MUJI’s 1st newspaper ad in 1980: “Cheap for a reason.” The ad lists all 40 products and why they are more affordable.

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.


an ad from 1981 when MUJI added baby products: “love doesn’t need to be decorated.”

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.


An ad from 1981. At the time, canned salmon only included the center file, even though the neck and tail was entirely edible. Using a simple but bold illustration MUJI appealed their way of re-thinking materials and resources that might otherwise get thrown away.



“Natural, Naturally, Muji” reads an ad from 1983



An ad from 1991 that highlights the importance of taking time in creating a product. In this case, soy sauce.


An ad from 1997


An ad from 2000. The character for “good” from the company’s name, made from the 4000+ products they then carried.


From 2000: “MUJI wind blows in London; in Paris”


An ad from 2000 for a new store in Kobe: “MUJI ties together London, Paris and Kobe.”