What Is The New Trend, Neubrutalism?

I’ve really started exploring Neubrutalism. Since discovering it, I have seen several articles exploring what it is and examples of it in use with varying degrees of success. It is worth exploring this style in more depth because it offers a twist on the dominant “modern minimalist” design style. It can also be fun and seems more than a passing fad.

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Why do we need something different?

I recently reviewed several examples of popular web apps for research purposes, and after reviewing quite a good number of them, I came to a stark realisation.

If it were not for the logo in the side navigation bar, I would have no idea which app I am looking at. Unfortunately, they seem to have homogenised.

Sure they might offer different features, but even then, I struggled to remember which part I saw in which app. The UI for all the apps is strikingly similar, and if you look at them for long enough as I did, there is nothing to differentiate from one to the next aside from the logo in the side navigation bar and the forgettable colour scheme.

While a familiar UI is a good thing for users because, amongst other reasons, it feels comfortable, and they can jump into the application without a learning curve. However, it is a bit like walking downtown in a large city and all the buildings looking the same in their modernist style. The only way to know where you are and find what you’re looking for is through signage, i.e. street names and signs on buildings.

What is Neubrutalism?

Neubrutalism can be easily identified by a few particular traits.

Immediately noticeable are the solid clashing colours, and large bold text in quirky fonts tells you where you are and what you can do there. Chances are there are strange animations and illustrations. The objects will have black strokes around them and solid dark shadows without blur. There is lots of spacing around everything.

When done wrong, it is limiting, inelegant and cartoonish. When done right, it is striking, highly eligible and fun.

Where does Neobrutalism come from?

Taking a step back, ‘brutalism’ comes from architecture. For every popular movement in the world of art and architecture, there was a counter-movement which rebelled against it. After a period of neoclassicism, Art Nouveau, which took inspiration from nature and was characterised by organic forms, broke away from classical and hierarchical structures. Art Deco followed Art Nouveau, instead drawing inspiration from the machine and focusing on abstracted, streamlined shapes and forms. After modernism, there was postmodernism which played with abstract elements from classical architecture, breaking away from the rigid rules set by modernists. You get the idea.

Brutalism in architecture emerged during the modernist period and is characterised by simple shapes in rough, unfinished concrete, rejecting all forms of decoration and luxury. It is considered a branch of the modernist style. I love it – it really is a guilty pleasure.

What does this have to do with UI design? Brutalism in web design has existed for some time, and now Neubrutalism has crept in as the more modern rebellious child of the modern minimalist style, which currently dominates web design.

Brutalism and Neubrutalism — what’s the difference?

If you compare them side-by-side, both styles have the same ideas to be bold, clashing, and edgy; brutalism outright rejects any elements of conventional design, resulting in some shocking designs that you won’t forget soon.

Neubrutalism, on the other hand, is more structured, with clashing colour schemes, and incorporates animations and illustrations; it doesn’t completely turn away from minimalism and flat design, but it does bend the rules a bit. As a result, brutalism appears chaotic, while Neubrutalism utilises structure and space around elements to maximise readability.

Here are some good examples of Neubrutalism:

1. Castor and Pollux


This is an engaging and elegant example of Neubrutalism. Colours pop out and micro-interactions take place as you hover over elements. It strikes a good balance between being structured yet fun and interactive. It makes me want to explore the website and spend more time on it so this will help with the Google Useful Content update.

2. Gumroad


If you already know about Neubrutalism then you will have seen the Gumroad website. It is the most commonly associated website with this design style of Neubrutalism. Quirky illustrations and animations make this a fun and memorable design, and again it makes me want to know more and spend more time here.

3. Pizza Pizza


A simplified approach, perhaps not great for a11y with the black text on the red background could make it difficult for people with visual difficulties. However, it is a deliberate choice and there is something captivating in the simplicity here.

4. Maze Disco Conference


This is a playful design, appearing cartoonish. Yet despite being playful it is still very readable, thereby delivering the information about the conference loud and clear. It also sticks in my mind, meaning I won’t forget what it is about.

5. Medium


This webpage design from Medium also has elements of Neubrutalism — the large text, lots of spacing around the elements, the colour choices and the composition of the page are all nods towards the design style.

Summing Up

We all know that trends come and go. In the past few years, we’ve seen some visual design trends make waves on Dribbble and disappear into the void (Neumorphism, anyone?).

So is Neubrutalism something that will stick around? It’s not a replacement for modern minimalism and Material Design because it is inappropriate for every use case. Moreover, not all user interfaces look to stand out visually. However, it does have some pros, as was hopefully evident in the examples above, such as maximum visibility and contrast, which are suitable for legibility and accessibility. It’s also fun to look at. User interfaces are unlike buildings, which tend to be more permanent and not easily changed once built. Architecture students are encouraged not to think in terms of trends or styles but rather to focus on designing buildings that would stand the test of time — timeless buildings which won’t become outdated and need to be refurbished as soon as the latest trend moves on.

On the other hand, changing the design of a user interface can be done quickly and with much less effort than a building. It’s easier to try things and change them when they no longer serve the users as well as they should. That’s why despite my hesitation to focus on the latest trends, I am here for Neubrutalism and excited to explore more of it. I hope that it sticks around for a bit longer.

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Andrew Backhouse, a skilled independent designer based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, assists small and medium-sized enterprises, well-established brands, and dedicated creative professionals with their website design needs. Have a look at his portfolio and reach out for collaboration.

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