Muji

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Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd.
Kabushiki-gaisha Ryōhin Keikaku
株式会社良品計画
Native name 無印良品
Type Public (TYO: 7453)
Industry Manufacturing, retail, cafe
Founded 1979
Headquarters Toshima-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Number of locations 585 (2013)
Key people
Products Household goods
Kitchen utensil
Fashion
Stationery
Electronics
Home appliances
Cosmetics
Food
Furniture
Services Residential Architectural design[1]
Divisions Café Muji, Meal Muji, Muji Campsite, florist and home furnishing;
Website muji.net

Ryohin Keikaku Co.,Ltd. (株式会社良品計画 Kabushiki-gaisha Ryōhin Keikaku?) (TYO: 7453), or Muji (無印良品 Mujirushi Ryōhin?) is a Japanese retail company which sells a wide variety of household and consumer goods.

Muji is distinguished by its design minimalism, emphasis on recycling, avoidance of waste in production and packaging, and no-logo or "no-brand" policy.

The name Muji is derived from the first part of Mujirushi Ryōhin, translated as No Brand Quality Goods on Muji's European website.[2]

Products and businesses[edit]

Muji restaurant - Muji Meal, in Kyoto, Japan

Muji started with 40 products during the 1980s, their products range from stationery, and clothing for men and women, to food items and major kitchen appliances and has even included an automobile. Its primary business includes Café Muji, Meal Muji, Muji Campsite, florist and home furnishing; the company has also engaged in architectural project such as the Muji houses.

By the end of the 2000s, Muji sells more than 7,000 products. It is positioned as a "reasonably priced" brand, keeping the retail prices of products "lower than usual" by the materials it selects, streamlining its manufacturing processes, and minimising packaging.[3]

History[edit]

Muji Car 1000, the product of a 2001 collaboration with Nissan

Mujirushi (no-brand) Ryōhin (quality goods) began as a product brand of the supermarket chain The Seiyu, Ltd. in December 1980. The Mujirushi Ryōhin product range was developed to offer cheap good quality products and were marketed using the slogan “Lower priced for a reason.” Products were wrapped in clear cellophane, plain brown paper labels and red writing. Mujirushi Ryōhin's drive to cut retail prices for consumers saw the company cutting waste by for example selling U-shaped spaghetti, the left-over part that is cut off to sell straight spaghetti.[4][5]

In 1983, the first directly operated Mujirushi Ryōhin store opened. In 1985, Mujirushi Ryōhin started overseas production and procurement, started to place direct factory orders in 1986, and in 1987 Muji started to develop material globally.

In 1989, Ryohin Keikaku Ltd became the manufacturer and retailer for all Mujirushi Ryōhin products and operations, including planning, development, production, distribution and sale.

In 1991, Mujirushi Ryōhin opened its first international store in London.

In 1995, shares in “Muji Tsunan Campsite” were registered as over-the-counter shares of Japan Securities Dealers Association. In 1998, Ryōhin Keikaku listed on the second section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. From 2001 onwards, it was listed on the first section.[6][7] In April 2001 they issued the Muji Car 1000 (ムジ・カー 1000), a limited release of 1,000 badgeless and decontented Nissan Marches, only available online. Intended as an exercise to test their online marketing systems it was developed together with Nissan. The spartanly equipped little car (with the rear seat upholstered in vinyl, for instance) was only offered in "marble white".[8]

The brand name "Muji" appears to have been used since around 1999.[7]

Countries of operation[edit]

A Muji S Pal store in 2009, Sendai, Japan
A Muji store in Paris

In addition to its large and small retail outlets in Japan, Ryohin Keikaku has three factory outlets at Osaka, Gotenba and Fukuoka.[9]

In Japan, Ryohin Keikaku has directly operated 262 stores and supplies 117 outlets, as of February 2013.[10]

There are 205 International retail outlets as of August 2013 which include UK (12), France (11), Italy (8), Germany (7), Ireland (1), Sweden (7), Norway (4), Spain (5), Turkey (2), Poland (1), Portugal (1), United States (9), Hong Kong (10), Malaysia (2), South Korea (12), China (65), Taiwan (28), Thailand (10), Indonesia (6), and the Philippines (5).[10][11][12]

In Singapore, the MUJI stores include Bugis Junction, 313 @ Somerset, JEM, Tampines 1, ION Orchard, Paragon and Marina Square (7). A new store at East Point Mall is under consideration.

