The rise of anti design

A corner of the design world is retaliating against minimalism with an eccentric visual language evoking the early days of the internet. We talk to creative technologist Rifke Sadleir and design duo TeYosh about challenging tastes and throwing out the rulebook

“I love it when someone’s like, ‘so yeah we want the whole thing to look kind of weird and horrible’,” says Rifke Sadleir, a designer, developer and one half of digital studio DXR. Sadleir has a soft spot for designs and experiences that appear and behave unusually, and challenge some of contemporary design’s typical best practices.

One of Sadleir’s earliest forays into irreverent website design was a collaborative project with a friend who runs an online magazine called Bog. She was asked to make a website for the magazine and given “old ugly design” references circa web 1.0. Little by little more requests started coming her way for retro interfaces. “I suppose more and more people just see you putting out a particular kind of work. They’re like, oh you’re the one who does the old janky looking stuff!”

Colours might be clashing or missing altogether as though the CSS didn’t quite load, playful motion design makes elements animate unexpectedly across the screen, and some websites serve no other function other than to have a bit of fun. It all harks back to the early days of the internet, which by today’s standards was the wild west of digital design.

As with most aesthetics and movements that loop back around, nostalgia has a part to play. “I guess a lot of the stuff my design is informed by is the earlier stuff I can remember on the computer and the internet, and trying to recapture some of that,” Sadleir says. “I suppose most of the ‘bad taste’ stuff is pure nostalgia, but also, now we’ve enough distance from it, it’s really funny.”