Keep It Simple: MUJI’s Affordable and Streamlined Minimalism

About three years ago, upon learning of my upcoming trip to Tokyo, a design-savvy friend asked for me to get him something. He was not interested in the usual touristy purchases, but rather a very specific item from a very specific store. That store happened to be Muji, and the object he wanted happened to be a .38 black pen (many of them, actually.) If you’ve ever been to Tokyo, you are aware that addresses do not proceed in an orderly fashion, linearly down the street. Instead they are chronological.

Straw Straw. Designed by Yuki Lida for Muji.

Little good that does when trying to find a random store in a random city. Finally, after proceeding back and forth down the same street, I found it, except the sign I had been searching for read 無印良品, not Muji.  Though unfortunate in terms of navigation, I was in Japan at a Japanese store, hence the Japanese characters. And so I was introduced to a store that would become a favorite of mine, not just for the pens but for their other simple, well-designed and necessarily affordable items.


Straw Straw. Designed by Yuki Lida for Muji.


Camelia Washing-Up Liquid. Designed by Huang Yi Tang for Muji.

In 2006, Muji introduced Muji Award 01, a product design competition based on a given theme.  The third Muji International Design Competition took place in December and its seven winners are currently on display at Muji in London, prior to their debut at Salone in Milan later this month. The theme of the Competition was “Found” contestants were to identity “that special something” in an object, alter its context and find a new application such that the solution, evoked the response “Of course!” according to the company. The 2000 entries from a total of 35 countries yielded some clever inventions including a streamlined stapler that consistently staples in the precisely same spot and an eco-friendly washing powder made from wild camellias.  The competition’s winner is Straw Straw, a straw made of straw, designed by Yuki Lida.  One of the judges, Jasper Morrison, described it as “obvious to the point of stupidity,” like all the best ideas.

As a point of reference, these pens, which I now use religiously, were less than $1.00 a piece in Tokyo.  In purchasing this same product in the US, you face the inevitable up charge on these foreign products.  Still, the pen remains under $2.00.   There are now three Muji stores in Manhattan and select products are available at the MoMA Design Stores.  For other affordable products, previously featured in 3Rings, check out Flexi Bath by a Real Cool World, and v-bed by Tojo.

via Wallpaper

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