Next Wednesday 3rd December 2008, at 19:30h. a new ediction of the Cultural Observatory programmewill take place at IED Master. This time Shoji Ito, Design Director of MUJI Europe, is the protagonist.
Shoji Ito is, since 2006, the Design Director of MUJI for the products produced in Europe. The Japanese retail company is now 25 years old.
The first European store opened as a concession, in 1991 and today there are 15 shops in the UK – mostly in London, but also in Birmingham, Nottingham and Manchester – with 10 more in France, Sweden, Ireland, Germany and Italy. It is opened also in New York (there’s already a concession in MoMA’s design shop, while Muji’s famous wall-mounted CD player is in the permanent collection). Asia, meanwhile, has a handful of stores, but in Japan it’s different. Not counting the mini-kiosk versions in train stations, there are half a dozen branches, including the first, which opened in 1983 in Aoyama and is still there in its glory.
In Spain there are already two shops in Barcelona and Madrid. Next December 9th 2008, a new shop, with 700 sqaure meters MUJI will be open as the biggest MUJI space in Europe.
Originally, the design department was directed by the late Ikko Tanaka, founding head of the MUJI Advisory Board – a group of leading Japanese designers who approve all new products – and the man responsible for the four kanji characters that make up the logo. In 2002 a dynamic young designer by the name of Shoji Ito was recruited to develop an in-house team. His hand-picked squad of a dozen young men and women, three of whom studied at London’s Royal College of Art, as their latest electronic designs – among them a monolithic black-box CD/radio, matching DVD player and clever CD player/ speaker arrangement (the same height as a CD case, it bookends your music collection perfectly) – scooped most of the prizes at the prestigious IF International Design Awards in Germany.
Graduated at from Tama Art University, Shoji Ito designed concept products for the Japanese communications company NTT. At MUJI he works with international designers, and that has reveiled to him that MUJI designers – at home or abroad – all have something in common, he has discovered: ‘They’re very good at finding something that exists and distilling its essence’. Some ideas for recent products have come from the customers themselves – MUJI’s Japanese website hosts a lively net community where people can proffer ideas and feedback – but many, including the new CD player, are inspired by observing life.
Wednesday 3rd December
C/ Larra nº 14 Madrid
This post is also available in: Spanish