Let’s look at NeuBrutalism

Where the tactile world meets the digital, there arises a fascinating friction. At this intersection, we find the book “Brutal North” by Simon Phipps—a photographic guide that provides a unique perspective into the Brutalist architectural movement of mid-century Britain—and the trend of NeuBrutalism in web design. Yes, I am reviewing a photographic, architectural field guide of Brutalist architecture from the point of view of a digital designer.

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The Essence of “Brutal North”

For those who haven’t skimmed through its pages, “Brutal North” is not your typical dense textbook. It’s more akin to a field guide, a pictorial Dérive through Brutalist architecture stretching between Sheffield and Carlisle. The book comprises of black and white photographs, each frame capturing the stark, bold, and often controversial edifices of this movement.

Brutalism, with its block-like structures, often shocks its viewer. The philosophy behind it, as evident in Phipps’ captures, veers away from the delicate and dances with the daring. While it might not incite everyone to journey through Northern England in its architectural pursuit, the book offers a taste of what that expedition might feel like—an afternoon escapade into the world of concrete and conviction.

NeuBrutalism: The Digital Evolution

Parallel to this is the trend of NeuBrutalism in web design—a trend that seems to borrow heavily from its architectural namesake. However, unlike the muted tones of “Brutal North,” NeuBrutalism in web design celebrates vivacious blocks of colour. Consider the design approach of websites like Gumroad: bold, block-like designs that emphasise usability over subtlety. The emphasis is on blocks—be it elements or colours. But while Brutalist architecture portrayed a certain starkness, often mirroring the grey of the concrete used, Neue-brutalism in web design diverges by incorporating pop sensibilities. It’s bright, vibrant, and undeniably modern.

Yet, it’s not merely about blocks or aesthetics. At its core, the connection lies in an underlying philosophy. Both architectural Brutalism and NeuBrutalism in web design resonate with a commitment to authenticity. While the former is expressed in the raw exposure of building materials, the latter reflects a rawness in user experience, focusing on functionality and genuine user engagement.

Historical Significance: A Bridge Across Time

Understanding the historical context behind Brutalism is essential when discussing its influence on contemporary design. The mid-century Brutalist movement was more than just an architectural style; it was a reaction—a defiant response to the prevailing design ethos of the time. The buildings, often criticised for their austere and “ugly” aesthetics, carried an air of rebellious authenticity. It’s no wonder that a digital design trend finds inspiration in this movement with it’s lack of finesse. By embracing a design language that prioritises function over form and raw experience over polished façade, NeuBrutalism in web design taps into a legacy of challenging the norm.

The Future of NeuBrutalism in Web Design

Given the evolving nature of web design, trends come and go. However, NeuBrutalism seems to have rooted itself for the long haul. It’s not just another transient trend but, I reckon, a genuine emphasis in design thinking—one that designs with “No Frills” for the user. By ensuring enhanced user experience, it underscores a focus on the essence of design over mere superficiality.

A Personal Dive

To juxtapose “Brutal North” with NeuBrutalism might seem like an odd endeavour at first. After all, one is a concrete manifestation, literally, and the other, a digital conception. Yet, there’s an undeniable charm in taking a break, pouring over Phipps’ field guide, and connecting the world of architectural wonder to that of the world wide web. And while one might not trek across Northern England in search of Brutalist marvels, the internet, with its vastness, brings the spirit of NeuBrutalism to the screen at the click of the mouse.

Conclusion

The book “Brutal North” by Simon Phipps is more than just a photographic exploration. It’s a window into a design philosophy that has transcended mediums. While the book offers a black and white sojourn into Brutalist architecture, the digital realm of NeuBrutalism presents a canvas of colour, yet both champion authenticity in design.

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