Watch: For Muji’s Unsung Designers, Imperfection Breeds Good Design

In a new short produced by Herman Miller, the design duo behind hundreds of Muji’s no-brand products speaks to why and how they work.

In a new film series from Herman Miller, designers like Yves Béhar and Studio 7.5 are posed with a simple question: “Why design?” As you might expect from a group of the most talented designers around, the answers are as illuminating as they are diverse (Béhar’s explanation focuses on surfing). But one video in particular caught our eye, thanks to its subtle message about cities and collaboration.


Sam Hecht and Kim Colin, the founding partners of Industrial Facility, are the anonymous designers behind hundreds of objects in Muji’s no-brand product line. The duo also list Issey Miyake, Established & Sons, and, of course, Herman Miller as clients. Their website is a treasure trove of objects, each one more unpretentious and intelligent than the last. A consistent thread of visual continuity runs through both their Muji work and their private commissions–an economy of line, texture, and detail that balances calm and wit.

But as Hecht and Colin describe in the video, their process is anything but balanced. In fact, they explain, it’s inspired by the imperfection of life in London. “Sam and I talk about it quite often,” Colin says. “We are just on the edge of functioning–and if one thing goes wrong. . .it could be the tube, could be some other system. . .it’s a very fragile existence.” The push-and-pull relationship shared between Colin, who as an architect is trained to think on the scale of the city, and product designer Hecht, who favors micro-scale thinking, follows the same logic.

Hecht is fond of pointing out how the city seems to solve its own problems through necessity–in lectures, he’ll sometimes talk about the bike-level trash cans in Tokyo or London’s repurposing of old phone booths as ATMs. “If you’re working in an environment where things don’t work very well, that’s a great environment to try and make things work well,” Hecht explains. “We need tension and contrast to be able to create.”

See the full series here.

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.