In New York Muji supplies products to a design store at the Museum of Modern Art and maintains a flagship store.[9] Ryohin Keikaku has 262 directly operated stores in Japan, and has 5,271 (including 3,886 part-timers) employees.[13]

No-brand brand[edit]

Muji's no-brand strategy (generic brand) means that little money is spent on advertisement or classical marketing, and Muji's success is attributed to word of mouth, a simple shopping experience and the anti-brand movement. Muji's no-brand strategy also means its products are attractive to customers who prefer unbranded products for aesthetic reasons, and because it provides an alternative to traditional branded products.[14][15][16][17]

Muji has released a t-shirt with a rubber square on the chest for customers to design their own logo or message.[18]

Design[edit]

Muji is known for its distinctive design, which is continued throughout its more than 7,000 products. Commentators have described Muji's design style as having mundanity,[20] being "no-frills", being "minimalist"[21] and as "Bauhaus-style".[22]

Muji product design, and brand identity, is based around the selection of materials, a streamlined manufacturing processes, and minimal packaging. Muji products have a limited colour range and are displayed on shelves with minimal packaging, displaying only functional product information and a price tag.[18]

Design approach and production[edit]

On its corporate website, Ryohin Keikaku Ltd rationalises these principles in terms of producing high quality products at "lower than usual" retail prices, true to the original Muji marketing slogan "lower priced for a reason".[3][23] On its catalogue website Muji states that "at the heart of Muji design is the Japanese concept of 'Kanketsu', the concept of simplicity", aiming to "bring a quiet sense of calm into strenuous everyday lives."[19] In an interview Hiroyoshi Azami, President of Muji USA, describes Muji's design culture as centred around designing "simple" products that are basic and necessary.[24]

In its design, Muji also follows environmental guidelines, seeking to "restrict the use of substances that may have a significant impact on people or the environment" and "reduce waste by standardising modules, facilitating disassembly and by reducing packaging".[25]

The Muji design process resists technology, and prototypes are produced with paper rather than computers, so as not to encourage unnecessary detail.[26] The manufacturing process is determined by the consumer's use of the product, which is a design priority. Finishes, lines and forms are minimised for manufacturing ease.[27]

Designers[edit]

Muji products are not attributed to individual designers. While Muji has stated that some of its products have been the works of famous international designers, it does not disclose which ones.[18]

There are, however, some designers who made their involvement public. The notable are Naoto Fukasawa,[28][citation needed] Jasper Morrison,[29][citation needed] James Irvine,[30][citation needed] Sam Hecht.[31][citation needed] and Konstantin Grcic.[32][citation needed]

Muji participates in design collaborations with other companies. In 2001, Muji and Nissan Motors produced the Muji Car 1000. This fuel efficient, low-emission and low-cost limited edition, aimed to incorporate recycled materials wherever possible and had limited polish. Following Muji's no-brand strategy the car had no logos.[18]

Manufacturers[edit]

As well as its designers, ordinarily Muji keeps its manufacturers private.

One notable exception is collaboration with Thonet, the oldest German furniture maker. In 2008, Muji and Thonet announced they cooperated to produce two lines of minimalist furniture. The first was bentwood chairs designed by James Irvine and a homage to famous No. 14 chair of Thonet. The second was steel tubular chairs and desks designed by Konstantin Grcic. Roland Ohnacker, managing director of Thonet, stated that the aim was "to help 18 to 35 year-olds enter the Thonet brand world". From Spring 2009, these furniture are available at selected Muji stores.[30]

Directors[edit]

The first art director of was Ikko Tanaka. Tanaka is credited with developing the Muji concept together with Kazuko Koike (marketing consultant), and Takashi Sugimoto (interior designer). Tanaka articulated the Muji vision and appearance, and he provided ideas and prototypes that visualized the design strategy.[33] In 2001 Kenya Hara, an internationally recognized graphic designer and curator, took over as art director. He stated that:

"I found that the company was at a standstill with the original idea, 'No design', which was advocated at its inception. They also had more than 250 outlets and sold more than 5,000 items, including products that deviated from the initial Muji concept or were low cost, but of substandard quality."[34]

Kenya Hara has been credited as key figure in further developing Muji.[35] Hara has a background in graphic design, hence had experience in designing packaging and corporate identities,[36] but beyond that he is credited with significantly moulding the Muji brand and design identity. In an interview in 2005 Hara stated that "Everything in the world has become an object of interest for me. Everything is designed."[34] Hara has published books on design philosophy, most recently "Designing Design".[37]

Sam Hecht, Creative Director of Muji Europe, is quoted as saying "The human is not the centre of everything, but on the same level of everything."[26]

Design awards and competition[edit]

In 2005 Muji was awarded five gold product design awards by the International Forum Design in Germany.[6]

In 2006 Muji held its first international design competition, “Muji Award 01”.[6] In 2007 Chen Jiaojiao published a book on Muji design and brand entitled "Brands A-Z: Muji".

