No-Brand Loyalty

By now, it is hardly a secret that the Japanese retailer Muji has enlisted some of the world’s foremost industrial designers to contribute to its line of simple, affordable, “no-brand” housewares and consumer goods. Although Muji has never promoted its products’ designer pedigree, a little sleuthing reveals that Naoto Fukasawa, Konstantin Grcic, James Irvine, Enzo Mari, Jasper Morrison, and the London studio Industrial Facility are among its anonymous contributors. Now, with the publication of Muji—which contains essays by several of the company’s leaders, as well as about 300 photos of its products and advertising—the company seems to be embracing a greater openness about its business philosophy and practices. In this spirit of transparency, we asked three of its most prolific designers to each pick the one product they designed that they think best embodies the brand, and tell us why.

UMBRELLA, 2006
Konstantin Grcic
“One of the virtues of working with Muji is using what already exists, simplifying, and even leaving things alone—creating objects that blend into the environment rather than making a strong mark. This idea is exemplified in our umbrella project. The only intervention we made to an existing umbrella is drilling a hole into the end of the handle.”

CD PLAYER, 2001
Naoto Fukasawa
“It employs the simple, monofunctioning, and intuitive act of pulling a string to play music as its interface. Everybody has some general images for things like audio equipment. But when people see another solution that without a doubt fits into their lifestyle, they have found Muji.”

COFFEEMAKER, 2006
Sam Hecht, Industrial Facility
“This summer I rented a cottage, and there was a coffeemaker that had fourteen buttons, a clock, three flashing lights, and it beeped all the time—all marketing tricks that have no core. With Muji, designers are able to sweep that rubbish away and involve only the essential in a progressive manner.”

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