are okay. But some websites are really brutal and a pain to look at, like this one: http://kioskkiosk.com/ This one is a joke.

Brutalism is not supposed to be painful or unpleasant, just brutally honest. Brutalist buildings look like giant blocks of raw concrete (béton brut), because that's exactly what they are and no effort is wasted on hiding that fact.

drudgereport.com seems hypocritical to me because they don't have many images for their own news stories, but make room for images that advertise other products. Advisments are counter-brutalism because they're very much frivolous and attention grabbing.

You can think of the ads as being like the exposed ducts and conduits of brutalist buildings. They power the site.

Architectural historian here. Exposed services (ducts etc.) are a characteristic of High Tech architecture, not brutalism.

Many non-specialists think brutalism is more broadly applicable term than it actually is...

Thanks for the clarification! My favorite example in this style is the Digital Computer Lab at the University of Illinois. Until now, I didn't have a word for it.


I really enjoyed the aesthetic effect of the exposed pipes and wire conduits.

Just showed some of these to a generally non-tech-savy friend who said he didn't like them because they looked "too 90s." Personally I love them because they load fast, are easy to read, and don't require a knowledge of a bunch of different frameworks to write.

I have been fighting for years to get people used to "90s aesthetics." Then again, I think (bitmap) aliased fonts, bitmap gif patterns, classic bitmap icons (susan kare, early KDE, IRIX, BeOS, Plan9, Mac OS 9, etc.), Netscape, CDE etc. were all incredibly beautiful. I have railed against complexity since as early as I can remember.

It's even more important for web design. Give me simple HTML with a touch of css, and javascript only if it's absolutely necessary. I can think of hardly any websites that I would consider "beautiful" these days for exactly this reason.



PS: I'm not sure I would classify these sites as brutalist; perhaps 'utilitarian' or 'functional' would be better descriptors.

If youth trends are any indication, the 90s are officially a "retro" aesthetic now for those of us that spend too much time on tumblr, 4chan, and all that. While it all isn't classified as "vaporwave", the entire 'windows 95'/purple-pink pastels/tron-grid/gifs is seeping into media. I can pull up some examples if anyone's interested.

A lot of websites we're making nowadays are HTML/CSS with a touch of javascript out of necessity since nobody wants to just use some wordpress template or have it look like every other AngularJS webapp. It might just be the particular sort of sites I stumble upon or my strict adblocking though.

But I'm not sure it could ever be fully 'mainstream' since there's enough people (particularly older) that need big buttons and familiar design to browse the web. But for smaller sites that cater to generally younger people, it could take this direction. Only time will tell!

PS: I agree that it really isn't brutalist, but there really should be a better word to describe this sort of aesthetic.

Oh, that idlewords.com talk is wonderful. And at just under a megabyte thin, a step in the right direction. ;)

... I began by replacing the image carousels with pictures of William Howard Taft, America's greatest president by volume.

You can make something that doesn't require tons of frameworks and loads fast while NOT looking like a relic of the days of Kazaa. The fact that so many developers are too lazy to do so does not mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater and go back to times new roman black-on-white.

As a "developer" of one aforementioned Times black on white sites, I think some people are trying to do this to push the whole spectrum a certain direction.

If you go on designernews you'll see small portfolio sites that require a motherfucking loading screen.

I made my little site (albeit not very portfolio oriented) because I could convey what I wanted to in that way, and I hope to encourage others to reassess what they're actually conveying and what they need to do so effectively. Usually not a loading screen.

I get the utilitarian site viewpoint, but I think there's a certain minimal level of design you can put in that requires very little code, and nothing beyond garden variety CSS. IMHO if you don't go to at least that point it's pure laziness and has nothing to do with what you're trying to convey, but I fully expect other people to disagree about that.

Lazy but also inexperienced. What percentage of developers can set up a site behind Nginx? What percentage behind varnish and Nginx etc. etc.

(I know Nginx can cache things, this is just an example)

No surprising, for the most part it is bad design, and have 0 thing to do with brutalism. And good design doesn't require any framework or even loading a third party font aside from the "websafe" ones.

Yeah but what design principles make the most money?

That depends on what year it is.

