About The Author

Sven is the co-founder and former CEO of Smashing Magazine. He write at his Conterest Blog, where he focuses on blogs, content strategy, writing and publishing … More about Sven Lennartz

The Secrets Of Grunge Design

        Shiny and glossy design elements are now officially outdated. Just like retro is becoming trendy again, grungy look appears to rapidly gain on popularity. And there is a damn good reason behind it. In our everyday environment we’re unlikely to find ideal geometric forms or pretty shadow effects as they are manifested by glorious Web 2.0-designs. The reality is different, and Web is definitely not an exception here.

        Shiny and glossy design elements are now officially outdated. Just like retro is becoming trendy again, grungy look appears to rapidly gain on popularity. And there is a damn good reason behind it. In our everyday environment we’re unlikely to find ideal geometric forms or pretty shadow effects as they are manifested by glorious Web 2.0-designs. The reality is different, and Web is definitely not an exception here.

        Therefore designers often tend to explore the less ideal and more realistic design solutions which reflect the world we’re living in more accurately and precisely. Result: such elements give the design a more realistic, genuine look, a look one would actually expect in real life.

        In such grunge designs dirty stains, torn images, “broken” icons and creased pieces of paper are as popular as hand-drawn elements and dirty textures. The main purpose of hand-drawn elements lies in their ability to convey a personality and an individual note. And dirty textures are often used as background images for navigation menus, photos and overall layouts. Usually these elements are regular objects from our daily life, replicated in their real form without any glossy effects.

        You might be interested in the following related posts:

        Grunge Style ≠ Dirty Look

        Few weeks ago we’ve already provided you with grungy fonts, textures, icons and brushes. Since most designers were confused about the purpose of these “dirty”, “graffiti-like”, “urban” elements, it’s important to understand that grunge designs don’t necessarily have a dirty look.

        In fact, grungy layouts don’t necessarily consist only of grungy design elements. The latter can as well support the design, giving it a more realistic look without making it look overcrowded or dirty. Take a look at Bart-Jan Verhoef’s late blog presented below. Although the design has a number of irregular elements such hand-drawn doodles and dirty background image, it doesn’t feel dirty at all — in fact, the design is rather subtle, clean, elegant and in any case unique.

        Screenshot
        Although the design has a number of irregular elements such hand-drawn doodles and dirty background image, it doesn’t feel dirty.

        Sometimes it’s enough to add just few irregular (or dirty) elements to achieve a more realistic look. In online-shops and corporate projects it simply doesn’t work otherwise. In such cases small details influence the mood and define the perception of the users. Sometimes it’s enough to simply replace the background image of the layout with a dirty texture. This is exactly what Jeremy Zevin has done. Without a dirty texture his weblog would have a typical Web 2.0-design.

        Screenshot
        Without a dirty texture used as a background image this weblog would have a typical Web 2.0-design.

        Grunge Color Palette

        In most cases grunge designs use subdued, dirty and dull colors. Brown, beige, grey and black are dominating colors. Vibrant shades of vivid colors are being replaced with more natural and subtle colors. The color palette below presents colors which are often used when it comes to grunge designs. The colors have been extracted from the screenshots listed below.

        Grunge Colors

        For instance, Satsu uses rather subtle colors; the design, however, doesn’t look boring. Hand-drawn elements support the overall design and give it an artistic touch.

        Screenshot

        However, grunge designs can as well contain more vivid colors; however, in order to fit to the design, they are less striking and more realistic. Dark shades of green, blue and read are usual. Shop Moss and David Hellmann’s blog are examples of a vivid grunge design.

        Screenshot

        Screenshot

        Dirty textures and background images are almost essential in every grunge design.

        Screenshot

        irregular lines and frames

        Screenshot

        yellowed scotch tape

        Screenshot

        paper- and photo clips, needles and various pins

        Screenshot

        coffee rings, spilled out liquids and dirty stains

        Screenshot

        torn paper and dirty edges

        Screenshot

        dog-ears

        Screenshot

        hand-written elements

        Screenshot

        …and EXP.TYPO is rather a collage than web design.

        Screenshot

        red9ine

        Screenshot

        Mindtwitch

        Screenshot

        Pain is Good - don’t take it seriously, please.

        Screenshot

        Webdesigner Ro

        Screenshot

        Burn the Fields - for music-related web-sites grunge look fits almost perfectly.

        Screenshot

        Team Green

        Screenshot

        Scouting for Girls

        Screenshot

        Adventure Trekking

        Screenshot

        dtamas

        Screenshot

        grantmx/designs

        Screenshot

        Shaker Designs

        Screenshot

        Lake Crackenback

        Screenshot

        Moustache Me

        Screenshot

        Lataka

        Screenshot

        Design Sponge

        Extreme-Designer Thomas Schostok from Germany

        Screenshot

        Darklight

        Screenshot

        nYq

        Screenshot

        CSS Addict

        Screenshot

        Trozo Gallery

        Screenshot

        Liquidesign

        Screenshot

        loworks. Flash in use.

        Screenshot

        Dot Comedy

        Screenshot

        CSS Rockstars

        Screenshot

        a j miles

        Screenshot