In the past few years, Muji has gotten a lot of attention for their pens. If you look around a classroom of university students, it’s likely you can find a good portion of them using a Muji pen or highlighter.
Something else that I’ve noticed is how some of my friends have purchased enough of these pens to cover the whole spectrum of the rainbow, and they take pride in using all these variations of colour when taking their notes.
Why have Muji pens become so popular? People have extreme brand loyalty to them, give them as gifts, and use them to write everything. It’s not something you’ll find with other brands such as Pentel or BIC, which people just buy for convenience.
I would argue that it comes down to minimalistic aesthetic, functionality, and the tactile experience of writing.
Minimalistic Aesthetic, Beautifully Functional
When you really look at the materials of a Muji pen, none of it really screams “premium”. The pen is made of translucent plastic with a metal tip. There’s nothing shiny about it. It’s just simple.
This is a widely documented stance from Muji, and their design philosophy invokes the idea that “Muji is enough”. This minimalistic message is a counter to the Western idea that “more is better”.
With other pens, you can find their packaging stuffed with features and benefits. In bold colours, they gloss about their soft-hand grip, the smoothest ink ever, and how it will last you for the next year.
But really, no consumer who is searching for cheap pens needs all that information. It’s arguably more than we need.
When you buy a Muji pen, they don’t even bother with the packaging. They leave them out in boxes and let you test them on paper pads before you buy them.
The pens are just your perfect, generic writing tool. They don’t have extra features. They’re perfectly round and smooth. There’s nothing you need to click to start writing, just pop off the cap, store it on the top of the pen, and start writing.
The simplicity is all you need.
The Tactile Experience of Writing
Before my own appreciation for Muji started, my friend commented that Muji pens just seemed to “make me want to write more.” How can such a basic pen possibly make me want to write more?
After a few years of working with these pens, I’ve realized it comes down to the combination of the ink’s consistency and the subtle vibration of the pen when you start writing.
Some pens are really inconsistent with their ink. They will dry out or flow too quickly, leading to faded colours. It’s more of a microfrustration than anything, but it’s something that rarely happens with Muji pens unless they run out of ink. The consistency of the colour in Muji makes writing with it really pleasing to the eye and makes people want to keep on writing.
I think that the most interesting part about a Muji pen is its subtle vibration and sound when you type. With many other pen brands, they are focused on creating an ink and writing experience that is smooth and frictionless.
Something that I’ve realized is that when a pen is too smooth, it is very easy to get sloppy with your writing. On top of that, the ink starts to run and blot too much.
With Muji pens, two things happen when you write. As the pointed tip moves across the paper, it makes a subtle scratching sound. The friction between the pen and paper causes this scratching sound while also causing the pen to vibrate subtly. There is a pleasurable tactile feedback to the pens that make you want to keep on writing. To me, the sensation is almost like carving words into the paper.
Beautifully functional design and the realization that smoother isn’t always better, make Muji pens one of my favourites. Would highly recommend.