Amazon isn't going to win any design awards. Neither is ebay. Then there's the Google home page, which while not quite as free of "design" cruft as it once was, is still pretty minimalist.

All of those sites have been around forever (in Internet time), and they all rake in tons of money, despite their lack of (indeed, willful indifference to) trendy design esthetics.

Someone mentioned drudgereport.com above. That's just plain black text on a white background. It has an Alexa rank of 130.

They rake in tons of money because many users care a lot less about the look and feel than they do about the service/content they provide.

But many is not all. If they were designed to be beautiful as well as functional, they might well see a bump in transactions.

The reason they don't is either deliberate branding (Drudge, I'd guess) or incompetence (eBay), or because it's not obvious the bump in traffic would be worth the expense and time (Amazon.)

And also history. When you've been around as a brand for a decade or more, you don't need shiny.

But it's really not a good plan for a startup to have an ugly site now unless it's making some kind of ironic retro point about itself.

> If they were designed to be beautiful as well as > functional, they might well see a bump in transactions.

More people would visit, or people would just buy more when they were already visiting?

I find it amusing that some of the most popular sites are considered bad designs by people who think they have all the answers to web site design (at least, they're getting involved in this season's look), whereas the sites which apparently demonstrate good design are ugly, less pleasant to navigate, and harder to extract information from.

>If they were designed to be beautiful as well as functional, they might well see a bump in transactions.

They might also see a drop. Existing users might be confused or upset and leave. The site's performance may suffer. Blind people might hate it. Bugs might surface. Tools might fail.

"Brutalism can be seen as a reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of todays webdesign"

...except the links include FFFFOUND, Pokey the Penguin, Craigslist, and The Drudge Report - a website almost old enough that it could vote in an American election.

Exactly. Most of the websites look like they were designed in 90s, which would made them good for their time.

Some of these sites are so refreshing. I'm starting to get tired of seeing the same "minimalistic" landing pages for every website I go to. This reminds me of a time when the web was younger.

> I'm starting to get tired of seeing the same "minimalistic" landing pages

I can't take enough minimalism. I hate complex websites from 10 years ago. I do have a little problem with all the new sites that make you scroll down forever but I'll take that over a site with a hundred graphics on the front page.

I despise the trend for content minimalism. Where once there was a headline and sub, there's often now a cute little tile with picture and trimmed headline needing 20x the space to show the same number of stories. bbc.co.uk

Or homepages that tell you nothing at all https://www.optimizely.com

I don't want a wall of text, or the complex design and navigation of 10 years back, but I abhor the tendency to tell you next to nothing, but with bootstrap.

What's the pitch for brutalism? At least for buildings I've seen, they have all seemed to fail on a usability and aesthetic side.

Is there something appealing to building a dystopian building?

I'm in Boston, pretty much the epicenter. I can't think of many redeeming qualities.

My sense of the genre is that it was an attempt to copy Eastern Bloc architecture by architects who were warmly disposed to the Eastern Bloc, and had either disabused themselves or wanted to disabuse us of bourgeois notions of aesthetics and good taste.

IMO, although it has definitely improved over the last 40-50 years, architecture peaked aesthetically circa the turn of the 20th century (Art Nouveau[0], Gaudí).

[0] https://www.google.com/search?q=art+nouveau+architecture&tbm...

> I can't think of many redeeming qualities.

I find it clean, non-distracting, 'sterile'- I end up focusing more on the people around me than the buildings towering over me.

Our upside-down city hall and the plaza wasteland around it are described as brutalist, and yet I would not call City Hall "non-distracting" or the plaza "clean".

I think a lot of people ITT may be confusing Brutalism and modernist architecture in general. "Clean," "unobtrusive" and so on are not adjectives I'd use to describe it (Brutalist architecture).

15th century baroque is a good contender


And have you seen the late baroque of juvarra?


Now they dis loads of churches that has to follow a pattern for obvious reason, but their works on provate villas are truly amazing especially seen live.

Baroque is beautiful but high-maintenance. And I find it can be "noisy" - it's good for something that's supposed to be a focal point in its own right, but in e.g. a concert hall it can end up distracting from the "content".

Also Bostonian here. I think the other problem with Brutalism in urban contexts is that is very non-contextual and very imposing structurally. It really announces itself much to the detriment of everything around it.

