Mak Kam-Seng

Mak is the last red minibus sign maker in Hong Kong. He produces signs everyday in his studio on the second floor of an apartment building on Battery Street, Jordan, reviving this trade and tradition in his own way. Mak started making signs in 1982, and now he has been in the industry for more than 35 years. Apart from making minibus signs, he also expanded his business by producing souvenirs such as key rings, card holders and folders.

Although this handcraft might be seen as a sunset business, he persisted through and now he has attracted media coverage from overseas; and successfully revived a business that was once heading steep downhill.


“No character is too large; no morpheme is too small.”

Mak’s philosophy in writing good calligraphy

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While making hand-painted signs for minibuses was big business the 80s, the recent trends in technology and modernisation has meant that the need for calligraphy signs denoting destinations and routes has grown smaller and smaller. The newest minibuses to ply Hong Kong roads are now using LED displays to denote routes while many of the hand-painted signages seem to have been replaced by laminated paper taped to bus windows considering it is a relatively inexpensive alternative.However despite the big slowdown in business, Mak continued to make hand made calligraphy pieces though now for an altogether new audience. For a business that was once dominated by orders from minibus operators, a majority of Mak’s earnings now come from selling souvenirs with hand-painted signages to wholesalers and interestingly he has not let technology hinder his business. He has embraced it. Mak now conducts calligraphy workshops in Hong Kong with his main aim being to revive the dying art in Hong Kong and he used modern technology to get the word out.Social media has become a go-to platform to attract young Hong Kongers interested in learning the art with Mak’s main goal to prepare a new generation of Hong Kongers to carry forward the art. However, while his business has diversified, Mak hasn’t completely stopped working on minibus accessories.Currently, he still makes the occasional hand made calligraphy signs. He has also pushed ahead in the field of electronics and now even makes and programs LED boards for minibuses.

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Although LED signs are replacing traditional ones, minibus signs remain a symbol of Hong Kong. Mak’s works are featured in movies like “Lost in Time” and “The Midnight After.”In the age of computers, he admitted that the business is declining. “They’re too convenient, computers,” he said. “It’s really easy to pick a font, so no one cares for handwriting, but I love it.”Instead of falling behind, Mak has rode on them. He uses Facebook to tell people about the calligraphy workshops he runs; expanded his business into souvenirs like minibus sign keychains and cardholders.

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Income Sourcing from Social Media


Income from Souvenir Business


Income from Local People

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Minibus Sign Workshop


Mak organises minibus signs workshops regularly since last year. These two hour sessions are split into two parts, he introduces the history of minibus and how the minibus signs have evolved. He also shows old footages in movies as reference. The latter part of the workshop would be the actual making of a minibus sign where students can decide what to write on, so it each of them are unique. Demonstration and calligraphy skills and techniques are also introduced.Mak believes this is a great way to interact with students and to spread the minibus sign making handcraft to various generations to allow people to learn and be familiar with the history of minibuses and the signs, in the hope that this handcraft will sustain for as long as it can.Highlights of the workshop:

Hawk Advertising Company Limited油麻地砲台街39號
39 Battery Street, Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong2780 0763

Multimedia Project by:Bonnie Au, Yu Qiaoqiao, Jaiveer Mehra, Matthew Xia, Priscilla Lee