Are You Afraid of the Darkness? Gothic Web Design Style

Speaking about Gothic design style we immediately recall the oppressive beauty of Bram Stoker’s Dracula castle. Have you seen the Dracula’s castle in Transylvania? Do you know that the word “Goth” was the synonym of “vandal” in 17th century? Do you know what characterizes a present Gothic culture and how is it reflected in web design?

Read this article and get to know how Bram Stoker described dreary Dracula’s castle, know more about Gothic style in the period of its flourishing, about modern Goth subculture and the devil’s dozen of Gothic web design principles. We hope you are not afraid of the darkness and wish you nice nightmares.

Let us quote some of the blood freezing lines from Jonathan Harker’s journal.

“I must have been asleep, for certainly if I had been fully awake I must have noticed the approach of such a remarkable place. In the gloom the courtyard looked of considerable size, and as several dark ways led from it under great round arches… Of bell or knocker there was no sign. Through these frowning walls and dark window openings it was not likely that my voice could penetrate. I heard a heavy step approaching behind the great door, and saw through the chinks the gleam of a coming light. Then there was the sound of rattling chains and the clanking of massive bolts drawn back. A key was turned with the loud grating noise of long disuse, and the great door swung back…

He insisted on carrying my traps along the passage, and then up a great winding stair, and along another great passage, on whose stone floor our steps rang heavily. At the end of this he threw open a heavy door and I rejoiced to see within a well-lit room in which a table was spread for supper, and on whose mighty hearth a great fire of logs, freshly replenished, flamed and flared…

There are certainly odd deficiencies in the house, considering the extraordinary evidences of wealth which are round me. The table service is of gold, and so beautifully wrought that it must be of immense value. The curtains and upholstery of the chairs and sofas and the hangings of my bed are of the costliest and most beautiful fabrics, and must have been of fabulous value when they were made, for they are centuries old, though in excellent order. I saw something like them in Hampton Court, but they were worn and frayed and moth-eaten. But still in none of the rooms is there a mirror. There is not even a toilet glass on my table, and I had to get the little shaving glass from my bag before I could either shave or brush my hair…

After breakfast I did a little exploring in the castle. I went out on the stairs, and found a room looking towards the South…

The view was magnificent, and from where I stood there was every opportunity of seeing it. The castle is on the very edge of a terrific precipice. A stone falling from the window would fall a thousand feet without touching anything! As far as the eye can reach is a sea of green tree tops, with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm. Here and there are silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests…

But I am not in heart to describe beauty, for when I had seen the view I explored further. Doors, doors, doors everywhere, and all locked and bolted. In no place save from the windows in the castle walls is there an available exit. The castle is a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner!..”

After such scaring introduction we couldn’t help denied ourselves the pleasure of showing you the notorious castle. So, here it is, in all the somber glory of the medieval grandeur.

Dracula’s castle

A Brief Overview of Gothic Style

Gothic style is mainly observed in architecture. It has flourished during the high and late medieval period. The style evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture.

Gothic style has originated in 12th-century in France and lasted until the 16th century. During the period, Gothic architecture was known as the French work. The term Gothic firstly appeared at the latter part of the Renaissance. Its characteristics included pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses.

We are familiar with Gothic architecture mostly due to many of the great cathedrals, abbeys and churches of Europe. The style was also used at construction of multiple castles, palaces, town halls, guild halls, universities and private dwellings.

Gothic style in its utmost power can be observed in the great churches and cathedrals as well as a number of civic buildings. Gothic buildings are able to stir a wide range of emotions from faith to civic pride. A great number of ecclesiastical buildings remained from this period. Even the smallest of them are often called structures of architectural distinction while many of the larger churches are considered priceless works of art and are listed with UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. For this reason a study of Gothic style inevitably leads to study of cathedrals and churches architecture.

A series of Gothic revivals started in mid-18th-century England, spread through 19th-century Europe and continued, largely for ecclesiastical and university structures, into the 20th century.

It may sound strange, but the term “Gothic architecture” originated as a pejorative description. It’s hard to believe, but Giorgio Vasari used the term “barbarous German style” in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects to describe the Gothic style. In the introduction to the Lives he attributes various architectural features to “the Goths” whom he accuses in destroying the ancient buildings after they conquered Rome, and erecting new ones in this style. At the time of Vasari, Italy had experienced a century of building in the Classical architectural vocabulary revived in the Renaissance and seen as evidence of a new Golden Age of learning and refinement.

Then, the Renaissance had overtaken Europe. It overturned a system of culture that, prior to the advent of printing, was almost entirely focused on the Church and perceived as a period of ignorance and superstition. Therefore, in 16th century, François Rabelais imagined an inscription over the door of his utopian Abbey of Thélème, “Here enter no hypocrites, bigots…” slipping in a slighting reference to “Gotz” and “Ostrogotz.”

In English language of 17th-century, the word “Goth” was an equivalent of “vandal”, a savage despoiler with a Germanic heritage. The same meaning was applied to the architectural styles of northern Europe from before the revival of classical types of architecture.

Here is quote of the 19th-century correspondent in the London Journal Notes and Queries:

There can be no doubt that the term ‘Gothic’ as applied to pointed styles of ecclesiastical architecture was used at first contemptuously, and in derision, by those who were ambitious to imitate and revive the Grecian orders of architecture, after the revival of classical literature. Authorities such as Christopher Wren lent their aid in deprecating the old medieval style, which they termed Gothic, as synonymous with everything that was barbarous and rude.

