Our favorite web designs of the year so far

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A curated selection of web and digital designs that are redefining what the internet means today.

6 min read

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With 2020 firmly in the rearview mirror and the first half of 2021 coming to close, it’s clear that COVID has changed how the online world looks, feels, and acts. We’ve spent the last year and a half adapting to a new normal, and the design community hasn’t been immune from those changes. Even as we slowly welcome back the “real” world into our daily routines, the border between physical and digital spheres has been forever blurred.

In short, the way we view technology is evolving, and digital creators are stepping up to the challenge with new and exciting interpretations of the web. Below, we’ve handpicked some of our favorite website designs that tell the tale of this seismic shift in the making.

From Virgil Abloh’s desktop to emerging crypto art, here are some of the best stories and designs from around the web this year.

1. Public Domain by Virgil Abloh

Virgil Abloh’s “Public Domain” serves as a web archive for the designer’s groundbreaking sneaker collaborations with Nike, a relationship that started in 2017. The website’s design and navigation mimic what is ostensibly Abloh’s own computer running Apple’s vintage OS, where visitors can click through files, recorded Zoom meetings, and more.

Browsing the site has the intimate feeling of rummaging through a creator’s workspace. It offers inspirational resources and gives visitors the opportunity to explore what makes Virgil tick using multiple browser windows, folders, and popups, many of which play simultaneously.

As its title suggests, the site is part of Abloh’s mission to share his knowledge and experience publicly. Allowing full access to his Photoshop and Illustrator files, work process and more, “Public Domain” continues the designer’s efforts to mentor and empower his fans, primarily Black and POC creatives. “Putting our hard drive where our mouth is,” reads his Instagram post announcing the site this January. “Systemic shift into education might be a part of the trick we need for systemic change.”

A screenshot of the Public Domain website design by Virgil Abloh

2. Mars House by Krista Kim

Mars House by designer Krista Kim is the world’s first digital house NFT. (It recently sold for more than $500,000.) The sale indicates both a growing interest in crypto art as well as a shift towards collecting assets, accessories and even real estate that are entirely virtual.

The house is designed as a light sculpture and meant to be explored in 3D augmented reality as an immersive digital Zen garden. Its use of technology aspires to cultivate well-being and a meditative mental state, instead of encouraging distractions and addictive behavior.

Several screenshots of the Mars House NFT by Krista Kim

3. Neuralink Corporation by Play Studio

Co-founded by Elon Musk, Neuralink Corporation creates brain-implanted human-computer interfaces that are meant to help people with paralysis using neurotechnology. Graphic design agency Play Studio created the company’s visual language and website design to tell the story of a brand that’s rooted in science and uses advanced, cutting-edge technologies.

The Neuralink website doesn’t look like most high-tech brands of its ilk. Instead, it references traditional science textbooks using dynamic color gradients that add a contemporary flare. The use of color also makes for an intuitive navigation experience throughout the site, mixing muted, low-saturated color blocks together with splashes of bright gradients.

The Neuralink Corporation website design by Play Studio on tablet and mobile

4. Issued by Bottega by Bottega Veneta