Matthew Hoffman: A Decade of You Are Beautiful

You Are Beautiful.

Three simple words with more meaning behind them than some might see. Chicago-based artist and designer Matthew Hoffman set out over a decade ago to remind the human race of their interconnectivity through these three words. The words themselves have taken on a power that has influenced countless international projects and placed the movement in the upper echelon of revolution unprecedented in the industry, adamantly validating positivity in the face of adversity. Anyone making a fuss over the fusty, run-of-the-mill traditions that have plagued the progress of street art in general can look to You Are Beautiful for a lesson in real progress.

The founder and self-proclaimed custodian of You Are Beautiful, Matthew Hoffman, operates out of his studio Hey It’s Matthew and has an expansive portfolio that has been exhibited internationally. His freshly-released book on the movement he created, aptly titled A Decade of You Are Beautiful, was celebrated at Galerie F over the weekend to a tremendous reception. 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 featured in a segment on the Oprah network. Big time.

“Let’s be human again.”


How was the turnout Friday night? I am sorry I couldn’t make it to Galerie F for the event. I’ve been seeing some preliminary Instagram posts though, and it looks like everyone is having a kick ass fuckin’ time. Was it everything you’d hoped it would be and more? 
It was an incredible time! So many people came out, it was such a fun night. The outpouring of support is a little overwhelming at times. Chicago has my heart.

What do you hope for those present to take away from the evening’s festivities?
I hope for two things. That spreading a positive message, in an often negative world is an awesome thing to do, and we should all join in. The other takeaway is just how incredible the Chicago community & Chicago art community is. This is an incredible city, packed full of talent. As a city, we don’t always flaunt that, but on Friday night, we celebrated over 60 artists.

Purely out of curiosity, why the “one night only” approach?
Sometimes things are fleeting. Enjoy the moment.


Tell our readers about the inception of You Are Beautiful, who you worked with on the project in the early going, and its progress over the years…
Not to say “buy the book,” but the book does a very good job of showing the process and history from the early beginnings to where we are now. It was a journey to put the book together, but it’s so refreshing to now have something to point to, that really tells the story.

The short and simple version is that it started with 100 poorly printed stickers in 2002. The first large scale installation was put up about a year later. We spent 2 weeks making the piece, and it lasted around an hour. Every step of the way there have been set backs, but you can’t let that deter you! You have to just keep pushing along, and that’s exactly what we did. It has now become a universal message, displayed on every continent of the world, with collaborations with thousands of artists, and an ever growing community.

The extensive list of participating artists for your book signing event is a testament to the importance of the message you have inspired over the last decade. How does it feel to be responsible for such an important movement and to have so many artists support You Are Beautiful?
I consider myself the custodian of the project. I keep the lights on, and the floors clean. The community is what is the driving force behind this project. It’s a testament to them. Those that had the courage or excitement to say, “I’m in!” I’m just so grateful to be a part of it all.

So, without giving it all away (unless you’re into that), what’s the book going to contain? What, if anything, have you written about in addition to YAB-related material? 
Sure thing! The book covers the 10 years of the project, with 10 lessons learned along the way. The idea is that this book becomes an inspiration manual for your own creative ideas. You can check out the chapter titles and synopsis here.

Where will your book be available for purchase?
You can get your own copy here. All books through our site are signed.

How do you view the impact You Are Beautiful has had on the art scene, and on a larger scale, the world?

For me, one of the coolest things is to find the phrase randomly scrawled under a bridge or in a bathroom. That person likely has no idea who I am, and might not even know about the project. But somehow, with the message floating around in the world, inspired them to write “you are beautiful.”

To me, it doesn’t get any better than that. The fact that someone didn’t draw an anarchy symbol, a phallic image, or write “get bent.” That the first thing that came to their mind in that moment was something positive. Something that other people would come along and see, and really get something out of it. It’s a way to leave a high five or a hug to a random stranger. It’s so much more rewarding than dumping on other people. To have a hand in that shift is really something truly special.


You’ve garnered much attention worldwide for YAB, so…What’s next for you, YAB, and your art? 
Just keep spreading the word! We’ve printed over 1.5 million stickers, which is super impressive. But there are over 7 billion people on the planet, so we still have some work to do 🙂

Where can our readers keep up with what you’re up to on a regular basis?