What’s in a sign? Bringing modern design to traditional shops in World Design Capital Taipei


Walk down any street or visit any traditional market in Taipei and you will discover a plethora of unique shops, the business models of which are rooted in true grit. For many of these often tiny, always family run businesses, a storefront sign is merely an afterthought.

The Small Shop Signboard Manufacturer–a project organised in collaboration with Taipei-based design company Archicake–partners the city’s leading designers with these traditional entrepreneurs to create contemporary storefront signs that better convey the dedication and distinct character of each shop to the modern customer. Running since 2013, the project will this year focus on the creation of signboards for traditional market stalls in Taipei

designer with traditional market- seafood shop

As the project organizers state, the aim of the Small Shop Signboard Manufacturer initiative is to encourage both designers and shop owners to experiment with different materials to create a harmonious and comfortable street environment while balancing the needs of the shop and considering the overall appearance of the city streets. Through design, small, individual gestures can have a positive impact that quickly spreads throughout the neighborhood and often even into surrounding areas.

Dazhi Market is just one among the huge number of morning produce markets that dot Taipei’s City’s 12 districts. Located in bustling Zhongshan District, it is also the site of one of the most extensive renovations most recently completed under the Small Shop Signboard Manufacturer project. A press conference was held outside the covered market on the morning of Thursday, April 28, 2016, to unveil the initiative’s latest creations.

The media event was attended by Pei-ni Beatrice Hsieh (謝佩霓), Commissioner of the Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs; two of the designers responsible for the new Dazhi Market signage designs–Aaron Nieh (聶永真), Founder of the famed Aaron Nieh Workshop, and independent illustrator Wei-Da Lin (林韋達); and other dignitaries and members of the Dazhi Market community.

designer with traditional market- chicken and eggs

“I consider my design to be a bit cold and grim, so it was strange for me to create something that looks ‘friendly,’” Aaron Nieh noted during his speech to attending press and community members. “However, this project represented a great chance for our team to learn how to relax and try to design a friendly looking shop sign. It wasn’t until we finished all three shop signs that we realized that we can actually create something pretty cute.”

Illustrator Wei-Da Lin also spoke of her experience designing for the initiative: “This project offers a great chance to communicate directly with stall owners, as communicating builds real human connections, which is just like how this market was first created. Through this project, I hope everyone can start to think about the beauty that surrounds us in our lives and try to make things even more beautiful.”

Finally, Huang Xiangjin, the head of the Stall-owner Committee at Dazhi Market, took the opportunity to express his gratitude and enthusiasm for the project: “The signboards designed by designers Feng Yu, Aaron Nieh, and Wei-Da Lin are all excellent; they preserve the special characteristics of the stalls, and also make people feel warm inside. This activity provides a chance to transform the traditional market with a rich sense of modern art. I am grateful to all of you for your help. On behalf of the committee, thank you.”

Small Shop Signboard Manufacturer

By the end of May 2016, the “Small Shop Signboard Manufacturer” project will celebrate the creation of its 100th sign, proving Taipei is truly living up to its World Design Capital ethos of “Adaptive City – Design in Motion.”