MUJI Award 02 & More on ‘Chronotebook’

MUJI Award 02 Results

You might’ve known that the results for MUJI Award 02 was announced some time ago – the winners were selected from among 3422 entries from the world. ‘Towel with Further Options” won the Gold Prize:

This bath towel moves your mind toward further uses of the product. Towels take every day dirt and gradually become damaged. In accordance with such changes, you can downsize the towel with “further options” from a bath towel to a bath mat, and then to a floor cloth and dust cloth. The towel has a vertical and horizontal textured surface that does not produce pile-fabric waste when cut with scissors. The lines act as a marker for cutting and form square modules that let you imagine other uses, encouraging you to re-use it.

The rest of the entries are the Stackable Hanger, Chronotebook and Kakujio (cube salt). In this post, I’d like to explain more about the Chronotebook design: if for no other reasons – well, because I’m the designer behind this. As the title implies, this is a notebook with Time as a central element in design.

Chronotebook - Exterior

On the outside, the Chronotebook is a rather plain notebook meant for daily use – much like a daily planner. It is A6-sized, thus able to fit into your pants pockets if you really wanted it to. It comes with rounded corners both for aesthetic purposes, as well as to minimize ‘dog-earing’ of the book pages as you use it. A handy bookmark ribbon helps you remember which page you stopped at. Overall, simple plain MUJI-ness.

Chronotebook - Interior

The inside is where the difference lies. Instead of lines and rows of scheduling grids, you are greeted by stark and minimal graphics. At the center of each page there is a graphic of a clock – AM on the left and PM on the right. That’s it. You plan your daily activities around the clock.

MUJI Chronotebook - Usage


That much about the product design and usage itself. Why do it this way? Quite a few factors. A daily planner’s central purpose is to communicate clearly what the owner needs to do at each time. Here’s where I thought the design can be improved:

1) Grid Phobia
Typical Daily Planner

This is how a typical daily planner might look like. In the traditional layout, time is usually arranged in rows defined by horizontal lines. At a glance, they look oppressive and rigid, as we are forced to segment our lives and activities into an artificial lattice of compartments. We are however, not that robotic.

2) Analog vs Digital
Analog vs Digital
We lead our lives in analog, continuous circles of days and nights. While some have grown used and fond of digital watches, I believe that many of us still feel a more direct and intimate connection to an analog watch face. Time seems to be more human this way – maybe it’s the tradition dating all the way back to the first sundial. Or that it’s round and repetitious, just like time (day and night). These are subtle qualities that are lost in the translation to the digital notions of telling time (albeit more precise perhaps).

3) Writing within the lines All Over
Writing All Over

Because of the numerous hours in a day (and various other constraints), the lines in a diary are typically very narrow. They are also usually equally distributed (somewhat). But our information is a hierarchy. Some are more important to us. Some we feel happier about. We want to highlight stuff that’s important to us. We want to write things that are more important in BIGGER sizes. Our lives cannot be so easily and clearly divided into equal parcels.

Chronotebook Detail
In response to those issues, the Chronotebook’s design gives freedom: You can write all over the page – there are plenty of blank spaces. It’s not entirely haphazard either – the central graphical ‘clock’ element still holds all the appointments and schedules together in a logical and intuitive way. It is also easier and quicker to glance at the happenings for the day.

So, those were some of the thoughts behind this design. Hope it helped you understand the design intent behind. If you have any comments/criticisms, do voice them out – I’d certainly appreciate them. Meanwhile, I’d be away for the next few days in Tokyo for the award ceremony – so there probably won’t be any updates until next week.

Till then! 🙂


36 comments so far

  1. Duegi on


    What a nice concept…a realparadigm shift for the stodgy old day planner. I do have one question: Where can I get one? Seriously, I want one…or two.

    Well done!

  2. Michelle on

    I know my planner looks more like a sketchbook than something that should be nice and organized, so your design gives people freedom to define what’s more important that day than other planners. Great concept! And ditto- where can we get one- seriously, you should market that.

  3. Sean on

    Wonderful concept! I have never been able to make disciplined use of a normal planner because of the very reasons you list in your write-up. I can totally see myself using your organizer to its fullest potential. Great job and out-of-the-box thinking!

    p.s. Market this thing for purchase!

  4. rachel on

    woweeee.. i like!! i have soo many 5/6 empty diaries cos they’re just too depressingly boxy =P
    are they for sale already?

  5. Gems Sty on

    Hi all,

    Thanks a lot for your comments, glad many of you liked it! I’ve just gotten back from Japan from the award ceremony. The rights to mass-producing this will lie with MUJI, as a condition of the design competition. I too will hope that this would become available as an item in their collection. 🙂

    • Dina on

      Why does this have to be the ONLY reliable srouce? Oh well, gj!

  6. […] Read more about the ‘Chronotebook’ design here […]

  7. […] writes extensively about his very clever idea at his Gems Sty Blog, do check it […]

  8. […] Should the awards jury conduct patent searches on the winning products? And if a winning product is found to infringe a patent what happens then? This problem can only multiply as, in the recent years, there have been a huge growth in numbers of such awards, so much so you could enter one almost every month! Fortunately as I know KK personally, I do not doubt his integrity or his design ability to independently come up with a similar concept. […]

  9. max on

    btw, if muji is selling it, you can order via‘s special order service if you are outside japan

  10. Gems Sty on

    Oh, thanks Max for the heads up to White Rabbit’s service – never knew such a service existed~~

    • Dayat on

      Sam Posted on absolutely agered it’s probably more appropriate to have a Best Idea Executed Across More Than One Channel, Including At Least Two Digital category or if you want to be succinct Most Versatile Idea but you’ve got me thinking about how best to evaluate integration

  11. Elizabeth Kozak on

    I have been unable to find this product. Anyone know where the Chronotebook can be purchased?

