What is a Post-It Note?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2019
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A Post-it® note is a slip of paper with a low-tack adhesive which allows it to be placed and moved several times without leaving a residue or causing damage. Some consumers refer to the Post-it® as a sticky note or just a sticky, and the brightly colored slips of paper have become ubiquitous in most offices around the world. They have also made the leap to the digital world, where they are used to tag documents just as they are on hard-copy documents. The original Post-it® note is manufactured by 3M Corporation, which retains the trademark name. Other companies manufacture similar products, which are branded as sticky or repositionable notes.

The origins of the Post-it® note are quite interesting. The history begins in 1968, when Spencer Silver was working with adhesives in the 3M laboratory, and trying to figure out how best to use them. He stumbled upon an adhesive which was too weak to hold anything, but he noted that it left no residue and that it was easy to reposition papers which had been coated with the adhesive. Although he toyed with the adhesive for some time, he couldn't come up with a solid use for it, but he did keep it in mind.


In 1974, another 3M employee, Art Fry, was frustrated by the paper marker markers in his hymnal at church. The markers kept slipping out, often at inopportune moments. Silver suggested coating the markers with the mild adhesive, and the Post-it® note was born. By 1977, the notes were incredibly popular in the 3M headquarters, and the research and development team was pushing to see them introduced to the public.

The first Post-it®s hit the market in 1978, and they received a weak reaction. 3M tested the product in only a limited number of cities, but they were disappointed by the lack of sales. Ultimately, the company resorted to passing out free samples around offices and other businesses, and many people who used them became instantly hooked. In 1979, the release of the product was expanded to 11 Western states, and by 1980 the Post-it® note was in numerous offices across the United States. Office workers actually started shipping Post-it® notes to people in areas without them.

The company continues to produce the classic Post-it® note, which comes in a small convenient size and a striking lemon yellow color. According to 3M, there are eight standard sizes of Post-it® notes, which come in 25 shapes and 62 colors. Clearly, the company capitalized on the success of the brand, with a far reaching assortment of products aimed at different users from college students to environmental activists.

The Post-it® note has become such a part of American society that the notes have been even been elevated to the level of art. Using multicolored Post-it® notes, artists have produced huge murals, sculptures, and an assortment of other pieces. Post-it® pranks are also widespread, especially in offices; many of these pranks involve using mass numbers of the cheap notes to cover offices, homes, or even cars.


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Post 1

We are so used by now to those little yellow pads that we take them for granted. What a great invention that was though. But it actually took a while for the post-it notes to become what they are today.

Here is a quote from one of the inventors, Spencer Silver: "If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this."

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