Following[edit]

The Berlin correspondent for the New York Times reports that the Japanese call Muji-fans “Mujirers”. Muji's international stores and The Muji Catalogue mainly retail Muji home consumer goods, furniture and clothing, while Muji in Japan has sells in a wide range of sectors, including food, bicycles, camp sites, phones, yoga, florists, cafes, and concept houses.[38]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "無印良品の家 (Muji Houses)". Muji Japan. Retrieved 2013-02-19. 
  2. ^ MUJI Online - ABOUT MUJI, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  3. ^ a b Ryohin Keikaku, "What is MUJI?", retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  4. ^ Your life in their hands, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  5. ^ Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd. | Business Information, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  6. ^ a b c Ryohin Keikaku, History, retrieved on 2009-10-02. (This English-language history anachronistically refers to the company as "Muji" before "Muji" was used as a brand name.)
  7. ^ a b 企業情報|沿革 [Corporate history] (in Japanese). Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd. Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  8. ^ 良品計画、ムジ・ネットが日産自動車との共同開発車を発売 [Muji, Muji-net launches car developed jointly with Nissan] (News Release) (in Japanese). Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd. 2001-04-19. Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  9. ^ a b Muji, the Japanese design powerhouse, is opening U.S. stores. Hallelujah! See also MUJI Global, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  10. ^ a b Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd. | Corporate Information, retrieved on 2013-08-23.
  11. ^ Muji keeps it simple with new S.F. store
  12. ^ http://www.muji.us/store-info/
  13. ^ According to the company website.
  14. ^ Muji: The Japanese 'No-Brand', retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  15. ^ Matt Heig, Brand Royalty: How the World's Top 100 Brands Thrive and Survive, p. 216.
  16. ^ mac oosthuizen, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  17. ^ MUJI a life-oriented philosophy, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  18. ^ a b c d useful + agreeable, retrieved by the Wayback Machine on 2009-05-27.[dubious ]
  19. ^ a b Muji Online - About Muji, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  20. ^ Muji, materiality, and mundane geographies, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  21. ^ Minimalist: Muji store opens in Soho, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  22. ^ http://thekpnv.blog.com/Product%20Design/
  23. ^ http://ryohin-keikaku.jp/eng/ir/business_info/
  24. ^ http://current.com/items/88874057_muji_interview_part_3_of_3
  25. ^ Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd. | Environmental activities — things to think about, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  26. ^ a b TAXI: Direct Access - GAIN: AIGA Business and Design Conference, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  27. ^ MoMA Store - MUJI Designer Bio, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  28. ^ Work - CD Player for Muji - IDEO, retrieved on 2010-10-08
  29. ^ Jasper Morrison :: Wall clock, retrieved on 2010-10-08
  30. ^ a b Muji presents a new collection, retrieved on 2010-10-08
  31. ^ Industrial Facility, retrieved on 2010-10-08
  32. ^ Konstantin Grcic Industrial Design, retrieved on 2010-10-08
  33. ^ If You Want to Make an Understatement, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  34. ^ a b Getting Gross with Devin Flynn, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  35. ^ Designing Design, retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  36. ^ Young Jean Lee’s New York City based theater company initial run of The Shipment, sold out. We are glad she left Berkeley and came over to our side., retrieved on 2009-10-02.
  37. ^ Designing Design, Hara, Kenya, 2nd printing, 2008, 467 p. 389 illus., 326 in color., Dustjacket , ISBN 978-3-03778-105-0.
  38. ^ Nick Currie, "The Post-Materialist | Muji Obsession", New York Times, 6 June 2008; retrieved on 2009-10-02. The Japanese term is in fact mujirā (ムジラー); see for example this page of fashion-j.com. (Japanese)

External links[edit]