Brutalism in design

After having worked on hundreds of corporate brands and websites, we began to feel accustomed to doing what is right, and what is easiest to get the job done efficiently within a budget and without looking horrible. Oh look! Another accountants branding to do.  Make it blue and grey (or go crazy and make it silver!), with a nice ledgible font. Let’s organise some nice portrait photos of the staff in their suit and ties. Let’s make sure their tagline is plastered all over the place. Let’s have a services page on their website with a bunch of non-inspiring text that sounds more like a dictionary definition.  The result being a nice, proper brand for Accountants, just as you would expect.

When we started Yada, we didn’t initially have a clear idea about what sort of branding to do for our own identity. We have plenty of sources for inspiration including past experiences, design books and magazines from around the world, the internet, creative thinking etc. We started a Pintrest board and captured examples of stuff we liked and a pattern began to emerge. Most of the stuff was weird, and most of the design could only be described as ‘shit’. Perhaps the attraction was that they stood out in a sea of other ‘well polished’ and ‘proper’ websites. Is it actually ‘shit’ if it stands out and evokes some sort of emotional response?

After further exploration, we found that this style had a name.  Brutalism is a term that has been used to describe a style of architecture which emerged in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Brutalism’s bold, different and weird designs contrast with the more ornate and ‘fancy’ features that you would usually expect, polarising architects and the public. That said, many brutalist buildings have become architectural and cultural icons.

Here is an example of Brutalism in Architecture: Nakagin Capsule Tower, Kisho Kurokawa, Tokyo

So it turns out that this Brutaslim term also applies to the Graphic Design world. Awesome. After working in the industry for over a decade and never having heard of it, it’s sort of exciting to explore.

So from that our current brand flourished, throwing convention out the window and not being restricted by those ‘design morals’ that have been instilled into us while studying and while working on various commercial projects. Let’s have 5 different fonts on the same page. Let’s put conflicting colours together. Let’s have an animation of a dog drinking a cup of coffee, and then turning into a robot.  Let’s have an oven mitt floating around the website.  These are all batshit crazy things that we’ve thrown into the brand, and it’s allowed it to stand out. Yes it will probably polarise critics but for our own brand, we are happy to have the freedom to experiment and express ourselves visually without having to do the right thing.  Fuck the grid. Fuck trying to make everything line up right.

Okay so we’re not that brutal, we still are Graphic Designers and respect that our clients need to appeal to certain demographics and we’ll certainly cater to them.  We hope that we’ll refine our brutalist techniques over time and hopefully we’ll at least make our audience stop to look, maybe laugh and explore our content. If we’ve done that then we’ve achieved our goal.