The Fundamental Value of Human Function in Japanese & Danish Modern Design

I grew up in Los Angeles, California, where I was exposed to spacious homes filled with big and superfluous furniture. I was always interested in 'design' but I assumed it revolved around decoration and embellishment rather than functionality.  There is a certain aesthetic particular to L.A. that is on one hand modernist and minimalist while on the other hand extravagant and ostentatious.  The contradictions inherent in this aesthetic planted a seed of unease within me. It was my annual summer trips to Japan that put my assumptions of design into perspective.  I was intrigued by clever designs and routines that solved difficulties of the lack of space in both traditional and modern Japanese lifestyles, such as the custom of using futons for beds, which are folded away during the daytime to maximize space.  As I became increasingly aware of a certain simplicity and sensibility inherent in Japanese lifestyle and designs, I started to dissect the interpretation of 'design' I had developed growing up. 

examples of the pursuit of timeless and ordinary design [2012]

​MUJI, known in Japan as Mujirushi Ryohin, translates to “No-brand Quality Goods.”  The basic principle of Japanese chain store's merchandise development is to produce fundamental and practical objects necessary for daily life and to ensure efficient and minimal manufacturing processes.  In order to achieve this, the businesses constantly review their materials and designs, streamline time and labor in the manufacturing process, and simplify the packaging.  Unlike other modern stores, brands, or manufacturers who use simplicity as a major selling point, MUJI dives deeper into what it means to be "simple."  MUJI's carefully selected products are simple not just because of the way they were designed, but because they serve a basic purpose to people.  MUJI takes these items that are useful to us and designs them in a way that accentuates their basic nature instead of masking it.

March 15, 2013

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I was on my way home from work on the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line when I started to observe what would soon become an interesting chain of reactions between three passengers.

It was 9 p.m. on a Thursday, and the train was not as packed as it can infamously get, but it was crowded enough for all seats to be occupied.  I was quick enough to get a seat, but a few moments after I sat down, a girl and a guy, presumably just having started dating, stepped onto the train and unable to find any seats, they stood silently as the train continued to its next stop.

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