Post-it Notes

Why has this iconic paper pad stuck around for almost 40 years?

Product name
Post-it Notes
Dr Spencer Silver
3M Company
Year made
- Lightweight paper
- Adhesive strip

Post-it Notes have become such a recognisable product, it can be easy to overlook how they are a great example of groundbreaking design! It's funny to think that something we find so useful today was actually stumbled upon by accident.

Back in 1968 Dr. Spencer Silver was trying to find a new super strong glue in the laboratory. Instead, he discovered something unfamiliar, a glue that stuck lightly to surfaces and could easily be removed without causing any damage. Years later this low-tack, pressure-sensitive sticky substance was applied to paper... and the Post-it Note was born!

What do you see?
What is it made of?
How is it made?
What can it do?
What's its impact?

Canary Yellow

The classic 'Canary Yellow' colour of the paper was actually chosen by accident! When creators Dr. Spencer Silver and Art Fry were testing the Post-it, they only had scrap yellow paper available from the lab next door. You could say that the iconic colour just stuck! Which is a great thing because yellow is eye-catching and makes dark ink stand out, this makes it the perfect canvas for an important message that can't be missed!

Square Shape

The original and most common Post-it note design is a 3 inch x 3 inch square. Although there are lots of different sizes and shapes available, the square is symmetrical and not to large. Its size makes it easy to fit into a pencil case or in the corner of a desk without taking up to much space. That way you can always have a Post-it nearby but not give it a second thought till it's needed!


Adhesive Strip

At the top of the Post-it, the paper is lined with the light 're-stickable' adhesive. Part of what makes Post-its so useful is their ability to be moved about easily and re-stuck. The design of their adhesive is therefore really vital to its function. If its not sticky enough the Post-it will fall out of place. However, if its too sticky, it could be difficult to dettatch and cause damage to whatever it is stuck to.


The paper used as a note has to be thin and flexible, if was too thick or rigid it would be too heavy for the adhesive to work. The choice of using this paper means it can be stuck on vertical surfaces or even ceilings!


For years Dr. Spencer Silver's discovery of the sticky adhesive had no purpose. It was referred to as the "solution without a problem". This was until colleague, Art Fry found a problem! He would get so frustrated that his bookmarks would always all out of his hymn book by the time he next got to his choir practice. He came up with the idea of using the adhesive to keep the bookmark in place. Lots of experimenting later and the two researchers realised they had a lot more than a bookmark!


Creativity, Education, Productivity

Post-it Notes are simple in form but generate lots of different functions! The purpose of a Post-It Note can differ hugely depending on its user. Its bright colours and small shape make them great for revision. In classrooms and boardrooms, Post-its may be a way for a teacher or boss to get lots of different voices visually presented in one place. Post-its can also be used in art, as a way of producing large pixel-style posters.



Ultimately, the design of a Post-it Note provided a new way for us to communicate - whether that is with our future self, a family member or a colleague. The post-it note is a dynamic tool that has created a new impermanent method of translating and collecting our thoughts.

Explore Other Pages


What is 'Good' Design? A quick look at Dieter Rams' Ten Principles

What does "good" design look like and are there any instructions on how to create it? Dieter Rams, legendary industrial designer, who's "less but better" approach inspired a generation of products, is famed for writing the Ten Principles of Good design.


Thonet Chair No. 14

If you’ve been to a cafe you’ve probably sat on it. Let’s take a closer look at the design of what many consider to be the world’s most popular chair.


All Objects

Design influences our lives and can be found in every aspect of our day. Discover more inspiring and unique design objects.