On the other hand I find Brutalism architecture that sits in contrast to wide open fields or a hillside to work very well.

"The rebar can rust, and the rust can cause the concrete to fracture."

The rebar will only rust if the concrete PH is neutralized. (Cement is pretty strong base.) This neutralization happens when the concrete slowly reacts with oxygen. Typically reinforced concrete has safe lifespan of about 70 years, while unreinforced concrete only reaches its max strength around 90 years. Typically lifespan and hardening are both slowed down if the concrete is sealed from water. (By paint or preferably with some external cladding and some passive ventilation between cladding and concrete.)

Reinforced concrete is shit if you consider only strenght/weight. It's kinda OK if you take into account price. But if you need good fire safety, it's bloody brilliant stuff. So for big buildings, staircases, elevator shafts and underground spaces it's good choice.

Something I recently learned of is basalt fiber rebar. It won't rust, but I guess on a long enough time frame it will devitrify.


Thanks for the info, I learned something. The trick usually in reinforcing is that you need to find two materials that have relatively equal heat expansion coefficient, while the fiber needs to be lot stiffer than the matrix. Luckily concrete is quite "springy" compared to most metals and ceramics. In composite structures the ultimate strength of the fiber is often not the limiting factor. The limit is how large share of the load is carried by the reinforcement, which is proportionate to the ratio of Young's moduli of the matrix and the fiber (+ fiber length, average direction and volumetric proportion).

Steel has almost same expansion coefficient as concrete. Basalt is significantly lower. So it would probably best suit reinforcing in stable climates or used as relatively short fibers. You would not want hundreds of meters long basalt fiber rope to be pretensioned inside concrete bridge, as the rope might crumble the surrounding concrete at hot weather.

I still don't get it in terms of websites even though I get the concrete philosophy. What's linked in OP is a hodgepodge of random crap that doesn't feature concrete architecture's strengths in any consistent way.

OP link is not a coherent statement of anything.

Exactly and with more brevity.

It reflects the outsized influence Le Corbusier had in the architecture circle. Many people imitated him and built piles of concrete mostly for government and college projects.

I'll have to agree it's not a good fit. Seemly the only advantage brutalism has is ease of construction. Given that a site, just like a building, usability and aesthetics will pay off in the long run.

There was some discussion on this post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10317062

I liked some of those buildings, but I'm not sure why. Probably just the loneliness feeling.

Wanna analogy between brick & mortar and webdesign? Here's one:

In both there are ego-driven movements that result in useless, showoff designs. Wanna send a message, make a statement or make a mark? Go paint a picture and hang it in an art gallery.

But websites and buildings are something that real people actually use, so fuck off with your -isms. Make websites where content is readable and easy to navigate. Make buildings that are great to live and work in as opposed to those whose mockups look unique and stunning in "Architectural wankery monthly".

A couple of comments in response to other comments:

> I can't see a consistent trend here

My guess is that's because we're talking about a meta-aesthetic that borders on anti-aesthetic.

Particularly for the last 10 years, design on the web and in software in general has been especially trend driven and strongly aestheticized. And arguably in a way that moved outside of consciously or conscientiously chosen and well into either ostentatiousness or default.

When people become aware of a trend, they also become aware there's an area of creative opportunity that a lot of people aren't working in. The move from high-relief/"lickable"/skeuomorphic design to flat design is an example everyone here knows.

This might be a meta-trend away from strongly aestheticized. Whether or not you can actually have an anti-aesthetic is probably a good philosophical question, but I think as a practical concept.

> Just showed some of these to a generally non-tech-savy friend who said he didn't like them because they looked "too 90s." Personally I love them because they load fast, are easy to read, and don't require a knowledge of a bunch of different frameworks to write.

Like you, I like a lot of simple pages (sometimes I use Lynx for simplicity!).

But as you observed for in your friend, for a general audience, I do think an anti-aesthetic is likely to have an uphill battle; visual communications isn't a science but it's real, and some people make judgments on visuals (and almost everyone is influenced by them).