There was a meeting of the Académie d’Architecture in Paris on 21 July 1710. Among the subjects they discussed, the assembled company noted the new fashions of bowed and cusped arches on chimneypieces being employed to finish the top of their openings. The Company disapproved several of these new manners, which seemed to them defective and belonging for the most part to the Gothic.

Gothic Aesthetics, Subculture and its Reflection in Web Design

We hope nobody of our readers view Gothic architecture as something unsightly, coarse or uncivilized nowadays. On the contrary, we admire its magnificence and the feeling of self-negligibility it can suggest us.

As to web design, it’s like a mirror reflecting all processes that take place in the society. Of course, a Goth subculture couldn’t help influenced it. The Goth subculture is a contemporary subculture that can be found in many countries. It originated in England during the early 1980s in the Gothic rock scene, an offshoot of the post-punk genre. The Goth subculture has survived much longer than others of the same era, and has continued to diversify. Its imagery and cultural proclivities indicate influences from the 19th century Gothic literature in combination with horror movies. The Goth subculture has associated tastes in music, aesthetics, and fashion. The music of the Goth subculture encompasses a number of different styles, including Gothic rock, deathrock, post-punk, darkwave, ethereal, dark ambient, industrial music, and neoclassical. Apparel styles within the subculture range from deathrock, punk, and Victorian styles, or combinations of the above. Most often they are combined with dark attire, makeup, and hair.

On the bases of everything mentioned above, let’s state some main general principles of Gothic web design style:

  1. Mostly dark colors (all shades of black, brown, red, night-blue…)
  2. Skeuomorphic elements present in the layout.
  3. Vintage feel.
  4. Grunge textures.
  5. Old-school fonts.
  6. Scary atmosphere.
  7. Solid golden and silver frames.
  8. Rock symbolic like skulls with roses in the imagery.
  9. The combination of gorgeous and disgusting elements.
  10. Blood, fool moon, monsters, cemetery, ravens and vampires in the environments.
  11. Straight lines.
  12. Sharp corners.
  13. Bizarre decorative elements.

Hmm… 13 hallmarks of Gothic design style. It seems to us that the number is necromantic and it’s time to stop. Now you are welcome to view our collection of gothic website designs if you are not afraid of the darkness, of course…

Advertising Age

Gothic Web Design - Advertising Age

A strange choice for an advertising agency, isn’t it? But how charming the design is…


Gothic Web Design - Olly

Great website for video games. Vintage and modern at the same time, an interesting combination.

Black Dog

Gothic Web Design - Black Dog

The logo is very ominous, just like the rest of the layout.

Under the Psycamore

Gothic Web Design - Under the Psycamore

Darkness, straight lines, sharp edges, mysterious spirit, thin fonts are mixed with vintage ones and this obscure creature image right in the center of the page… There is definitely something in this website.

Mister Vu

Gothic Web Design - Mister Vu

If the goal of Mr. Vu was to obscure our minds, he perfectly coped with the task.

Immortal Night

Gothic Web Design - Immortal Night

Blood, vampires, werewolves, full moon… Best Gothic traditions.

Gothic Web Design -

Vampire sites can be so different, in the interpretation of this author the website is rather contemporary than vintage.

Reign of Blood

Gothic Web Design - Reign of Blood

Do you like vampire games? As to the design of this one, the textures and main menu are not bad.


Gothic Web Design - Darkness

Fonts, ravens and monsters’ mugs are simply incredible here.

Mythic Reign

Gothic Web Design - Mythic Reign

The background is really fantastic here. You nearly feel the chill on your skin.

The Dark Store

Gothic Web Design - The Dark Store

A great example of Gothic aesthetics, isn’t it?

The Haunted Jewish Winebox

Gothic Web Design - The Haunted Jewish Winebox

The house is probably much older than this grey-haired lady.

The Moonlit Road

Gothic Web Design - The Moonlit Road

Would you like to listen to strange tales of the American South? We feel that they are going to be terrifying.

Library Ghost

Gothic Web Design - Library Ghost

An amazing vintage website with seamlessly integrated modern elements that organically blend with the layout.

Alchemy Gothic

Gothic Web Design - Alchemy Gothic

Look at these fonts, typography, ornamental elements – they are freaking gorgeous!


Gothic Web Design - Kteis

Gothic is not necessarily dark. Have you ever seen a stylized website in fair colors?


Gothic Web Design - Skelanimals

Gothic websites can be funny, as you see.

Gothic Charm School

Gothic Web Design - Gothic Charm School

Welcome to the charm school if you are not afraid of the witchcraft.

Emilie Autumn

Gothic Web Design - Emilie Autumn

Very impressive designer’s job! This amazing combination of some mysterious mechanism, screwed on skeuomorphic plates, ornate frames and striped grungy background is really remarkable.

Viona Art

Gothic Web Design - Viona Art

This website demonstrates the essence of Gothic style when gorgeous is inseparable from dreadful.


Gothic Web Design - Diru

A weird and intimidating presentation of this website captures all your attention and stirs the imagination.

Black Chandelier

Gothic Web Design - Black Chandelier

Have you ever entered a website through the picture frame? This website will give you such possibility.


We hope our readers are absolutely fearless and got maximum pleasure of Gothic websites featured above. We would like to remind you that your feedback is highly appreciated by the author, so, please, drop her a line in the comment section. By the way, if you have your personal opinion, principles or tips related to Gothic design style, feel free to share them with the community.

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One Comment

  1. I have never seen such an impressive blog post. Even a 1st time reader will come to know what exactly you are talking about. Outstanding blog post with good images and content.

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