Written by Amy Schroeder and Easter Kim

Thanyaluck (Tanya) Niphatkosalsilp of IAmTanya is extremely humble about her success—especially considering she’s the first-place winner in one of the most competitive design contests in the entire stationery industry.I feel very grateful to anybody who likes my work and voted for my design, ‘Holy Night,’” she says. “It was unexpected that ‘Holy Night’ received the highest score because designs from over 5,000 submissions were entered. Many showed great potential, so the chance to win the first place was very slim.”

Holy Night” Minted Holiday Photo Card by IAmTanya

In the 10th year of Minted’s coveted Holiday Photo Card Challenge, independent artists from around the world submitted a total of 5,461 entries. Among many of Minted’s community of designers and artists, the Holiday Photo Card Challenge is often considered the most critically acclaimed competition. The first-place winner receives $10,000 in cash, a trip to San Francisco and commission on every sale of their winning card design.

How was Tanya’s card selected as the top choice among thousands? Through Minted’s unique crowdsourcing model. This year, Minted’s community of consumers, fans and the artists themselves cast a total of 2.5 million votes in the 2017 It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like the Holiday Photo Card Challenge — that’s an additional 425,000 votes compared to 2016’s Holiday Photo Card Challenge. In other words, the stakes are high.

How we surprised Tanya for her first-place win

Coincidentally, around the same time that Minted finished tallying votes for the Photo Card Challenge, Minted Founder and CEO Mariam Naficy was beginning to plan a three-city Follow Your Passion Tour to showcase Minted artists’ original artwork and Minted Art prints. The tour’s final stop on August 25 was Miami—and guess where Tanya lives? Yep, Miami. (Read about the Follow Your Passion Tour here.)

It made logical sense to start crafting a plan to surprise Tanya during the Follow Your Passion event at the Bakehouse Art Complex in Miami. Prior to the event, we had many ideas on how to surprise Tanya in Miami — but we experienced a few hiccups along the way. We asked Tanya to be a featured artist at the Miami art event and, through emails and phone calls, managed to feature her in our “Florida Minted Artists to Watch” story, which helped promote the event. Our initial scheme was for Tanya, and fellow Minted artist Jonathan Brooks, to give Mariam and the Minted team a daytime tour of the Miami art scene, which was an important component of the Follow Your Passion Tour. Unfortunately, Tanya was unavailable during the daytime, so we scratched our idea of throwing the surprise during the city tour.

Our second “master” plan was to shoot a video interview of Tanya shortly before the art event in the outdoor courtyard. During the middle of the interview, we were going to make a big splash and interrupt the interview by blasting holiday music in a large LED truck featuring Tanya’s holiday winning card design. But again, the prank gods were not on our side. On the day of the event, a huge thunderstorm hit Miami, forcing us to cancel our outdoor plan. We had to tell Tanya our third change in plans — we were just going to conduct a video interview during the event. Tanya, at this point, probably grew very suspicious of our continuous demands.

Mariam, a veteran at surprising our holiday winners, was unfazed by the hiccups and came up with the brilliant idea of incorporating Tanya in her private talk with Minted artists right before the public art event. The main discussion topic was how Minted artists can better market and promote themselves. Luckily, we had Tanya’s self-shot video of her prepping her holiday designs for an unrelated holiday PR opportunity. Mariam asked all of the unsuspecting Minted artists to follow her inside the gallery to watch the marketing video together. At this point, Tanya was completely embarrassed at the thought of the entire group watching the video, but she soldiered through the entire video. At the end of the video, she was in for an even larger shock — Mariam revealed that Tanya was the first-place winner of Minted’s Holiday Photo Card Challenge. Thankfully her husband, Saksun Niphatkosalsilp, was there for moral support and to wipe her tears of joy.

Although the surprise didn’t go according to plan, it was more than worth it when Tanya said, “I didn’t have a clue about winning the grand prize,” when we followed up with her a few days later. How do you think the surprise turned out? Watch this video to find out.

Shortly after Mariam and her team returned home to San Francisco, Hurricane Harvey reared its head in south Texas, touching too close to home for a number of Minted artists. And a couple of weeks after that, Hurricane Irma touched down in Florida, sweeping over Tanya’s home in Miami. Tanya boarded up the windows of her home and fled to Nashville, Tennessee, for safety. On the day that we published this story, September 15, we heard from Tanya, who returned to home in Miami late the night before.

How Tanya has built her design career

As a self-described shy kid who grew up in Chiang Mai, a northern province of Thailand, Tanya spent a lot of time as a child drawing cartoons in her parents’ offices—both were professors. At age 10, Tanya’s art teachers encouraged her to enter an art competition, and to her surprise, she won first place. “That experience totally changed the way I thought of myself,” she said. “I was not the smartest student in a classroom, but at least I knew I had a skill that I could be proud of. I continued participating in art competitions whenever I had a chance.”

Tanya went on to earn her master’s in graphic design in San Francisco, and she and her husband now live in Miami, where she works from home, part-time as a graphic designer for a luxury brand, and dedicates the rest of her time to producing design and art for Minted. A prolific Minted stationery designer, Tanya says she’s learned a lot since joining the Minted community in 2013. She spent a year enter Minted challenges before she got her first Editor’s Pick, but she kept trying—and improving her work. “Minted artists inspire me in so many ways,” she says. “After I graduated, my job barely required hand-drawing or painting skills. Entering Minted Challenges has brought this skill back to me.”


Easter Kim is Minted’s Senior Manager of Community Strategy and Amy Schroeder is Minted’s Senior Manager of Community Content and Education.

More Winning Designs from our 2017 Holiday Design Challenges
2017 Religious Christmas Holiday Card Challenge: Top 10-1 Winners
2017 Religious Christmas Holiday Card Challenge: Top 20-11 Winners
2017 Holiday Photo Card Challenge: Top 40-21 Winners
2017 Holiday Photo Card Challenge: Top 20-4 Winners
2017 Holiday Photo Card Challenge: 3rd-place Winner
2017 Holiday Photo Card Challenge: 2nd-place Winner

Published September 15, 2017

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