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Inspiring Brand Strategy by Polleni: The Brutal-List

Bristol-based digital agency Polleni designed the brand identity and mobile App for The Brutal-List as part of a studio project exploring wider interests around the UX of ‘like’ buttons, the psychology of reward behaviour and how collective actions online can be used as a force for good.

The App was designed to celebrate and raise awareness of endangered, listed and locally recognised buildings in the Brutalist style.

Users can search for buildings via a list or a map-view based on their location. They could then ‘like’ to ‘save’ them from being demolished.

The Brutal-List App has functionality. Users can share their experience on social media to raise awareness of the buildings, and get rewards when they are saved.

The App also auto-generates walking tours based on a user’s current position. It uses the phone’s camera to recognise buildings and provide information on status, listed building category, history and construction. The map also shows new buildings people have added, so the App is a constantly evolving resource.

The Brutal-List also has a social conscience. At its heart is the belief that old buildings should have a future, and have still something very relevant to teach us about the past.


Polleni wanted the App to be a force for social change – something all members of the community could get behind, but they didn’t want it to take itself too seriously either.

Brutalism is the Marmite of the architecture world – dividing those who see these exposed concrete structures of the 1950s either as bleak, post-war monsters or architectural icons. The team at Polleni were aware that although some might love to see these buildings saved, others could quite easily want the opposite…

Levity was introduced in copy and styling of ‘save’ buttons – designed specifically to be emotive and playful. Combined with the research they gathered around the power, psychology and UX of the ‘save’ or ‘like’ button – Polleni styled the ‘save’ button to change shape (from square to round) when clicked, into something that gave the ‘saver’ a warmer feeling, or glow.

As an agency, they were interested in the psychology of the ‘like’ tool on social media. Facebook introduced the ‘like’ button in 2009, and YouTube and Instagram followed in 2010. These companies have found a winning formula that has allowed them to manipulate our subconscious reward impulses with disturbing results.

Sean Parker, the former Facebook president who joined Mark Zuckerberg’s company in its first months, admits (in an interview with The Telegraph) that the company’s founders intentionally built the Tool to drive as much human attention as possible.

Polleni wanted to see whether those drives could be harnessed – through UX and button design – instead as a force for social change. Could design instead be used as a Tool to cherish forgotten relics of the past and foster community action?


The digital agency chose Druk for The Brutal-List logotype which is a sans-serif typeface family designed by Berton Hasebe and published through Commercial Type in 2014.

Described as a “study in extremes”, Druk was designed without a normal width and nothing lighter than a medium weight – meaning it was created to be either heavy and condensed, or heavy and wide. Polleni team felt this was perfect for the dense, architectural feel wanted for the App.

Euclid Square was chosen for body copy – as they found it to be a friendly yet precise typeface which matched the robustness of the Brutalist style.

About Polleni

Polleni is a branding design agency in Bristol and Lisbon with a unique combination of expertise and experience.

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