Zen in Product Design

"So how can MUJI be good for you? Generally speaking, things are not good for us; too many or too valuable and we are corrupted. But, we all need some things (even Gandhi had a pair of spectacles, some sandals, a bowl, a dish and a pocket watch) and to some extent we are defined by our choices of those things. We may reveal to others in our choice of things that we have good taste or bad taste, expensive taste, cheap taste, modest taste, flashy taste, snobbish taste or not taste at all. Between the moment of choosing and paying for something and the day we no longer have a need for it, there are certain exchanges between the thing and us. The service provided by the thing on the one hand and how we feel about being its owner on the other hand. For some, owning a Ferrari may be the most important thing in life, but is owning something which only a few others can afford good for you? I don’t think so.

There is an English importer of wine which has been selling Bordeaux wine in England for more than 300 years, and besides all the expensive wines that they offer, there’s one which they call “Good Ordinary Bordeaux,” which costs much less than the others but which is fine to drink as an everyday wine. Similarly, the MUJI concept is to make things as well and as cleverly as possible at a reasonable price, for the thing to be “enough” in the best sense of the word, and this kind of “enough” is good for you because it removes status from the product/consumer equation and replaces it with satisfaction. The kind of satisfaction that you have when the money you exchange for the thing is proportional to the value which you receive from the thing, and the thing itself is good at being itself without any pretension of being anything more special.”

— Jasper Morrison, MUJI product designer

I remember reading Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion as an over-imaginative 18-year old and immediately falling in love with the idea of Oregon — in my mind, a magical state with lush forests, flowing rivers, and endless greenery. It turns out that the real Oregon is even better than what I’d expected.

The increasing militarization of our police force is one of the trends I’m most worried about. This Salon piece paints a terrifying picture of cops running around with impunity - using SWAT teams to raid poker games, killing dogs, assaulting peaceful protestors. There needs to be a stricter level of oversight on police actions - otherwise our cops are just thugs with guns, acting with no regard for consequences against the very citizenry they’re intended to protect.

“The way to solve the conflict between human values and technological needs is not to run away from technology. That’s impossible. The way to resolve the conflict is to break down the barriers of dualistic thought that prevent a real understanding of what technology is — not an exploitation of nature, but a fusion of nature and the human spirit into a new kind of creation that transcends both. When this transcendence occurs in such events as the first airplane flight across the ocean or the first footstep on the moon, a kind of public recognition of the transcendent nature of technology occurs. But this transcendence should also occur at the individual level, on a personal basis, in one’s own life, in a less dramatic way.”
— Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance