Muji: the concept of mujirushi, the “non-brand,” and ryohin, the value of good products.

The graphic design of this store is focused around having next to none, which saves resources on advertising, packaging, and creating of designed objects. The items have minimal packaging, primarily just a label or craft paper, and often nothing at all.

When visiting a Muji store, what’s remarkable is the bare products on wooden shelves. Compare this to a place like Bed, Bath and Beyond, which also features floor to ceiling products, but completely wrapped in plastic or boxed up. These products are also notably plain, made of natural materials, and of high quality. Muji describes it’s items as following: “Product design is not a medium for emphasizing the individuality of lifestyles of designers or end users; A Muji product’s shape is determined by its purpose and by continuous refinement over a long period of time.”

I thought about Muji as a sustainable brand when I was reading “Super Normal” by Jasper Morrison. The idea of leaving out design as sustainable seemed to me to make sense. Basic design saves of labor, making new design resources, and elaborate packaging or advertising. I first thought of Canada’s “No Name” brand. These food items are packaged in yellow containers with their names written on them in Helvetica, but with no branding. However, that company seemed to not be sustainable in its production practices, unlike Muji. Muji sources sustainable, recycled, and high quality resources. They also emphasize cutting down on waste, and often sell items that may not be seen in a regular store (such as the leftover ends of pasta from manufacturing.)

  • Erin Rothback, 2017

When our hero starts to learn, they are not clear about their objectives. Their purpose is faulty and their intent is vague. They hope for rewards that will never materialize, for they know nothing of the hardships of learning. Slowly, they begin to learn - bit by bit at first, then in big chunks. Thoughts begin to clash. What they learned is never what they pictured, or imagined, and so they begin to be afraid.

Learning is never what one expects. Every step of learning is a new task, and fear begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. Purpose becomes the battlefield. And thus our hero has stumbled upon the first of their natural enemies: Fear! A terrible enemy - treacherous, and difficult to overcome. It remains concealed at every turn of the way, prowling, waiting. And if our hero, terrified in its presence, runs away, their enemy will have put an end to the quest.

If they run away in fear, they will never learn. They will never become a person of knowledge. They will perhaps be a bully or a harmless, scared individual; at any rate, they will be defeated. The first enemy will have put an end to their cravings. They must not run away and must defy fear, and in spite of it they must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. They must be fully afraid, and yet they must not stop. That is the rule! A moment will come when this first enemy retreats. Our hero begins to feel sure of themselves. Their intent becomes stronger and learning is no longer a terrifying task. When this joyful moment comes, they can say without hesitation that they have defeated their first natural enemy. It happens little by little, and yet the fear is vanquished suddenly and fast.

Once the hero has vanquished fear, they are free from it for the rest of their life because instead of fear, they have acquired clarity - a clarity of mind which erases fear. By then our hero knows their desires and they know how to satisfy those desires. They can anticipate the new steps of learning, and a sharp clarity surrounds everything. The person soon will feel that nothing is concealed. And thus they will have encountered the second enemy: Clarity!

That clarity of mind, which is so hard to obtain, dispels fear, but it also blinds. It forces the hero never to doubt themselves. It gives one the assurance that they can do anything that they please, for now they see clearly into everything. The hero is courageous because they are clear, and they stop at nothing because they are clear. But all that is a mistake; it is like something incomplete. If one yields to this make-believe power, they've succumbed to the second enemy and will fumble with learning.

They will rush when they should be patient, or be patient when they should rush. They will fumble with learning until they are incapable of learning anything more.

The second enemy has just stopped our hero cold from becoming a person of knowledge; instead, they may turn into a buoyant warrior, or a clown. Yet the clarity for which they have paid so dearly will never change to darkness and fear again. They will be clear as long as they live, but will no longer learn, or yearn for anything.

Our hero must do what they did with fear: They must defy this clarity and use it only to see. They must wait patiently and measure carefully before taking new steps; They must think, above all, that this clarity is almost a mistake. And a moment will come when our hero understands that clarity was only a point before their eyes.

And thus they will have overcome the second enemy, and they will arrive at a position where nothing can harm them anymore. This will not be a mistake, It will be true power. They will know at this point that the power they have been pursuing for so long is finally theirs. They can do with it whatever they please. the world is at their command. Their wish is the rule. But the hero has also come across the third enemy: Power!

Power is the strongest of all enemies. And naturally the easiest thing to do is to give in; after all, the hero is truly invincible. they command. They begin by taking calculated risks, and end in making rules, because they are now a master. One at this stage hardly notices the third enemy closing in. Suddenly, without knowing, they will certainly have lost the battle. Power will have turned him into a cruel, capricious man.

A hero who is defeated by power dies without really knowing how to handle it. Power is only a burden upon one's fate. The hero will have lost command over the self, and will be unable to determine when or how to use their power. This defeat will be final. Once one of these enemies overpowers the hero, there is nothing they can do. If they give in to power, they are through.

If the hero is temporarily blinded by power, and then refuses it, that means that the battle is still on. The hero is defeated only when they no longer try. If they give in to fear, clarity, and power they will never conquer them, because they will shy away from learning and will never try again. But if the hero tries to learn for years in the midst of their enemies, they will eventually conquer it because the will never abandone themselves to it.

To defeat this third enemy, they must defy it, deliberately. They must come to realize that the power they have seemingly conquered is in reality never theirs. They must keep themselves in line at all times, handling carefully and faithfully all that they have learned. If our hero can see that clarity and power, without control are worse than their own mistakes, they will reach a point where everything is held in check. They will know then when and how to use their power. And thus the hero will have defeated their third enemy.

The hero will be, by then, at the end of their journey of learning, and almost without warning they will come upon the last of their enemies: Old age! This enemy is the cruelest of all, the one that the hero won't be able to defeat completely, but only fight away.

This is the time when our hero has no more fears, no more impatient clarity of mind - a time when all their power is in check, but also the time when they have unyielding desire to rest. If they give in totally to the desire to lie down and forget, they will lose this last round, and the enemy will cut them down into a feeble old creature. The desire to retreat will overrule all clarity, power, and knowledge. But if the hero sloughs off his tiredness, and lives their fate through, they can then be called a victor, if only for the brief moment when they succeed in fighting off the last, invincible enemy. That moment of clarity, power, and knowledge is enough.