A couple of years ago, I visited a good friend of mine who lived in London. One of the very first places he and his lovely wife took me to was Muji, a small shop selling housewares, stationery, and personal care products. None of the items were marked with a logo, and many appeared to be made from recycled material. What really struck me was the design aesthetic: clean, useful, unobtrusive, and smart. (It turns out that the name Muji is short for "Mujirushi Ryohin," meaning "no brand, good product")
Useful + Agreeable Design Online has a wonderful article about the store, its underlying concept and design idea, and what it all means in a world of overwhelming branding and impossible-to-avoid advertising.
Some products even make cheeky reference to Muji's disavowal of the branded world. A recently released t-shirt comes with a 5 cm rubber square on the chest inviting the purchaser to design their own logo or message. In 2001, Muji teamed up with Nissan Motors to produce Muji Car 1000 - a limited edition, fuel efficient, low-emission and low-cost vehicle that incorporated recycled materials wherever possible, had limited polish and, a total anomaly in the car world, was devoid of any markings.
In industry terms, Muji defines itself as an integrity brand. "Ecological awareness is one of the main influences behind the Muji concept," explains managing director Masaaki Kanai. "Through the careful selection of materials," he continues, "the streamlining of manufacturing processes and the simplification of our packaging, we are able to eliminate waste and conserve resources."
Muji stores can be found in Japan (of course), Great Britain, Ireland, France, Hong Kong, and Singapore. None, sadly, are in the United States, but the Muji Online UK outlet will ship to you. Now if only the currently-awful Pound-Dollar conversion rate would improve...
Like to UK outlet is broken. Correct URL:
oops. thanks. fixed.
Their design sense is a little more modern than mine, but I love the aesthetic principle behind it. It is humble: each piece is exactly what it is, and pretends to be nothing more. The object stands on its own merit and does not need a complex finish or a designer logo to communicate its worth.