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Many of you probably already know that MUJI comes from the Japanese word "mujirushi," meaning "no brand," but did you also know that MUJI began back in 1980?a staggering 30 years ago?with just a small storefront in the Aoyama area of Tokyo? It's crazy to think that it took them so long to make it to the States, to New York, and that your favorite pen, or perhaps that minimalist white porcelain bowl in your kitchen cabinet has a storied history behind it.
Last night at the Japan Society, MUJI's Creative Director Kenya Hara and product designer Naoto Fukasawa talked about that history, formally introduced the new MUJI book from Rizzoli and some iPad apps (more on these tomorrow), and shared their philosophy of design. That there exists a cult of MUJI fans, there is no doubt, and thus a packed auditorium listened intently and jotted down the words of these design masters.
John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, hosted the discussion, and he never let the audience forget that here in front of them stood the "Superman and Batman of Japanese Design."
Each gave a small speech complete with slides, and although Hara and Fukasawa were speaking plain English to describe the way they work with MUJI, their speeches instead seemed a long series of quotable quotes. For example, some bits from Kenya Hara:
MUJI makes things, but MUJI is not about things. MUJI is for experience and in its power to awaken people with design, it gets them thinking about their lifestyle and how they can change. MUJI isn't just about price. Our emphasis is and always has been finding a way to live a life ever richer...MUJI wants to become indispensable, like water.
At the heart of MUJI is emptiness. Emptiness is a Japanese tradition; it is not just 'simple.' Emptiness allows for infinite interpretation...there is nothing, yet everything.
And some bits from Naoto Fukasawa:
MUJI does not intend to design new things. We modify things already in our life to fit today's lifestyle. World masterpieces share thoughts with MUJI.
MUJI is the one. MUJI is enough.
At the end of a talk like that, there's little doubt as to why MUJI is succeeding worldwide. Their plans for the future beyond the newly launched iPad apps include even more apps, MUJI hotels, sustainability, and a focus on Chinese design as well as Japanese. And of course, more stores in the United States.
· All MUJI coverage [Racked NY]
· MUJI iPad apps [MUJI]