What to say of the page footer? For years, the footer has been a necessary but maligned feature of the contemporary website, a shapeless container for legalese, no more than a functional period at the end of a sentence—likelier to be hidden than celebrated. Eternally relegated to the bottom by definition, the footer was never particularly considered, let alone highlighted. And yet, a starring role has emerged for the internet’s greatest underdog. Meet The Big Footer™.
Images clockwise, courtesy: Aruliden for PetPlate; Concrete for Twice; Cory-OKeefe for Parallel. Image 4: an original concept by Wix designer Anita Goldstein.
Big Footers, and large text on the web in general, undoubtedly draw from conventions in the adjacent fields of print and editorial design. What is a big footer if not a kind of masthead? The Big Logo itself has deep roots in luxury fashion, with brands like Jil Sander, Miu Miu, and Kenzo embracing the minimalism of a large, lone logo locked to a baseline—and not much else—for many years on their packaging and, later on, in their digital applications. Like all trends, this one has trickled down from high-end to mass-market, now seen in wellness (Someone and Others for Starface), tech (Cory-OKeefe’s Parallel) and large CPG brands (Concrete for Twice) alike. But despite its growing use, it still brings some of that same luxury confidence and pomp, as well as capital-B “Brand Recognition”, to any space it occupies.
But why now? Much has been written about the wave of sans-serif rebrands that dominated the past fifteen years of identity design, but a more infrequently discussed factor is the way in which the growing reliance on digital platforms shifted the requirements of a corporate brand identity.
As the site of consumer engagement transitioned from print to web in the mid- to late-2000s, many brands found themselves with identity systems that were unequipped for the technical constraints of the web at the time, which lacked broad device compatibility, support for responsive design, or opportunities for nuanced customization. Companies with more visually dense or decorative logos like Yves Saint Laurent and Spotify were saddled with brand elements that rendered poorly at small sizes, especially on early mobile devices. Alongside a broad industry taste shift away from 90s and Y2K maximalism towards more modernist aesthetics, the move towards minimal sans serifs was also practical one at heart—removing charm in favor of readability and clearer resolution.
Image 1 courtesy Élise Rigollet for Herbar. Image 2 courtesy Victor Work for Sol’ace.
Back in the present day, we’ve returned to these older, more over-the-top aesthetics, as well as to the logos that accompany them. Y2K is in the zeitgeist, and we’re seeing a rise in quirkier logotypes inspired by every era, from bulbous bubble letters to delicate scripts. It’s no surprise that we’re craving new places to put these logos where their smallest details can be best appreciated. Élise Rigollet, who used a big footer in the website design for mycology-based skincare brand Herbar, echoes this sentiment. “I chose to feature the logo at this size purely because so much work went into it,” she explains. “I drew it, then had typographer Manuel Marsoudet perfect it. Using it at this scale allows the details and beautiful curves to really shine, especially since it is used at smaller sizes on other mediums.”
Of course, taste cycles aside, improved technologies play as much of a role in the return of oddball logos (and the corresponding Big Footer) as early technologies did in their initial demise. Advances in hardware, like the introduction of Retina screens, support the use of more complex logos on the web, even those that feature high contrast and thin hairlines. (If you can watch HBO Max on your 5-inch iPhone, you can read a Spencerian script online.) Faster internet speeds also allow for the use of more data-heavy content without the burden of waiting for it to load. Lastly, as Mike Wagz, co-founder and partner at Self Aware Studio (itself a proponent of The Big Footer in their work for Clubhouse and Middle Child) points out, increasingly broad browser support for CSS grid layout (over 96% support globally, according to caniuse.com) makes these more editorially-driven layouts easier to build than ever.
Image 1 courtesy Self Aware Studio for Clubhouse. Image 2 courtesy A.A. Trabucco-Campos + Matteo Bologna for Glyphs.
If it seems counterintuitive that the trend towards large logos on the web would occur predominantly in the footer, an area usually ignored, that’s because it is. But for some reason, there’s something about the Big Footer that seems hard for designers to shake. Perhaps it's the increased use of mobile devices for web browsing; on a phone, where menus are condensed into hamburgers and information competes for space, a big header is harder to fit in than a big footer.
In another way, the Big Footer mitigates the effect of the ubiquitous endless scroll by confidently marking the “end” of the site. Internet-wide, a shift towards stylized footers may also encourage more viewers to scroll to the bottom of any given website they encounter, consuming more content on the way—the Footer is just the Easter-egg you get for your finger workout. Consumer familiarity with commercial branding and web as a platform also allow for more experimentation with both; designers no longer need to show a brand’s primary logo immediately on landing to create brand recognition, and can instead rely on a secondary mark or typed out brand name in the header—leaving the big logo reveal for the footer.
Even more simply, perhaps it’s the enjoyable wrongness (the eternal reason for so much newness in visual culture) of bringing attention to a space so frequently overlooked. “It’s almost never functionally ok to make type this big, so doing so feels really good somewhere,” says Andrea Trabucco-Campos, creative director at GretelNYC and designer of two Big Footer sites for A2A and Glyphs. At the very least, it certainly gets more people to sign up for the newsletter. As they say: go big or go home.