Remembering Our Friend Matt Schoen

by Nick Schenck

School photo-style personality picture of Matt Schoen

We received devastating news this weekend.

Matt Schoen, a good friend of ours who made a significant impact on 3rd + Lamar, passed away on Saturday.

Best known professionally for his work as executive designer director at VICE Media until March 2020, Matt was a prolific designer, artist, and overall creative powerhouse. You can browse some of his work here and on Instagram.

Just six months ago, we recorded a podcast with Matt at our production studio. We spoke about his career path, the explosive growth when he was at VICE, and his decision to move to Austin. He was so polite that he waited until near the end of the episode to tell me I had been mispronouncing his surname (it’s SHANE, not SHOW-EN).

We learned shortly afterward that he had felt sick, and doctors diagnosed him with cancer. The way he shared the news was unique, just like him.

Over the past several days, we’ve reflected on our time with Matt and combed through memories that other people have shared to help us process this tremendous loss.

Meeting Matt

We launched 3rd + Lamar in Dec. 2019, and like many startups that formed during the pandemic, we spent a large part of 2020 finding our footing. Along the way, I published our story in Austin Monthly, and Matt contacted us after reading the article to make our acquaintance.

We met in October 2020 at the Central Market in North Austin. For someone so accomplished, Matt struck me as humble and soft-spoken. He was attentive and curious. His carefree vibe was infectious.

His move from Brooklyn to Austin with his wife, Katy, had coincided with the spread of COVID, making for a surreal road trip, he said. Matt was excited to establish roots in Austin and get back to creating art for himself.

While he studied and worked in New York for many years, Matt grew up in New Orleans, so moving closer to his hometown also had some allure to him.

Our coffee meeting left a lasting impression. It felt serendipitous. During Matt’s time at VICE, he witnessed the launch of Virtue, the agency powered by VICE. That business model—a media company combined with an ad agency—is an approach we considered for 3rd + Lamar. What were the odds, I thought, that we could collaborate with such a rare talent at such a formative stage of our company.

Matt’s Fingerprints On 3rd + Lamar

We kept in touch with Matt from that point forward, inviting him to concerts that we live streamed, sending him client work occasionally, and exchanging messages from time to time.

At the beginning of this year, we hired Matt to revamp our brand. He established the 3rd + Lamar brand and style guidelines, created alternate versions of our logo, mocked up merch and apparel, and gave us a framework to grow our brand visually online and offline.

His perspective and vision allowed us to push 3rd + Lamar in a new direction and gave us a breath of fresh air.

“It’s not about trying to keep up with the status quo or trying to make what other people expect it should be. But more so just making something that feels more true, you know, or stands out.”

-Matt Schoen

So much of what slowed us down from a design standpoint, Matt helped us solve. And we were just getting started. There were so many cool projects I envisioned us collaborating on in the future.

We just ran out of time.

Matt’s Legacy

We’ll leave you with some parting advice from Matt himself:

“I’m a big believer in art and creative things sometimes making you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes that can be a good thing. I know that sounds very counterintuitive, but that really is what makes things resonate sometimes that where you have that contrast or things that don’t necessarily fit or work…

“If you really think you’d be happier taking a risk on this other thing, take the risk to quit your job…

“(At VICE), we just wanted to make things that we wanted to see and read and listen to, and if the world wasn’t making that, that was kind of shitty, you know?”

-Matt Schoen

Plenty of people who knew Matt far longer than we did have posted incredible tributes to him. Below are some of our favorites.

We’ll miss you a lot, Matt. Thank you for your friendship and so much more.

Rest easy, and we’ll see you on the other side.

We’re sending our thoughts to Matt’s wife, extended family, and close friends.

Per Matt’s obituary, his family will be placing a memorial bench in his honor at Laguna Gloria, one of his favorite places in Austin and where he requested to be remembered. Please consider a contribution towards the bench. You also can make a donation in Matt’s name to NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts), the high school that fostered Matt’s love of creativity and art, here.