At IF we’re generous with our use of post-its: we pepper our desks and screens with them as a way to organise our day or to remember to buy more snacks, we use them for feedback, brainstorming sessions, origami, workshops, retros, reminders, coasters, countdowns, agendas, planning, office decoration…

Basically, we’re never too far away from a 76 x 76 mm neon paper square.

We even started feeding them to our printer for a fancier outcome. To explain why, I first need to explain what makes post-its so great (despite what other people say).

Trimble, Harry. Untitled, c. 2017. Marker on post-it. Ian’s desk permanent collection.

Size

Let me tell you about A4s. A4s can be mean. They are big and tall and passive aggressive.

“I’m going to give you the space to reflect… you better use it. ALL. OF. IT.”

“Great job, you can actually articulate some ideas, BUT you started writing in a weird place and now the page is all wonky.”

“You drew 2 small doodles on my face and are already thinking of throwing me away? Really? Trees died for this body. Shame on you.”

The fear of a blank page started with A4s (A5s are cool though).

Post-its are the fun-sized cousins of the A4 piece of paper. They are short, quick and intense: they like to keep things simple and to the point.

Did you make a mistake? No worries, small size, small carbon footprint. Is your idea too big for just one? Break it down using several of them and make that huge task a bit more manageable. These little fellas work as a team to help distill your thoughts into pure drops of wisdom.

Temporary stickiness

A post-it has the right amount of stickiness to strike a perfect balance between temporary and permanent. Stick them on the wall, on your monitor, on the back of your clueless coworker - the perfect crime leaves no trace and neither does a post-it. This makes them perfect to move around, so stick them and tear them out to your heart’s desire or organise the hell out of your brain. Grab someone and synthesise four hands or play some rounds of analogue Pong. The sticky commitment is minimal, the options are endless.

Colours

They’re the reason our office looks like an Enter The Void-esque set piece. I would also say not as chaotic, but it might look like that from a distance.

In fact, all the post-its are where they should be and are organised in a clear, readable way… and if they’re not, they are meant to be that way.

Their distinguishable colours help us navigate categories, priorities and sections. They’re also a must for post-it art.

Handwriting vs typewriting

Writing by hand is quick, natural and, depending on your calligraphy and mastery of white space, not always beautiful. It’s spontaneous and it only requires 3 things: something to write with, something to write on and something to say. These qualities make handwriting perfect if the idea is the most important thing - and not the way it’s presented.

On the other hand (couldn’t resist), typewriting and printing are not as quick and certainly not as natural. They require more specific tools such as a computer connected to a printer (or typewriter, if you’re that pretentious). However, typewriting gives you a lot more control on the final result, with less skill involved. You don’t need to worry about your wonky calligraphy, but as a graphic designer, I would advise to pick your font carefully.

Printing on post-its

So how did we go from giving post-its the star treatment to laser treatment?

This way we combine the qualities of the product and typewriting. This fun-sized piece of paper and the information it contains suddenly become more formal and considered.

This doesn’t mean that we all bring our laptops and wheel in the big Xerox printer every time we do a retro - you need time and THE recipe to print on a post-it (more on that in the sequel “What We Do When We Talk About Printing On Post-its”). Thus, printing on post-its fits a very specific purpose. We do it when presentation is as almost as important as the content, and that is when we go meet a client to present our work.

A printed post-it conveys the mental and physical effort that has gone into the idea, but we can still reorganise them, add a handwritten post-it and remove them if necessary.

Example of printed post-its. So Fresh, So Clean by Outkast.

The real reason why we use post-its is because a daunting task feels more achievable when it’s on a small pink square. A hard concept is easier when you can break it down and see it on the wall.

A two-dimensional screen is yet to replicate the experience of being present, sharing a space and collaborating with someone, in an effortless and natural way.