Kenya Hara is the current art director at minimal lifestyle retailer MUJI, and is largely credited with the brand’s current image. But before Hara there was Ikko Tanaka, who steered the company’s “no brand” philosophy from its onset in 1980 up until 2000. He passed away in 2002. Now, a new exhibition in London and Milan is celebrating his work to commemorate 25 years of MUJI in Europe.
25 archival advertising posters designed by Ikko Tanaka were recently on display at a pop-up event space in London. Now, the work is being moved to MUJI’s flagship store in Milan from October 27 – November 7, 2016.
It’s fascinating to see the evolution of MUJI’s advertisements, which began as text-heavy artworks that would blend seamlessly into newspapers. It’s also worth noting that MUJI was originally a Seiyu brand, hence the Seiyu mark in some of the earlier posters. Stores were always located inside Seiyu Department Stores.
In the mid-90s the ads took on a cleaner, more minimal style identified by simple line drawings accompanied by short catch-phrases. In the early 90s, and then again towards the late 90s, Tanaka used color photography in some of his ads, a look which can be identified with MUJI’s current branding.