For a designer, “ugliness” hasn’t historically been something to strive for. Beauty has largely been a no-brainer when it comes to what’s desirable, or what constitutes “good” design.
Yet, culturally, we’re becoming increasingly fatigued by perfection. After years of brands behaving in similarly simple, orderly ways, we’re yearning for expressions that are less hygienic and altogether more human. When designers do away with old-fashioned principles that align “good” with “beautiful,” they have the freedom to make work that’s infinitely more creative. And in doing so, it’s more interesting—and more inclusive.
Design that destabilizes inherited “rules” around ugly and beautiful rewrites what’s seen as acceptable. It progresses visual culture by celebrating playfulness and forging intimacy by underscoring the limitations (and untruths) of perfection. It subtly helps everyone from brands to designers to consumers communicate more honestly.
An example of ugly design that I love is brutalism. I jokingly call brutalist buildings “arresting developments” because they are so stark, often cold, grey, and… brutal. Concepts like brutalism and dadaism follow Andrea’s idea of destabilization and serve as visual communication. That’s not to say I dislike modernism or minimalism (spoiler alert: I love them), and don’t think they have their place in design history and the present, but the world and its cultures would be a boring place if they were all we had. Embrace the ugly!
More on ‘ugly’ design: The surreal animations of Wong Ping, Boston’s brutalism, and Observe The Rugged Side Of The Internet With “Brutalist Websites”