Post It History

In our seemingly digital driven modern world, it is often said paper is dead. Yet one paper product challenges this thinking: the humble Post It. A simple, yet distinctive design, the Post It is instantly recognisable and remains essential office/home stationery, as well as appearing in the art world amongst art works and installations.

In 1968 Spencer Silver, a scientist working at the adhesive 3M company laboratory, stumbled upon a glue that had such an unique pressure sensitive consistency, it was re-useable. It crucially also did not leave a residue. Silver saw the great possibilities in this accidental discovery, yet was unsuccessful in persuading 3M to persue its possible capabilities into an actual product.

Spencer Silver
Spencer Silver

Six years later, Art Fry, another scientist/product inventor at 3M, was attending church when he became increasingly frustrated at losing his place in his hymn books. His bookmarks were falling out of the pages. Suddenly, he had a divine intervention. What if the bookmarks were stuck to the page, with a light, re-useable adhesive that would not damage the page? He was already aware of Silver’s creation, but had suddenly envisioned the perfect niche to maximise its potential.

Art Fry
Art Fry

Together, Spencer Silver and Art Fry returned to 3M and developed the product. The Post It was finally launched in 1977. As soon as test samples were sent out, the Post It stuck to people’s consciousness. By 1980, Post Its were being sold across the USA, and by 1981, across the world.

The Post It is born
The Post It is born

There are now over 600 different post it products, illustrating their success and popularity. Practically every office or home has a Post It or two lurking on a desk or on a fridge door. They are perfect for jotting down things ‘to do’ or a telephone number, or a shopping list.

Yet I find the Post It is perfect for drawing ideas and drawings; quick sketches whilst I am waiting for the computer to load or for the kettle to boil. They are light and small to carry, their design making them perfectly portable, and the adhesive, of course, makes them wonderfully versatile. The Post It is ideal for doodling, a personal canvas that you can hang up on display anywhere, any time.


In its short history, the sticky yellow label has gone a long way. A simple design, a huge effect. From a laboratory in Minnesota, via a church hymn book, to art galleries/offices/homes/internet videos across the world, the Post It proves paper media still has a special space in our lives. And if it falls off that space, it can quickly be re-attached.

Doodles by Sian

Sian Prescott

View posts by Sian Prescott
Whimsical rambling of the melancholic, with a sprinkling of puns. And post its. I wish I was Cindy Sherman, with a dash of Julie Walters, a sprinkling of Posy Simmonds, a pinch of Alan Bennett and a tablespoon of Kate Bush. I like abandoned things, urban decay, the abstract and lights and shadows. I also just like seeing things photographed. Or drawn.

One Comment

  1. Essential in software development at the moment too, with Agile being the methodology de jour. Tasks go up on a post it, with an estimate of how long they’ll take, then all go up on giant whiteboards. As the tasks progress, the hordes of post its migrate across the boards.

    The idea being the state of the project is instantly visible to everyone, it’s more fluid that and software project tracking solution, and there’s something nice about the tactile nature of physically moving tasks as they complete.

    Out last project (several millions of pounds worth of financial stuff) ran on post it notes. Only problem being they don’t like hot rooms after a few weeks, they have to have blu tack aid…

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