There's a somewhat-famous blog which fits quite well into this scheme (sorry, German language, but you won't miss out much, anyway ;-)):


Also, the HTML versions of RFCs seem to qualify, such as:


And of course the HTML versions of manpages are usually renedered in a minimalist style, too:


https://hastebin.com/ is serving the wrong certificate.

It's self-signed, as I recall.

The certificate is for heroku, IIRC. Even if were for the right CN and just self-signed, that'd still make it the wrong certificate.

Thanks. Careless of them :(

But still, it's easy to use. No cruft. No annoying CAPTCHAs and other BS when using via Tor. And I only share ASCII-armored encrypted/signed stuff, anyway. So HTTPS doesn't matter much for me.

Is there a better pastebin that you'd recommend?

Warren Buffett's holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, could go on this list. Berkshire's operating subsidiaries (Geico, Duracell, Heinz, etc) have fancy modern websites but the investment company's looks like it predates Geocities. IIRC this is because they don't want to spend money on an already functional website that isn't really selling anything.

Most of these websites have zero load time, compared to their fancy non-brutalist counterparts. I's say, let's have more brutalist websites.

I know it's because the fancier counterparts are JS-intensive, but it's still a question worth asking: "Why are we in the time where a nice website should take seconds to load?"

As an overt visual design paradigm, meh. But hallelujah to the idea of a page that just has content, without the trendily de rigeur fucktons of overblown css and pointless javascript that adds 0 and only serves to crash my crappy mobile browser.

Of course you can have rich and highly functional design, as well as very functional, minimalist barebone design.

It's always harder to come up with a design that's simultaneously pleasing and feels easy to use, but throwing design out of the window altogether is nothing but a copout. It's the easiest thing to do, but is it a solution, or just an attempt to make some sort of a point?

To me it's the equivalent of shaky camera and black-and-white filming: every film student's act of rebellion against James Cameron and the like ; )

http://vimbarcelona.org/ user group website, is so brutalist that it even uses a <blink> tag

shameless plug

Hacker news part of that list, really?

HN and reddit are two of the first things I thought of after I saw the first few examples.

If brutalism is favouring functionality over "design", then they are some of the most popular examples I know of.

I don't browse Reddit unless I was linked there, so I might not have seen all it has to offer, but my impression is that it's far more "fluffy" than HN.

Reddit's default theme is more or less as spartan as HN, it just uses more JS for interactivity. However, each sub can configure their own theme, which tends to lead to geocities syndrome.

(If you're registered, you can disable themes, presumably for that reason.)

'Younger generation'. Kids, I wish I could give you my backcopies of NTK. Brutalism is a fine, ancient tradition of web design. Welcome. :)

I can't see a consistent trend here. Whereas, I'm reminded of something else that seems similar but makes more sense. Here's a web and software example of that other philosophy.



I think I prefer brutalist architecture a lot more.

I am quite fond on this one in Sydney that was in the news recently: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sirius_building

If you don't give a shit about web design but want to portray information effectively, you can use `markdown index.md > index.html` to generate web pages like my personal website. It's not "brutalist" design but just neural in my opinion.

I tend to call this vanillahtml. I gathered a few on http://reddit.com/r/vanillahtml for the curious

I submitted mine


Somebody chuckled at me at a job interview when I showed this website :(

Please post more examples of oldschool, web 0.1 and other ugly websites, thank you!

Are there any (curated) online collections ( besides random searching on archive.org)?

Our site (fictivekin.com) made that list.

I think we'd describe it more as intentinonal retro-minimalism instead of brutalist, but that's just me.

Could I get https://blankslate.io on here? Is it brutalist enough?

It appears you need to switch the font to either Courier or Times New Roman before you could get on the list.

Hmmm... Not sure it's worth it

That looks pretty cool, little bug: modals are halfway off the screen to the left on mobile safari, also desktop key combinations are still being shown in the save flow!

Thanks! I'll take a peak

To publish as a blog, just as [have? use?] a #title at the top and then "publish" on the view-note screen

Good catch - sloppy proofreading by me. Thanks!

Always called sites like these "utralight" though no idea if that's a standard term.

I see that for web, as with architecture, "brutalist" is shorthand for "bad"

Saying "brutalism" is bad is being totally ignorant of the work of architects like Le Corbusier.


