p.p1 of a visceral, behavioural, and reflective element. (Norman)

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There is a traditional Japanese aesthetic that views the sheer richness in what is intensely plain. This plainness in Japanese aesthetics is different from the Western notion of simplicity. If “simple” in the West is defined as something that stems from rational alignment of purpose and use, then “emptiness” is the right word for such plainness. It is a limitless adaptability that accepts every concept and adjusts to any intent. This concept of “emptiness” lies at the centre of the tea ceremony, ikebana, Noh theatre, Japanese gardens and architecture, and all the other cultural practices that arise from uniquely Japanese aesthetics. The same is true of MUJI. (Hara)

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Emptiness forms the essence of MUJI’s philosophy, its origins dating back to ancient Japan, drawing inspiration from the Japanese tea ceremony.  Emptiness is the catalyst for emotions and thoughts to freely flow between the user and object. Ideas and communication develop from emptiness, which stimulates the imagination of the audience. (Hara)

MUJI embodies this emptiness in the design of their products, identity and communication. It serves as an empty vessel, their products fit into the circumstances of every lifestyle, relevant to people from around the world of any age, gender and culture. (Hara)

How can emptiness in design connect with consumers? 
Donald A Norman developed the theory that design — and the way in which we relate with and process designed objects — may be split into three distinct parts consisting of a visceral, behavioural, and reflective element. (Norman)

Visceral: 
Based on the user’s initial reaction to an object; its appearance
Behavioural: 
Based on user interaction with the object’s functionality; its pleasure and effectiveness of use
Reflective: 
Based on how the user relates with the object, how it makes them feel; its personal association and appeal to one’s self-image

This study seeks to investigate how the concept of emptiness in Japanese aesthetics found in 
MUJI lifestyle products foster emotional connections with the consumer, through evaluating the ways MUJI encompasses the three levels of design processes, visceral, behavioural and reflective in their philosophy, products and communication.