    Thank you.

  12. Gems Sty on

    Hi Elizabeth,

    The Chronotebook will be manufactured and distributed by MUJI; though I’m not exactly sure when it’d hit the stores (has it?? Anyone seen it?). I’d let everyone know once I confirm it has gone onto the market (and how to buy one).

  13. Richard Fan on

    Thanks for bring it to the market place. CONGRATULATIONS!.
    i’ve have been using this system for years, after skipping using traditional linear planners. it really works beautifully. i photocopied my own DIY A3 size 7-Day Planner and Folded A4-into-A6 Travel-Planner. This works best for visual-analog-people (like me) . . cheers, can’t wait to buy it at muji

  14. Notebook Reviews at Deeplinking on

    […] point of view?’” Designer types are entranced by Muji’s intense minimalism. Their chrononotebook makes people […]

  15. […] used to go to one in London sometimes and always liked it. I never bought any notebooks there, but this is a great review of one: the Chronotebook, which offers a whole new way of looking at a daily planner. Each page spread […]

  16. Speedmaster on

    Very cool, I really want one of these! 😉

  17. […] a wholly analogue way of planning your day. Read more about this award-winning design here. If someone were to bring this MUJI dayplanner to the App Store, it’d be a major hit. […]

  18. Hyram H. on

    This would make an awesome alternative to iCal if it were transformed into digital.

    Gems, you should try to find a developer who can turn this into an app that can be run on Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch. It would be an astounding success, and quite a lucrative little earner for you and the developer.

  19. Liam on

    This is one of the better ideas I have seen for a day planner! would you know how I could get one in Australia or how I could order online?

  20. Gems Sty on

    Thanks for your suggestion! 🙂

    I’m not sure if you can get it in Australia yet – and it’s not sold (yet) in MUJI Singapore. I know it’s sold in Japan (and probably US by now).

  21. […] a d’utiliser (ou non) un objet. C’est le cas avec cette idée simplissime (Par Wong Kok Kiong un des gagnants du concours de design des magasins Muji), qui bouleverse l’usage fait […]

  22. Aditya on

    What an amazingly refreshing approach to design. Just picked up a couple of these at the MUJI in NYC.

    All I can say is, thank you. 🙂

  23. […] MUJI Award 02 & More on ‘Chronotebook’ « Gems Sty We lead our lives in analog, continuous circles of days and nights. While some have grown used and fond of digital watches, I believe that many of us still feel a more direct and intimate connection to an analog watch face. Time seems to be more human this way – maybe it’s the tradition dating all the way back to the first sundial. Or that it’s round and repetitious, just like time (day and night). These are subtle qualities that are lost in the translation to the digital notions of telling time (albeit more precise perhaps). (tags: design) […]

  24. […] writeups here and here with some comparisons with regular list-based […]

  25. […] Chronotebook, di Wong Kok Kiong, è stato uno dei vincitori del Muji Award International Design Competition 2007. Alcuni di voi […]

  26. Michael on

    When my friend sent me a link to the award winners, this is what wrote back about the Chrononotebook:

    Wow –

    I’m awestruck!

    Possibly the best invention since relativity!

    Thanks for bringing Muji back into my life.

  27. Gems Sty on

    Wow, that’s really flattering. Thanks Michael!

    • Ayank on

      True that.However, I noticed that you use smlelar backlog and response for the cogen sample. Also, if you spawn a coroutine for each new connection and avoid makefile you can get a bit more response rate out of it. Eg: import sys from cogen.core import sockets from cogen.core import schedulers from cogen.core.coroutines import coroutine @coroutine def server(): srv = sockets.Socket() adr = (‘′, len(sys.argv)>1 and int(sys.argv[1]) or 1200) srv.bind(adr) srv.listen(5000) while 1: conn, addr = yield srv.accept() m.add(handler, args=(conn,)) @coroutine def handler(conn): yield conn.send(“HTTP/1.0 200 OK\r\nContent-Length: 5\r\n\r\nPong!\r\n”) conn.close() m = schedulers.Scheduler() m.add(server)

  28. […] Muji’s Minimalist Chronotebook By Crystal Chronotebook […]

  29. ArmsOfLove on

    I recently read Organizing for the Creative Mind and have worried I’d have to figure out how to design something that works exactly like this product! The only change I’d make has to do with visually reflecting how my energy ebbs and flows through the day but as I’m not talented in the creating department I will just say a very hearty BRAVO and THANK YOU for this Chronotebook. When I first looked at the picture in the new Martha Stewart Living magazine I IMMEDIATELY saw my life flow out as a mind mapping on the page and almost wept that I was no longer going to be shackled to the daytimer I’ve tried so hard and so worthlessly to get to organize me.

    I see people asking where to buy it so I thought I’d post where I found it

    Thank you again, Gems Sty. You will never know how much I’m sure this will improve the entire quality of my life.

  30. leszek on

    I have just found MUJI Awards website and must admit that your chronotebook really amazed me. And although it is nice to hear your thoughts, I think it just speaks for itself 🙂

  31. Air conditioning in Plano on

    I do not typically say this, although this particular write-up is excellent. I’ve been browsing The search engines all day for a respectable post on the toxic dump of duplicated and ripped off material that the Net has grow to be and then I eventually come to this, this web site is the breath of fresh air that I needed this morning.

  32. Android Accessories on

    Nice design !

  33. Margarita on

    Chris Roberts June 20, 2010 Good GOD!I wonder how you make it tgruohh the day without hurting yourself! HAI say keep pissing off perfect strangers. If you’re getting pissed off about that then they must need to get laid! Trying having a little fun!

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