This post is part of MAS Context Dialogues, a series of conversations with Chicago-based designers hosted by Stephen Killion.
Existing somewhere between the traditional expectations of graphic design, public art and sculptural installations, Matthew Hoffman’s work is unapologetically positive in nature. I think it could be easy to dismiss his work as a simple distillation of motivational jargon and positive vibes, but the ability for his work to position itself, sometimes very literally, in the social / cultural realm proves that there is more to the story.
Probably best known for his “you are beautiful” project, a personal exercise started in 2002 with a small run of 100 minimally designed stickers adorned with the simple phrase, “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” typeset in all lowercase sans serif letters. Thirteen years after it’s inception this phrase has been re-produced into block-long murals, public installations, and exhibitions at cultural institutions in Chicago and throughout the world.
Today, if you visit the project’s website, you quickly start to understand that the physicality of each object is less important than its cultural impact. Matthew describes it best by saying, “You Are Beautiful is more than a little sticker, it’s an idea. It’s a way to brighten someone’s day, a way to pat a stranger on the back, a way to remind ourselves that even when things aren’t going great, it’s ok.”
The genuine enthusiasm and playfulness that is present in the “you are beautiful” project sets the tone for almost all his other work. By working with his hands, and embracing the individuality that come with physically reproducing something time and time again, Matthew has found a way to give a personality to each and every piece he creates.
His work is a friendly reminder that it is beneficial to be an optimist, even when sometimes it is not the easiest thing to do.
“It all comes back to a small act. A little thing. A single stickers. One Phrase.” – Matthew Hoffman
“Strella, Sing a Singsong to the Moon” by Studio Noir is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.
Matthew Hoffman is a Chicago-based artist and designer who operates out of his studio Hey It’s Matthew. He is the founder of the You Are Beautiful project, which has shared over one million stickers, installations, and exhibitions with the world. Hoffman’s ideas and work have been included in Good, the New York Times Magazine, and Ready Made. He has been published in a number of books by Gestalten, Droog, and Taschen, and was recently featured in a segment on the Oprah Winfrey network.
www.heyitsmatthew.com | @heyitsmatthew
Formally trained as an architect, Stephen Killion uses his parallel understanding in both the architectural and graphic design discipline to advance an ongoing curiosity in how users inhabit, interact and understand the built environment through design. In addition to his award winning multidisciplinary design background, he has showcased and highlighted notable projects by acting as a contributing writer/editor for Mark Magazine, Architizer and Design Bureau.