The book Muji reflects the retailer’s design aesthetic: A kraft paper cover mimics their shopping bags, with white textured paper and clean, minimal layouts within.

Muji’s store design is consistent throughout the world. It typically features neutral colors, unfinished woods, and lots and lots of space.

Photo by Yoshio Shiratori, MUJI, Rizzoli New York, 2010

The dedication to good, lasting design can be seen in Muji’s furniture collection. Last year Muji collaborated with manufacturer Thonet for an updated version of the 150-year-old cafe chair.

Photo by Asuka Katagiri, MUJI, Rizzoli New York, 2010

Muji’s stationery line has is practically mandatory for creatives, with its simple brown cardboard journals, and a wide array of pens, pencils, and other office supplies to match.

Photo by Asuka Katagiri, MUJI, Rizzoli New York, 2010

The branding for the stores themselves is similarly subdued. Slogans for the company have included Zen-like phrases along the lines of: "Back to our origins, into the future"; “Lower priced for a reason"; "Muji for each and every person"; and, our favorite, "This will suffice."

Photo by Takashi Sekiguchi, MUJI, Rizzoli New York, 2010

Most umbrellas look the same when stuffed in a damp bucket near the entrance of a restaurant. Muji’s Markable Umbrella has a tiny loop at the base of its handle so its owner can customize it with a charm, tag or piece of ribbon.

Photo by Asuka Katagiri, MUJI, Rizzoli New York, 2010

The power of Muji’s design is epitomized in this smart solution for the icky-looking powerstrip. Muji’s version attaches vertically to the wall above the outlet, eliminating the mess of wires and plugs on the floor below.

Photo by Asuka Katagiri, MUJI, Rizzoli New York, 2010

This bag is made from natural materials and has a dual purpose: It’s durable enough to be transported to a farmers market but attractive enough to sit on the counter as an oversized fruit bowl.

Photo by Asuka Katagiri, MUJI, Rizzoli New York, 2010

Lovely silverware.

Photo by Asuka Katagiri, MUJI, Rizzoli New York, 2010

A health and beauty care line using natural ingredients was launched recently to complement Muji’s line of personal grooming products.

Photo by Takashi Sekiguchi, MUJI, Rizzoli New York, 2010

Muji’s fashion is utilitarian, offered in basic colors that can be worn year-round and made from breathable materials that don’t require dry cleaning or ironing.

Photo by Asuka Katagiri, MUJI, Rizzoli New York, 2010

Muji’s famous Good Fitted socks were designed with a right angle for a better, more snug fit that’s less likely to bunch up inside shoes.

Photo by Asuka Katagiri, MUJI, Rizzoli New York, 2010

Co.Design

Muji, the Book, Has Arrived [Slideshow]

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:

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