Matt Steele, publisher at Little Village, is a self-proclaimed collector of people. An active listener and a prudent judge of character, he catalogues your personal story within his subconscious anthology. With his background in anthropology and graphic design, his focus is human interaction and communication, skills at which he excels. He is comfortably easygoing, personable, and generous with his time and is quick to share his educated opinion on the vast variety of subjects of which he has mastery. With a firm grasp of local, national, and world affairs, he effectively weaves together the social, cultural, and philosophical facets of a story into the most succinct unit, as not to waste a single word…graphic design incarnate.
Drawing and graphic design were pursuits passed on to Matt by his father and grandfather, with his grandfather laying the groundwork for Matt’s interest in the International Style, which focuses on being accessible to everyone. In his words, “The International Style is about eliminating the totems of specific nationalities or religions so that it would all be geared towards ergonomics, psychology and basic human principles.” This movement evolved in his grandfather’s era, a time of increasing world trade in the 1950s prompting the need for concise, objective design for communication between international entities. The International Style has certainly influenced Matt’s work at Little Village but also carries over into his art and life in general.
There is something inspiring about Matt Steele, as there often is with those creative types who chase their passions. With his studio arts degree, graphic design MFA, writing background, web design, and publishing experience, Matt has done what few other publishers of alternative press zines have done . . . stayed afloat. While many similar publications are calling it quits, their dynamic approach to creative services has allowed them to thrive in the Corridor. His work at Little Village has been to develop a cohesive graphic design system that runs in the background, letting the paper’s content do the talking, yet coaxing out the main philosophy of the piece through typography and content layout. Little Village has that human touch, bringing together a mix of multi-talented individuals with myriad skills to the production of content that supports diversity, challenges authority, sheds light on inequality, and offers a voice to the public, all while fostering creativity. The end result is a free-to-the-masses, nondiscriminatory publication with a liberal bent.
Restructuring the design framework of Little Village Magazine based on the International Style was the basis of Matt’s Master of Arts thesis. On the other hand, his Master of Fine Arts thesis was a direct response to that computerized, orderly, systematic process – shifting back to a simple, dynamic, raw, artistic focus. While seeming to diverge from his style, the International Style shines through in the simplicity of materials, subtle tones, and universal appeal of his work.
As an artist, India ink on masonite are his ideal medium. Matt applies the ink to the masonite, and then uses a variety of tools to produce marks, take marks away, and create texture. He adds varying amounts of water to the mix to produce a variety of aquatint effects. The process is slow, often requiring days between layers of the image. It was this return of the human touch to design that Matt was seeking in his MFA studies. This philosophy has evolved into Little Village Creative Services, which produces custom, standout, innovative products for their clientele.
With his many accomplishments, Matt’s greatest success is turning a hobby into a business that has supported a staff of 15 who share his passion to create.
“I read somewhere that the alternative press is in the business of gathering up and keeping employed all the weirdoes in the city – that’s the mission of the alternative press. That’s not what I thought our mission was, but it rings true. These great people make all this crazy stuff, and you just want them to be able to focus on it, so you keep them coming into the office.”
It all comes back to people. Together with his creative kinfolk, Matt brings us a “participant observer’s cultural commentary”, and in doing so reminds us to stay informed and seek out the truth, communicate clearly but creatively, be selfless and inclusive, and above all else, pursue your ambitious dreams for society.