MUJI gel ink ball-point pen

“Simple design” for stationery supplies can get tricky, because simplification – or rather streamlining – is often applied to the quality in order to lower production costs.  Many items come in flashy, eye-catching designs with a disappointing user experience: erasers don’t erase, tapes and glues don’t stick, and pens and markers don’t write well. 

What if the priority is upended and simplification is applied to the outer design and packaging in order to improve product quality and user experience? Take a look at MUJI’s capped gel-ink ballpoint pen.

The gel ink ballpoint pen was first developed in 1984 by Sakura Color Products, the Japanese manufacturer of writing and coloring materials including Sakura Cray-pas oil pastels (Japanese “Crayola”). Developed as a middle-ground between oil-based ink (viscose) and water-based ink (fluid), gel ink adjusts its viscosity depending on the environment: it starts as thick ink in a reservoir, then becomes less viscose when it comes contact with the ball. After it’s applied to writing surface, like a piece of paper, it regains its viscosity. These characteristics make the writing experience smooth, consistent and smear-free.  Once introduced, gel ink quickly became a standard of a ballpoint pen in Japan.

 MUJI’s capped gel-ink ballpoint pen also employs a mechanical feature that prevents air leaking into the body of the pen in order to minimize ink malfunction. It also uses water-based pigments to achieve vibrant colors with minimum smear.

MUJI’s pens feel smooth. It almost feels like a marker, rather than a ballpoint pen.  It does not bleed through or smear. Ink flows consistently without adding too much pressure. They are offered at around $1.50, comes in three different pen nib sizes (0.25mm, 0.38mm and 0.5mm) and more than 10 color variations.

With these pens, you will re-discover the joy of writing, and that’s what simplification should be all about.