On a never-ending quest for inspiration, you’ll often find us out and about at events and exhibitions, and last month a group of us in Singapore went along to a talk hosted by Japanese lifestyle brand MUJI featuring Naoto Fukasawa, the creator of Found MUJI.
Stephanie Low, a Designer at Airbnb and friend of DB, put together some notes and thoughts on the talk and she has kindly let us to share them here on our blog…
Developed around the idea of “Rediscovering and Recreating”, Found MUJI believes in the idea of things that are found rather than made, appreciating the beauty of everyday items that are anonymous and simple, yet warm and friendly.
Their products are not simply a process of creation, they are a review of living by ‘searching and finding’. In their search for everyday necessities through their travels around the world, MUJI refines found items to suit our changing lifestyles, cultures and customs, reproducing them as products we can now buy off their shelves.
1. Super Normal’ Beauty
MUJI looks for things that often go unnoticed in everyday life. They believe, more often than not, that these things are perfect just the way they are. There is beauty in a cup that shows the wear of time. In fact, to Fukasawa, it becomes even more beautiful that way.
2. Pushing ‘Brand Guidelines’
People understand and expect MUJI to be a brand characterised by minimal Japanese aesthetics, all-white-everything, and clean design. While maintaining this sensibility and quality, these guidelines are being challenged with Found MUJI, with products in new textures, colours and styles.
3. Keeping Local Flavour
Though MUJI is made mostly to be used by the Japanese people, each Found MUJI product maintains true local flavour, staying authentic by using local materials and treatments, all sourced from local makers.
4. Balancing ‘Making At Scale’ vs. ‘Craft’
Following a love for craft at the heart of the brand, MUJI also selects products based on their appeal to a wider audience, at scale. However, at Found MUJI, they produce items in small batches to maintain a ‘bespoke’ quality.
5. Storytelling Through Objects
Despite being ‘anonymous’ in nature, each Found MUJI item carries a long history and story behind its form and function. MUJI does not try to ignore these stories, in fact, these stories become the core of the product.
Here are my favourite products from the talk:
Block Print Scarf
MUJI partnered with makers from Jaipur’s ‘Pink City’ where woodblocks have had a long history. Their signature minimal touch comes through in the monochromatic colours.
Inspired by old ‘Kung Fu’ benches used in China for casual social gathering, its compact size makes it extremely mobile and adaptable to many uses.
Modelled after those from the Tang dynasty, these bowls are now created today using the same shapes, materials and processes as before.
Although it did not become a product at MUJI, Fukasawa found these during one of his trips, falling in love with the rough sewing and tasteful colour combinations.
Inspired by a Czech grandmother who makes right-angle socks, MUJI designers set out on a quest to design the best right-angle socks that fit perfectly at the heels so that they won’t slip out of place.
Drug Store Jar
Fukasawa spotted these at a neighbourhood drug store and bargained with the store owner in order to take one home with him. He was drawn to it’s very ‘friendly’ shape.
Product designer Naoto Fukasawa has worked for everyone from Seiko to IDEO to MUJI to Issey Miyake to Alessi and even the 21_21 Design Sight museum at Tokyo. Several of his designs, including the wall-mounted CD player he designed for MUJI and the humidifier he created for his own labels, have also been added to the permanent exhibition at New York’s MoMA.
Every product embodies Fukasawa’s philosophy that design should be influenced by the unconscious actions of people. He calls it ‘Without Thought’ and has held a design workshop of the same name every year since 1999. Fukasawa has also published several books in which he expounds on his approach to product design, using terms such as “action-dependent design”, “centre of consciousness”, “normality”, “shaping” and “classical”. His work represents an attempt to give visual form to these concepts.
All photos from Found MUJI online.