Everyone has heard of and bought a Muji product but do we know the story behind the no-brand brand?
Ryohin Keikaku Co.,Ltd. or Muji (無印良品Mujirushi Ryōhin) is a Japanese retail company which sells a wide variety of household and consumer goods.
MUJI was founded in 1980. Its origin was a thorough rationalization of the manufacturing process with an eye to creating simple, low-cost, good quality products. Specifically, we reexamined products through three lenses: material selection, inspection process and packaging simplification. For instance, if you omit the bleaching process for pulp, the resulting paper is light beige in color. MUJI used this paper for its packaging and labels. The ensuing products are remarkably pure and fresh.
Muji is distinguished by its design minimalism, emphasis on recycling, avoidance of waste in production and packaging, and no-logo or "no-brand" policy.
The name Muji is derived from the first part of Mujirushi Ryōhin, translated as No Brand Quality Goods on Muji's European website.
Design approach and production
On its corporate website, Ryohin Keikaku Ltd rationalises these principles in terms of producing high quality products at "lower than usual" retail prices, true to the original Muji marketing slogan "lower priced for a reason". On its catalogue website Muji states that "at the heart of Muji design is the Japanese concept of 'Kanketsu', the concept of simplicity", aiming to "bring a quiet sense of calm into strenuous everyday lives." In an interview Hiroyoshi Azami, President of Muji USA, describes Muji's design culture as centred around designing "simple" products that are basic and necessary.
In its design, Muji also follows environmental guidelines, seeking to "restrict the use of substances that may have a significant impact on people or the environment" and "reduce waste by standardising modules, facilitating disassembly and by reducing packaging".
The Muji design process resists technology, and prototypes are produced with paper rather than computers, so as not to encourage unnecessary detail. The manufacturing process is determined by the consumer's use of the product, which is a design priority. Finishes, lines and forms are minimised for manufacturing ease.
The first art director of Muji was Ikko Tanaka. Tanaka is credited with developing the Muji concept together with Kazuko Koike (marketing consultant), and Takashi Sugimoto (interior designer). Tanaka articulated the Muji vision and appearance, and he provided ideas and prototypes that visualized the design strategy. In 2001 Kenya Hara, an internationally recognized graphic designer and curator, took over as art director. He stated that:
"I found that the company was at a standstill with the original idea, 'No design', which was advocated at its inception. They also had more than 250 outlets and sold more than 5,000 items, including products that deviated from the initial Muji concept or were low cost, but of substandard quality."
Kenya Hara has been credited as key figure in further developing Muji. Hara has a background in graphic design, hence had experience in designing packaging and corporate identities. Beyond that, he is credited with significantly moulding the Muji brand and design identity. In an interview in 2005 Hara stated that "Everything in the world has become an object of interest for me. Everything is designed." Hara has published books on design philosophy, most recently "Designing Design".
Sam Hecht, Creative Director of Muji Europe, is quoted as saying "The human is not the centre of everything, but on the same level of everything."
MUJI does not make objects to entice responses of strong affinity, like, “This is what I really want” or, “I must have this.” MUJI’s goal is to give customers a rational satisfaction, expressed not with, “This is what I really want” but with “This will do.” “This is what I really want” expresses both faint egoism and discord, while “This will do” expresses conciliatory reasoning. In fact, it may even incorporate resignation and a little dissatisfaction. MUJI’s goal is to sweep away that slight dissatisfaction, and raise the level of the response, “This will do” to one filled with clarity and confidence.
This article was sourced from Wikipedia and Muji's website.