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With the continuous advancement of social civilization and people’s pursuit of high-quality life, various styles of furniture are mixed, creating different forms and values while providing people with more diverse choices. Modern society works too fast. People pursue a simple and casual lifestyle, and they want to use furniture as a simple and casual life concept. Therefore, Nordic and Japanese minimalist furniture represented by IKEA and MUJI are popular in the East and West markets. Although they are all trying to create “simple” theme, but it shows two different artistic conceptions. This article will compare two different minimalist styles and then explain the similarities and differences between the two to solve the confusion of people in the East and West when choosing furniture.
IKEA is a representative brand of Nordic design and was born in Sweden in 1943. The founders follow the design philosophy of functionalization, living, affordability, and democratization. MUJI originated in Japan, and the design concept originated from the Japanese style. “The Birth of MUJI,” was founded in 1980 by the original researcher, Naoki Naoto, and Koike Aiko. (Julian Holloway and Sheila Hones,2007,p.557) Its design philosophy is “out of nothing”, in a minimalist form, natural and simple design service and life. “Kristoffersson contextualizes the concept of Scandinavian design historically and contemporarily. “（Sjögren H, 2015）.The design of IKEA is based on the Scandinavian style, which is more lively and colorful than MUJI. At the same time, the MUJI design style is derived from Japan’s “Zen”, which is more simple than IKEA and reduces brand awareness.
Minimalism in Nordic and Japanese styles
Minimal Art was born in the mid-20th century and it is a reduction movement. Minimalism is a design style, and it is also a life attitude, which requires the character of the product to be expressed in a limited design element, and the simplicity of the form and the richness of the connotation. The contemporary minimalist style, in addition to the German Bauhaus advocated “less is more” and “functionalism”（William Smock,2009）, Nordic and Japan are also unique. Similarly, the Nordic representative of IKEA and the MUJI from Japan have in common with their minimalist style. IKEA’s product design is a form-following function () that reduces unnecessary interference with personal factors in the design. However, the minimalism of Japanese style is more about the use of people, its design is simple but functional.
MUJI and IKEA prefer to use natural products. Most of MUJI uses natural materials such as cotton, linen, wood, and rattan. Thus MUJI is emphasis on ecological awareness, ”recycling and reusability”, is “based on a clear vision of what are desirable lifestyles for the future” (Julian Holloway and Sheila Hones,2007,p.559). Because MUJI pays attention to simple, environmentally friendly, and simple design concepts, it only uses minimal processing of natural materials and conforms to Zen thoughts. On the contrary, 71% of IKEA products are made of recyclable materials, which use materials such as glass and stainless steel. For example, the IKEA table will match the wooden table top with the steel structure legs, but the MUJI table is mostly wood.
IKEA’s furniture is brightly coloured and uses a variety of neutral colours for the transition. In contrast, MUJI’s products are designed to avoid high-purity colours, and the products use natural colours without sharp and intense colour contrast. For example, MUJI’s cushions are only white, grey, etc., to avoid high-purity colours. The IKEA cushions are rich in colour and have a variety of fun patterns or lines.
Difference in price
IKEA will first price and then consider the design. “Let’s say we want to design a chair that costs no more than $19. This determines the choice of materials we might use,” Krokstäde explains. “Can we make the chair out of solid oak? Probably not for that price. But on the Other hand, do we even want to, since in this case, the case might not the best choice as far as sustainability is concerned?”（Sjögren H, 2015）.This indicates that IKEA uses sustainable materials in the process of designing furniture to reduce costs, but to consumers. Furniture design with good form, low price, function and quality is still provided. However, compared to IKEA, MUJI’s pricing is based on brand value and design value. The same use of oak, it is similar to the table IKEA cheaper.
The furniture design of the East and West is influenced by the design culture and human body differences. IKEA furniture design is relatively wide. By contrast, MUJI tends to make things smaller because Japanese people focus on saving resources, diversifying functions and space utilization. As shown in the picture, the MUJI sofa is compact in design and people are not suitable for lying on it. IKEA’s sofa design is very open, people can freely lie on top.
What causes differences in the design of IKEA and MUJI?
The natural environment is an important factor. IKEA was born in Northern Europe, and more than half of the Nordic location is in the Arctic Circle. This caused it to be very long in winter. On the one hand, people often stay indoors, so Nordic people prefer a comfortable, simple and soft home environment. On the other hand, Nordic timber is rich in resources, so wood is the main material in the manufacture of furniture. In contrast, MUJI was born in Japan. Japan’s geographical location is in East Asia. Due to the small size of the country, the living space is small and the population is large, and resources are limited. Therefore, the design advocates simplicity, rational use of space and reduction of waste.
National culture is another factor. The Nordic democracy is prevalent. Nordic design promotes humanistic care, focusing on both function and craftsmanship, as well as on people’s lives and psychological influences. However, Japanese design is deeply influenced by Zen, and Zen advocates natural and simple concepts, which leads to the minimalist design of MUJI furniture.
IKEA furniture and MUJI furniture are different in material, color, and other factors, reflecting different characteristics and differences of simple styles, providing a rich product for modern people who love simplicity. No matter how advanced the times, human beings have a quality of life. The pursuit will only be higher and higher. Furniture design should enhance its own level and artistic beauty from all aspects, conform to the principle of simplicity in modern life, and integrate the most direct needs of human beings with complex and diverse social environments, and then in a simple style. Establish a complete furniture work with humanistic ideas.
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