From their spare stores to their exquisitely simple product lines, the 30-year-old Japanese lifestyle brand Muji has created an aesthetic that manages to be utilitarian and high-end at the same time. Muji's name comes from the Japanese word mujirushi, which translates to "no brand," and it tells you everything you need to know about the company's design ethos. Muji design is an exercise in restraint -- in stripping down products to their most basic parts.
The new book Muji ($65, Rizzoli) explains the company's product-development process and also serves as a sort of primer for businesses and designers hoping to infuse their work with Muji's uncompromising standards. Essays from its roster of designers -- including Jasper Morrison, Naoto Fukasawa, Bruce Mau, creative director Kenya Hara, and more -- explain the philosophy behind every design decision, from sourcing materials to eliminating packaging.
Once available at just a dozen locations around the world Muji became a cult favorite among designers, who were reputed to go on epic shopping sprees to stock up on its goods. (Only recently did Muji open a U.S. store and start selling products online.)
Now, as the number of Muji products grows to more than 7,000, its influence, especially when it comes to sustainability and affordability, is likely to achieve mainstream appeal. Muji has already reached a level of cultural impact that design-focused retailers like Target and Ikea can only dream of: That of providing inexpensive everyday goods that also manage to be thoughtful, long-lasting, and deeply treasured. Highlights from the book follow: