This Chicago-based studio is creating smiles on every continent of the world (including Antarctica) with a small sticker
What do a billboard in downtown Chicago, a neighbourhood bus stop, a park fence and a dive bar bathroom stall have in common? Three simple words: You Are Beautiful. More than twenty years ago, a Chicago design studio with the same name printed a bunch of stickers with the positive message they would put up around the city with one sole goal: to put a smile on people’s faces.
Now, more than three millions of stickers later, the phrase has been translated in over 100 languages and appears far and wide in many forms—from public art murals, to installations, to stationery, to accessories and apparel. The uplifting message has created a community around the world.
Their latest treat? A 365 tear-off daily calendar, offering a daily affirmation. Every day begins with “you are” and phrases range from aspirational to humorous: you are valued, you are brave, you are getting there. Giving a twist to the old-school desk staple, it serves as a gentle reminder to allow yourself to express that part of you, no matter how small or large.
The You are Beautiful project was created by artist and designer, Matthew Hoffman, who’s handwritten every single, colorful phrase on the calendar. His positivity is unsurprisingly infectious. “It really gave me an opportunity to see what ‘you are beautiful’ means. I’ve always said, if you asked a hundred people what they got from the sticker, you’d get a hundred different answers. To me, it’s an idea rooted deep within—that we all matter and mean something. So I wanted to play with that, and just started writing,” he says.
“The Daily Calendar for 2021 starts every single day with the “you are” affirmation. It was incredibly fun and exhausting. It was eye opening how many different ways this simple phrase could be interpreted in,” he adds explaining: “I feel that I might not ‘deserve’ each phrase personally, and I wondered if others might feel that way too. So to open that up, I said: Let each daily prompt help you be on the lookout for this characteristic appearing day to day. Be open, try it on, and allow yourself to express that part of you—no matter how small or large it already exists within you. Allow yourself to see how it feels. You are always you. And today, you are…”
“I think these messages are important any time, but even more right now, as we’re all spending a lot more time looking at ourselves, and what’s truly important to us,” he says, stressing the impact of daily affirmations during the extraordinary times we live in.
But when asked how he manages to stay inspired and motivated, he doesn’t try to sugarcoat it. “It’s not always easy, and I certainly don’t have it mastered yet. But I find I need continual reminders to keep my head up. It’s easy to slip into focusing on the negative, it’s normally the loudest or in your face emotions,” he says. “You just have to slow down, relax, and look for the good things happening. Just like how I need a snack between meals, or my blood sugar drops—I’m always trying to find little things to keep me going.”
Images courtesy of You Are Beautiful