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2001 Gold Arrow Award honoree and 1993 Angel Award honoree
For almost 30 years, Matthews Paint has been an important partner to SEGD—as a collaborator helping design teams achieve their visions through color and as an industry leader supporting SEGD’s educational initiatives.
Ed Matthews discovered SEGD in the mid 1980s, and in it he found inspiration, friendship, and a collaborative spirit that he exuberantly perpetuated. Attending early SEGD conferences at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., he was struck by the talent of the design members and their ethos of generosity and knowledge sharing.
“He would come home from those conferences or other SEGD events and be so excited and inspired,” says Bret Matthews, Ed’s son and former director of sales for Matthews Paint. “He used to say, ‘Those people have more talent in their little pinkies than I have in my whole body.’ And he got so much enjoyment out of working with SEGD members. We developed such great relationships—really, friendships—over the years. That was the most important thing to us—those relationships.”
Matthews Paint grew from a neighborhood paint store established in 1935 to be a leading supplier of paints and coatings to the architectural signage industry. The business was established when Ed’s father, Ed Matthews Sr., opened a paint store next to his father’s hardware store on Belmont Avenue in Chicago. As his business grew, Matthews branched out and began manufacturing paint, first in a small facility in Chicago. In 1955, Ed Jr. joined the company and in 1968, Matthews Paint moved to a new facility in Wheeling, Ill. In 1993, the company moved to Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, and in 1995, Matthews sold the business to Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries. (Ed Matthews Jr. is now retired. Bret Matthews is Senior Vice President, Business Development for Philadelphia Sign Company.)
Today, Matthews Paint is headquartered in Delaware, Ohio.
Ed Matthews joined SEGD in 1985 and was immediately one of its most enthusiastic boosters, lending both his financial support and his business acumen to the burgeoning association. “Ed and Matthews Paint have been enormously supportive of SEGD for decades,” says Sue Gould (Lebowitz | Gould | Design, New York), a two-time past SEGD Board member and Past SEGD President. “They were always the first to register for the conference and Expo, and they set a great example for all our fabricator/industry members, both in outbidding everyone on auction items, as well as sponsoring conferences and events, providing bags and color wheels for conference attendees, and just being there for everyone. You can't pick up a conference catalog for any year without seeing Matthews Paint sponsoring something. And they were rarely self-serving.”
“We were never there to sell,” agrees Bret Matthews, who was on the SEGD Board of Directors for six years and its first industry member to be on the Board’s Executive Committee. “We were a family-run business at that time and we had some corporate competitors. At first, SEGD members were a bit wary of industry members. But while the corporate mentality was all about ROI, my Dad’s mentality was much more philanthropic. He was always interested in making SEGD stronger and better. He felt that if we did right by the organization, everything will work out better for us and for everyone else.”
“Doing right by the organization” has included a wide range of unrelenting support, from being the loudest and most enthusiastic bidder at SEGD’s annual Auction for Education to providing seed money for the establishment of SEGD’s academic education program in the late 1990s.
“Ed was a huge supporter of SEGD. Anything that SEGD needed, any kind of support, he would give,” says Leslie Gallery Dilworth, former CEO of SEGD. The Ed Matthews Foundation pledged $25,000 over a five-year period to support development of SEGD’s academic education program. Its contribution led to the development of core EGD competencies, the annual SEGD Academic Summit, and core EGD curricula developed by SEGD members and used at college and university design schools.
After the company’s acquisition by PPG Industries, Matthews Paint has continued to be a devoted and constant SEGD supporter, sponsoring educational events, exhibiting at SEGD conferences, advertising in segdDESIGN and eg magazines, and providing a consistent presence in the community.
“It was never just a business thing with Ed or with anyone at Matthews Paint,” says Randall Crabtree, an SEGD member since the mid-1970s who joined Matthews in 1991 as the company’s first outside sales representative. “Ed was close to so many people in SEGD, and I have had the privilege all these years of traveling around the country visiting SEGD members and helping them achieve their visions. Some of it is business, sure. But there are a lot of emotional ties. It’s those relationships that you develop over years and years that make this all so wonderful to be a part of.”
John Brandmeier, Director of Business and Operations for Matthews, says the partnership is very important to both Matthews Paint and PPG. “Matthews Paint is PPG’s face to the signage industry, and it’s important to us to support the industry,” he says. “Obviously SEGD is a great thing for the industry, and we want to be a part of it.”
Dilworth says Matthews Paints most important legacy may be how it has modeled the concept of partnership in the SEGD community. “They have always understood the relationship between the environmental graphic design community and the manufacturers, knowing that when the community is strong, its individual members are strong as well. They’ve gone out of their way in every respect to be a partner to SEGD, and we have benefited tremendously from that.”