Matthew Hoffman talks You Are Beautiful


What’s up man, introduce yourself to the people

Hello everyone, I’m Matthew Hoffman, an artist and designer. I run a studio “Heyitsmatthew”, and I’m the custodian for “You Are Beautiful”

How was life growing up?

Growing up was cool. As a family we moved around a lot, living in many places in Ohio and Indiana. For the most part, it was a quiet Midwestern upbringing. My family didn’t have all of the money in the world, but what I had was a lot of free time growing up. Within all of this free time I had, I would build things.

When did you begin to notice you were creative?

As a kid I was always tinkering and making things. I would always take apart radios/TV’s and put them back together. In a way I guess I could say I’ve always been creative, just not in an art sense. My SR year of High School, I then begun to dig into my creative ways as I took a Graphic Arts class that taught me adobe Photoshop, illustrator, how to take photos, and then develop those photos. That class really taught me many different ways you could become a professional artist. Around this same time, I was beginning to apply for colleges, but I would mark undecided as my major, until one day I figured art was something I wanted to do, and I applied for Graphic design.

After graduating from Ball State in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in Fine arts, what was the career path you were looking to pursue?

When I graduated college, I really wanted to make it to Chicago, as I was living in South Bend at the time. Most weekends I would make my way down to Chicago, via the south shore, or ride with a friend. After a couple of interviews I landed a position in a Publications firm right here in Lincolnwood. I spent 11 years at the company as an Art Assistant.

2002 you started to embark on a journey. That journey was You Are Beautiful. Where did you get this idea to start You Are Beautiful?

When I finally got that job here in the Chicago land area, I knew there was something I wanted to do, to create. I didn’t know anyone here at the time, I had no family members or friends here and I had never even been in a big city before. It was fun and exciting, yet overwhelming at times. As I was saying I wanted to create something, I wanted to create a quiet little message that could help inspire and make others feel good about themselves. I made 100 stickers and began slapping them up, and the rest is history.

youarebeautiful close up sticker.jpg

Did you have any other quotes in mind?

I was playing around with a couple different ideas, but I felt like You Are Beautiful just fit universally, so it was perfect.

Why did you decide to start with stickers?

At that time I was making street-art pieces, and as a whole, street-art around 01-02 was really becoming a big thing. I loved the idea of being able to put up pieces in the urban environment. Sites like Flickr and Fotolog played a big role in the sticker game as well. Many artists from around the world were on these sites and posting pictures of their stickers. We would trade with each other and then post each other’s stickers in our cities.


How were you able to transition from stickers to murals and installations?

As I was doing stickers, I knew I always wanted to do different and bigger things. I decided to create my first installation piece and glue it underside a bridge in Rodgers Park. Funny thing is that the piece is still there after 13-14 years.

You just announced you hit 3 million stickers worldwide. Did you ever think in 2002 your brand would turn into something like this?

Not at all, I had no idea. As I look back, there was never a plan, this all just happened organically. It’s been a fun journey, and I’m stoked to see where this can continue to go over the years.

Recently you’ve been able to start working with other companies and putting together installation pieces. Describe your creative process

When it comes to fonts, I will either use Helvetica, or if it’s something different than that, it’s my own handwriting. I then bring that text into Illustrator and vectorize it. We have had some fun opportunities over the years to work with certain brands. Cards against humanity were a cool piece we worked on together. Brands usually see what we are doing on the streets and come up to us and allow us to create with full creative control. If a brand requests us and they are really open, we will always go for it.

After all of the installation pieces you’ve been able to do, what has been your favorite one?

I actually have two. The first one was the “Go For It” piece we did in the Pullman neighborhood in the Southside of Chicago. We put together this project on almost no budget. This was one of my favorite pieces because a guy from the neighborhood approached us to do something down there positive for that neighborhood. The guy went around the neighborhood asking for money to help put this project together. This project was a community experience and it was a ton of fun working on it. Our piece was supposed to be up for only a month, and it’s still there two years later.


The second favorite one would be my giant sticker on Lake Shore Drive. I’ve always wanted to make a huge sticker, and our team got together to pull it off.



(Lakeshore Drive, Oakwood Exit, Chicago Parks District for The City of Chicago, IL. 11’ x 15’. 2014-2015.)



Before starting YAB, were you always a positive person?

I don’t think so, I actually consider myself a realist rather than an opportunist. I created a positive message for everyone to use.

How important is it to live a positive lifestyle?

It’s very important. Life can be challenging, but you should always remember to look for the positive in life. Also, nobody likes the angry jerk complaining about everything. What you focus on is what your life is. If you focus on the positive things in life, your life will be filled with positivity.


How has being in Chicago helped inspire and take your creative talents to the next level?

I love Chicago it’s awesome. I feel like it has all the benefits of any big city, with the ability to do whatever you want. Anything is achievable here. I’ve found a lot of collaborative and helpful people here.


(Morse Ave Metra Underpass, Miles of Murals Program in Rogers Park for 49th Ward, Chicago, IL. 12’ x 150’. 2013 – Present.)

You just stated there are artists who are open to collab with here in Chicago. Who have been some of your favorite artists to work with?

Man, there have been a lot. First and foremost, I have to say Chris Silva. When he was living in PR, we actually lived in his house. We have been longtime friends, as he was one of the first people I met when I moved here. Another great artist is Cody Hudson. He makes stunning fine art/commercial work, and does a great job of balancing those two.


What is the most challenging part when it comes to being an artist?

I would say the most challenging part is learning how to run and handle a business. I’d also say that there are going to be different challenges at different parts of your career. But learning how to stay afloat is also a hard part about being an artist.


Where are three locations you would like to put your installations?

We have done many successful pieces in Chicago; outside of Chicago it’s a bit harder. In the last two years we have done two outside of Chicago, one in Boston, and one in Buffalo.


As far as where I would like to put installations, just about anywhere in my opinion. My favorite thing to do is create public art with positive messages that people come across that can help change their life. Wherever that location may be, I’m open to putting a piece there.


How do you want to be remembered as the creator of You Are Beautiful?

You Are Beautiful is mainly anonymous in today’s world. At the end of the day though, I don’t really care if I’m remembered. I want YAB as a movement to be remembered, and I hope when I’m all done it can continue on and grow into something bigger than it once was. 


Written By: Nicholas Rud