Designing “ChiangsTalk” – Cultural and creative industry with a smileUsing humor to help Taiwan keep pace with international trends 設計蔣堂 搞笑文創 以幽默感接軌國際潮流

The cultural and creative industries can be funny too! As “ChiangsTalk” founder Wu Sung-Chou sees it, design and culture are closely interrelated, but that doesn’t mean they have to solemn or serious; integrating the cultural and creative industries with tourism can help to create new value.

In 2008, when the dispute over the renaming of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei was at its height, A-Chou (Wu Sung-Chou) proposed “bringing Chiang Kai-Shek and Chiang Ching-Kuo back into the Memorial Hall”; he won the tender to operate a souvenir shop in the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, which he named “ChiangsTalk.” A-Chou, who had previously only worked as a designer, now found himself running a souvenir retail outlet too. A-Chou threw all of his energy, and his life’s savings, into ChiangsTalk. However, the first year of the store’s operation coincided with the global financial crisis, and ChiangsTalk lost around NT$300,000 a month for 10 months in a row.

When he examined the consumer behavior of the people who visited ChiangsTalk, A-Chou noticed that many of them were looking for something “special.” A-Chou rethought the way products were displayed in the store, aiming to create an environment in which the store would actually be selling “memories.” The idea was that visitors to ChiangsTalk would be able to find products related to Chiang Kai-Shek and Chiang Ching-Kuo, distinctively Taiwanese products, and products that embodied outstanding design; the store would “cover Taiwan from end to end within an area of just 26.4m2.”

Stories of things that have happened at ChiangsTalk are posted on the store blog every day. One day, an elderly Japanese couple came to ChiangsTalk. They said that their son had visited the store the previous year, and that the store manager had slipped a postcard into his bag (as a free gift) without him noticing. Their son didn’t discover the card until he had arrived home in Japan; he was both pleased and slightly embarrassed. It was this that gave them the idea of visiting the store. “We are ‘selling out’ Taiwan,” says A-Chou with a laugh. “We sell beautiful memories to people, and hope that they will bring those memories back again in the future.” Over the last two years, thanks to the hard work of the ChiangsTalk team, the store has seen an improvement in its sales performance, and is now growing steadily.