Which exquisite beauty spot best encapsulates Taiwan? Would it be the zigzag narrow alleys of Jiufen (九份) in New Taipei City (新北市), the landmark skyscraper Taipei 101, or the bewitching betel nut beauties along the roadsides?
At MIIN Design, the postcard is no longer a mere thin piece of cardboard. Pop-up military police are goose-stepping in front of National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, motorcyclists are riding along the streets of Taipei. Varied images from different aspects of Taiwan come to life in a 2D postcard, with several celebrated tourist attractions captured.
Such innovative presentations from MIIN Design have generated total sales that exceed 700,000 postcards over a span of six-and-a-half years. Meanwhile, the sales of its popular “2D Postcard” and “Screen Postcard” totaled 133,000 last year, which means a postcard was sold to a tourist every four minutes.
Comprising only six personnel, the small design company has continued to launch a series of products infused with a strong Taiwanese aura — such as postcards, notebooks and a board game featuring a tourism industry magnate — which have earned the company several design awards, both national and international.
As 37-year-old designer Ben Huang (黃文志), who founded MIIN Design in late 2005, unfolded a 2D postcard, several people holding sky lanterns with their wishes on them ready to be released into the sky in Pingsi (平溪), New Taipei City, popped up. The sky was filled with sky lanterns, embellishing the night sky with glowing spots of light.
“Isn’t it like a miniature stage, where various local customs are performed,” Huang said.
The company’s first design came about after Huang and an acquaintance took a trip to Green Island (綠島) a few years ago, where the pair bemoaned the lack of souvenirs that showed the best of the picturesque island.
In an attempt to offer tourists something more than mass-produced souvenirs from China and Southeast Asia, the pair soon started their own design company.
When the pair proposed printing Taiwanese scenes on fans and postcards as tourist souvenirs — including snorkeling, Formosan sika deer and the Zhaori Saltwater Hot Springs — their innovative business idea soon generated more than 200,000 orders.
When manufacturing postcards, the pair insist that only pictures that they have taken personally are used, rather than off-the-shelf photographs.
Despite having triple the production cost of ordinary postcards, their 2D postcards were so well received that it encouraged them to turn more typical Taiwanese scenes into 2D postcards. They have now produced 24, including the breathtaking Alishan in Chiayi County and Longshan Temple in New Taipei City.
Another exceptional type of postcard, the “screen postcard,” was introduced later, as the pair wanted to produce cards with the features of photographic slides.
However, this distinctive kind of postcard was not easy to manufacture and it required difficult processes, because it necessitated a particular printing method and additional layers to inlay the pictures into the transparencies, Huang said. An additional difficulty was that each picture had to be attached by hand.
In the first batch of 1,000 screen postcards, approximately 60 percent to 70 percent of the pictures were lopsided or appeared to have indentations.