Product Design Reflection: Less is More

This post is written as part of my studies at UX Academy. In this reflection, I am going to talk about my thoughts on the following topics: What makes a product great? What’s a product I feel “addicted to,” or otherwise feel negatively habituated? And what personally attracts me to Product Design?

If you have ever stumbled upon a MUJI store, you probably saw some nice looking gel pens, plain color cotton shirts, and a range of skin care products in very simple packaging. You may think to yourself, “What is this place and why is everything so perfect?” Here are the answers: MUJI is a Japanese manufacturer and retailer that makes high quality, unfussy and affordable everyday products. Why is everything so perfect? Because every product lives and breathes simplicity.

Image source: pedestrian.tv

One of the products that I am obsessed with is MUJI’s 2-in-1 pen/pencil. It is both a pen and a pencil in one utensil. Being able to twist one way for the pen and the other for pencil, makes note-taking so much easier. The pen performs perfectly well and has a very smooth flow, no skipping or troublesome ink flow. It is cheap enough to buy for everyday use, yet feels substantial in the hand. Did I mention the pen even included a pen top eraser? With three essential features combined in one handy unit makes it an indispensable tool for my everyday writing.

Image source: MUJI 2-in-1 Pen

The philosophy behind MUJI is a call to action through their product range: a return to simplicity in everyday life. Instead of lavishing the package with unnecessary extras, they focus on creating quality user-oriented products. With all products consistent follow through that philosophy, they have built a brand with an incredibly strong and clear purpose. Allowing them to inspire and win emotional connections with their customers. Below are few examples showing how MUJI refines everyday objects into great products.

Image source: www.muji.com

In 2006, in search for the perfect sock, MUJI discovered Czech grandmother’s hand-knitted socks were characterized by a 90-degree shape. They heels fit perfectly and the socks stay well in place. Without any excess material, the socks fit snugly and have no discomfort from bunching. At the time, most socks were created at a 120 angle due to nearly all weaving machines had a 120-degree specification. MUJI wanted to share the added comfort that comes from just 30-degree difference. They reinvented the entire manufacturing process to mechanize the hand knitting technique. The socks have then become the only kind of socks that MUJI makes. It seems to be a very small change, but we wear socks every day and that added comfort creates a long lasting difference.

Every day, we use and consume lots of objects. Most of them can either be made smaller, thinner or lighter without losing any functionality. And much of the material we discard could be recycled for other purposes. On top of celebrating simplicity and create quality user-centered products, MUJI constantly exercises self-restraint in their product design and manufacture. It inspires me to think about where I could use or do less and get out more, use fewer and make more impact to our Mother Earth and all her people. I believe these values are what make MUJI resonates not only with me but with countless other.

While every product is designed with extreme attention and everything aligns perfectly in the store. There is still room for improvement on the digital aspect of their User Experience. For customers who have been to a physical MUJI store, the web store (Muji.us) is lacking the look and feel where a physical store can fulfill. For instance, you will instantly feel a sense of peacefulness when stepping into a physical store, because of their signature melody softly playing in the background. Besides, an aroma diffuser would often be running, making customers feel cozy and relax. However, not only that the web store unable to provide such sensations, the lack of movement and emotions of the homepage also make it less engaged.

Image Source: muji.us

The takeaways are simple. Instead of having a static banner, they should move up and enlarge their “Features.” Those poses showcase how the products execute MUJI’s philosophies. They are more market driven while making the brand’s purpose so much more meaningful and authentic. Secondly, having background music option can also make the online shopping experience more pleasant. Lastly, return to simplicity — limiting the options under categories, as fewer options can lead to quicker shopping decision. Keep in mind, “Less is More.”