You Are Beautiful Everyone: behind the scenes

A simple message.

I saw my first you are beautiful installation in Chicago, 2006. Surfacing from the red line, I found myself looking for the corner of State and Washington. I looked up and noticed this large message cut out of plywood staring at me accross the street. It read “You are beautiful.” I remember stopping for a moment, smiling, and thinking to myself

This is exactly why I moved into the Loop”.

The first installation I saw on State St. in Chicago

A few weeks later I was stopped in my tracks when I noticed the iconic ‘you are beautiful’ sticker stuck to a bike rack. I would later find out that same sticker is stuck to just about everything a million times over, all around the world. They were made by a Chicago artist, Mathew Hoffman.

“Simply put, we want to make life a little better.”
You can learn about how it spread in the book preview.

A few years later, I saw Matthew speak about his other projects and we became fast friends. We often bounced ideas about how innovate and streamline the process of sharing this little message with the world. This video from Creative Mornings ( another thing I adore ) highlights a bit of how far this movement has stretched.

Artist sticker project

Over the years the movement has shown it’s face in lots of different ways. There is even a “you are beautiful everyday” subscription where you receive a sticker for each day of the year to spread the word, and it comes with a bonus artist sticker!

I was asked to be the sticker artist for November. I’ve been working on Noun Project for the past 5 years, where we value simplicity, communication and universality ( and a love for Helvetica ). I love building things and I love being a part of something larger than myself. It seemed like a perfect fit, so I excitedly agreed.

While brainstorming, Matthew and I went to an old conversation we had. We wanted to take the idea of sharing the sticker to the digital age. Like the sticker it would need to be simple and universal, but even though it would be highly replicated, each message would need to be special for it’s viewer.

What would it look like if you shared this message with a specific person?

I used basic HTML and a couple of my favorite little javascript libraries to build this site quickly as a proof of concept. After sending the link back and forth a few times we decided it was exactly what it needed to be. It took the spirit of the original sticker and placed it into a URL you could easily pass to your friend through a email, social network or text message.

Sharing in your native tongue

I’ve learned from working on Noun Project that building things for the internet means building things that can be viewed by people all over the world, by people who speak more than just English. Even though English is my only fluent language, I feel like it is important to include all the different ways you can say the message. Hopefully this enables and encourages people to share with friends that are around the world in the way that is most comfortable for them.

Sharing to all 7,378,975,753 of us

Making a simple HTML page is easy, but having potentially millions of people viewing it at the same time is another story. Just to make sure the message is always available, we used Amazon Web Services’ S3 service. This is just a simple place to store those static files. Since it’s a basic site, it can be distributed across hundreds of servers all over the world so people in China can get the message just as fast as people in Nebraska and with Amazon’s giant web architecture, we can rest easy that the message will be there waiting for you after you click the link, no matter how much traffic.

A lame example of a distributed network

With just a little bit of javascript, when you add a name or switch the language, it creates a custom URL you can share with that person. Once they recieve the message and want to pass it on, they add a new name and a new URL is generated. Keeping it simple allowed us to itterate quickly from concept to production, and since all the tricky parts happen after your computer is already showing you the website, we don’t need complex backend servers to do anything special.

The real reason we made this

We think everyone deserves to hear this message from a friend. We hope you bring a smile, a bit of encouragement and a little bit of good to someone you care about.

Send the message to a friend

I’d love to collaborate with you. You can find me @geremygood in all the internet places.