"Muji" - No Brand Branding

This company produces home goods. Shirts. Chairs. Ties. Sofas. Clocks. Tables. Socks. Appliances. CD Players. Bicycles. Cars?

Well, A car. They made a car with Nissan in 2001. This is their logo. Over to the right. There. Next to these words. Having trouble finding a logo in there? Oh yeah, that would be because they don't have one. They REFUSE to have one. They believe that consumer products should be designed to be simple but beautiful, built to work but to last, and as cheap as possible. They state that they keep their prices down by cutting out all unnecessary expenses. Everything from advertising to packaging to designing and maintaining a logo! Brilliant.

This is among the coolest things I've ever discovered. There's a Wikipedia.org entry on them. That's where I learned about them. (Where else?) They have a no-brand policy: "the company styles itself as a brandless brand". And here's their corporate website's message. The corporation was founded in 1980 and originates from Japan (Really, where else?) but they have stores all over the world, including here in Manhattan. They say the company, in the "deliberate pursuit of the pure and the ordinary - achieves the extraordinary". The automobile they designed with Nissan was built to be as fuel-efficient, low-emission, and low-price as possible using recycled materials.

No product has a logo directly on it, including the car. You can buy their pens, cars, and clothing without getting a constant reminder of who you owe for them and without being forced, unasked, to be free advertising. Get this: They produced a t-shirt with a rubber square smack-dab on the chest so a customer can design their own logo. That's awesome. That's progression. The brand of each and every single individual human being on the planet.

The sad thing is that in some ways they don't come through on their promises: a cursory glance at their website shows that about half of their products are ridiculously overpriced and about half are quite cheap. It would seem that generally you actually end up paying for the pleasure of living logo-free. And their name in a simple red font is on some of the packaging for products that would be discarded: a shrink-wrapped T-shirt, a glue bottle.

So what do YOU think? If all things are art is nothing art? If all companies' products have no distinguishing marks would we stop demanding quality from any specific one due to an inability to determine which one came from where? No brainwashing or the ultimate double-blind brainwashing? Is a simple white font on a dark red background still a logo in it's intended simplicity? Because I can't quite decide if Muji is a first step toward George Orwell's Big Brother state or a Utopia on Earth.


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