On the other hand, half of the links on that website are just bad design and have nothing to do with brutalism.

I mean, I think Le Corbusier's work is sort of awful :) I'm not an architect, just a casual fan of architecture. For my personal taste the whole brutalist movement was a long series of boring, intimidating, and repressive buildings that scar the primarily urban environments they were built in even to this day. Especially University Campuses where the style was so popular for so long (Christopher Alexander is a hero of mine).

Interestingly, OP's list of sites are largely ones I dislike as well.

This has little to do with architectural brutalism, which was a 1960-70s thing. Characteristics include concrete cast with rough forms, producing a rough surface, a lack of decoration, and fortress-like architecture. Examples include the Boston City Hall[1] and other monumental projects [2], plus a huge number of Soviet and Third World housing blocks built that way because it's cheap. Also most of the world's parking structures.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_City_Hall [2] http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/feb/13/jonathan...

The "interview" for the Drudge Report is hilarious.

Genius! They should add the RMS website.

As opposed to neo-classical websites?

Satan is my Lord!!!

    F  U  N

tired.com is my favourite of this kind



That's not "brutalism" as defined by industrial designers and architects ... yet another idiotic buzzword since "flat design" or "zero ui" don't sell anymore, yet another misused expression by web designers .... Seriously, who is making up that crap ?

Here I am in Birmingham, England. A city determined to blow up our wonderful brutalist buildings and replace it with ornamented crap.

Brutalism means letting a functional concrete building look concrete and functional -- revealing its function and materials in the design.

A brutalist web site should LOOK like a web site, and build its appearance around its function, not some fancy science-fi fantasy.

Here's some text. Here's an image. Here's a heading. Here's a link. They all do different things, they are all in different places.

By that reckoning a few of the examples are brutalist. Hacker News, craigslist, Daniel Eatock. They are not minimalist, because they do not hide their functional complexity. They reveal the functional complexity in their design.

These are popular, powerful, ugly sites and I'd love to see more of them.

Brutalist 'hood = junkie area.

This is a very bad comment for Hacker News. The maker of that website isn't a buzzword bullshitter. He's someone who became curious about a certain aspect of the web and made a site to express it. It's insightful and well-done, and you can agree or disagree with his view without being a jerk. A bullshitter wouldn't have patiently emailed the people managing all these websites to ask about the philosophy behind their design. In my interaction with him he was exquisitely well-mannered. You could learn from that.

More generally, please don't call names in HN arguments. You've been doing this quite a bit, unfortunately. The site guidelines ask you not to, so please (re-)read them: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

What we're going for instead is informative conversation: https://news.ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html. If you know more about the historical meaning of brutalism than the rest of us, the thing to do is teach us about it. Heaping condemnation on others' work teaches us nothing—besides which, your comment seems based on the false assumption that terms have no right to change meaning when they migrate from one context to another.

So please post civilly and substantively, or not at all. You needn't look any further for an example than drb311's splendid reply to you.

That's not brutalism: that's 1990s HTML-centric web design. One emulates a freaking man page.

What was wrong with the man page design? I loved it. Apart from the monospaced font, it is clean and easy to follow.

Nothing. I like man pages. But it's not some architectural movement.

The guy behind the man page page didn't make that claim.

And, and... are we not going to talk about how he chose the words so carefully that there is not a single hyphenated one, making every line the same length?

Am I missing some obvious shortcut to it or is this guy actually good?

This is a css property

text-alignment: justify

If you're talking about the one way up near the top of the page, the justification on that one is just impressively subtle. Try to follow columns of characters up and down the page.

The letters are not aligned, so no: he did not spend any time choosing the words. Just regular css trickery, no real man page kung-fu.

> One emulates a freaking man page.

It's far from the worst.

Their definition is copied straight out of the wikipedia article on brutalism. It's not a recent edit, it's been that way for at least a year.

Next year and we'll be back to "skeuomorphism" again anyways.

NO. Please just no.

I agree.

The next guy will call it "bauhaus".

The web won't be over until it becomes ironically post-modern.

People that want to stand out?

http://brutalistwebsites.com/news.ycombinator.com/ . . . not to mention in his own dialect of lisp — arc: http://www.paulgraham.com/arc.html

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