History Timeline: Post-it® Notes

For over 40 years, the Post-it® Brand has helped people be more productive, communicate better and express themselves in a number of creative ways.

Yet as universal as these products have become, their beginnings were far from certain. Looking back, the birth of our Canary Yellow phenomenon reminded us of a valuable lesson: perseverance or persistence can be just as important as inspiration when it comes to bringing an idea to life.

HERE’S HOW IT ALL BEGAN:

From Discovery...

  • Dr. Spencer Silver, a 3M scientist, was busily researching adhesives in the laboratory. In the process, he discovered something peculiar: an adhesive that stuck lightly to surfaces but didn’t bond tightly to them.

    "It was part of my job as a researcher to develop new adhesives, and

    At that time we wanted to develop bigger, stronger, tougher adhesives,"
    said Silver."This was none of those."

    What Silver discovered was something called microspheres which retain their stickiness but with a "removability characteristic," allowing attached surfaces to peel apart easily.

Preaching the Gospel

  • Bunsen burner chemistry and science innovation

    For years, Silver struggled to find a use for his invention. But that didn’t keep him from touting the merits of his creation to colleagues.

    "I came to be known as Mr. Persistent because I wouldn't give up.”

    Meanwhile, Art Fry, another 3M scientist, was frustrated. Every Wednesday night while practicing with his church choir, he would use little scraps of paper to mark the hymns they were going to sing in the upcoming service. By Sunday, he’d find that they’d all fallen out of the hymnal.

    He needed a bookmark that would stick to the paper without damaging the pages.

... To Eureka!

  • Thinking back to a seminar he’d attended on Silver’s microspheres, he had what he now refers to as his eureka moment. “The one where you get the adrenaline rush."¹

    Partnering with Silver, they began developing a product. Once they found themselves writing messages on their new notes to communicate around the office, they realized the full potential of the idea.

    "I thought, what we have here isn't just a bookmark," said Fry. "It's a whole new way to communicate."

Try It, You’ll Like It

  • Two Chemists testing Post-it® adhesive.

    Fry decided to make 3M corporate headquarters his proving ground.

    Fry supplied the entire company with the new adhesive notes.
    Employees loved them.

    3M initially launched the product in four cities under the name Press 'n Peel with mixed results.

The Boise Blitz

  • Marketers decided to put the product directly into consumers’ hands. The massive sampling effort — known as the Boise Blitz because of its launch in Boise, Idaho — was a runaway success. Ninety percent of those who tried the product said they’d buy it.

1980 to 1986


A Star is Born

  • Dr. Spencer Silver 3M Scientist with Post-it® on Forehead light bulb icon A Star is Born.

    The notes became an overnight success. "It was always a self-advertising product because customers would put the notes on documents they sent to others, arousing the recipient's curiosity. They would look at it, peel it off and play with it, and then go out and buy a pad for themselves."

    Silver said, that like many ground-breaking innovations, theirs was a product nobody thought they needed until they did.

Yellow Gets Its Due

  • On April 6, Silver and Fry’s unsung hero debuted in US stores as Post-it® Notes.

    Its now iconic Canary Yellow color was chosen by happenstance —
    a lab next door only had scrap yellow paper on hand.

    Lee Lacocca and other Fortune 500 CEOs wrote to say how much they loved them. Post-it® Notes are introduced in Canada and Europe.

Highlighting Greatness

  • Fry was honored with the company's top technical title, corporate researcher. "My biggest reward," he said, "is to see so many people use and appreciate my product." Post-it® Flags were introduced as a new way to organize with color coding, filing and indexing.

1987 to 1996


Staying Power

  • The Post-it® Note celebrated its 10th anniversary and was featured on many lists of top consumer products of the decade.

    Post-it® Easel Pads were introduced. Brainstorming has not been the same, since.

    After 28 years with the company, Spencer Silver, co-founder of Post-it® Notes, retired from 3M with more than 22 US patents to his name.

    Both Silver and Fry finished their careers at 3M having won the highest honors for research as well as numerous awards within the international engineering.

1997 to 2003


Post-it® Brand Goes Hollywood

  • Two pack of Post-it® Brand product

    The main characters in Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion claim to have invented Post-it® Notes in the time since their graduation.

    A workplace study showed the average professional now receives 11 messages on Post-it® Notes each day.

    Post-it® Notes are sold in more than 100 countries. The now famous Post-it® adhesive continues to be used on many 3M products.

  • Sticky Situations

    Post-it® Super Sticky Notes were introduced with a stronger adhesive that adheres better to vertical and non-smooth surfaces.

    In an episode of Sex in the City, Carrie’s boyfriend broke up with her via Post-it® Note.

    After its introduction, the Post-it® Flag Highlighter received high marks from students for being a highlighter and Post-it® Flag dispenser all in one.

2004 to 2013


Making It Big

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey included Post-it® Flag Highlighters on her “Face Behind the Name” episode. 3M Product Designer David Windorski took a curtain call on the show.

  • Making it Big Post-it® Brand Big Pad Featured on Oprah Winfrey David Windorski the face behind the name Larger sized Post-it Brand

    The Post-it® Big Pad made its debut.

  • Now, with a shift underway to more collaborative work environments, the larger size helps professionals visualize their ideas and work more effectively with their teams.

Now, with a shift underway to more collaborative work environments, the larger size helps professionals visualize their ideas and work more effectively with their teams.

All Post-it® Super Sticky Notes are now made with a water-based adhesive.

  • Post-it® Brand teamed up with Evernote note-taking App. working with Smartphone camera Image of Evernote product.

    Post-it® Brand teamed up with Evernote, the organizational note-taking app. Working with your smartphone’s camera, you could snap, save and share your Post-it® Notes in addition to creating auto-tags, reminders and notebooks. With Evernote, Post-it® Notes were always at your fingertips.

  • The World Takes Note

    Post-it® Notes are now available in more than 150 countries. Collectively, there are more than 4,000 Post-it® Products.

    Having seen Post-it® Notes featured in films, mosaic pop art and the daily lives of millions, Silver is blown away. “The fact that they’ve just exploded as a product is more than I could ever hope for."

  • 1 CNN online edition. Thursday, April 4, 2013

    Evernote is a trademark of Evernote Corporation 3M, Post-it and the color Canary Yellow are trademarks of 3M. © 3M 2014

The World Takes Note

  • Post-it® Notes are now available in many standard sizes, shapes and colors in more than 150 countries. Currently, there are more than 1,000 Post-it® Products.

    Having seen Post-it® Notes featured in films, mosaic pop art and the daily lives of millions, Silver is blown away. “The fact that they’ve just exploded as a product is more than I could ever hope for."

2014 to Today


2014 – Post-it® Super Sticky Dry Erase Surface

  • Using the Super Sticky Dry Erase Surface.

    Office workplace trends were showing a transition from traditional closed workspaces into open team environments. In late 2014, Post-it® Brand responded to deliver a solution that helps teams work better together in these spaces, an instant dry erase surface that is stain-free and customizable to quickly fit on walls, cabinets, desks and more.

2018 – Post-it® Extreme Notes

Getting Extreme. In 2018, Post-it® Brand launched a note that sticks to surfaces never thought possible. Post-it® Extreme Notes hit the market in the US in February 2018. They are water-resistant notes that have 100X the holding power over the original Post-it® Note. Made for those that work outdoors or in places with hard to stick surfaces, this new note won awards including: ‘Pitch The Press’ for best new product at the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show in 2018, and Popular Science’s Best of What’s New as the Grand Prize Winner in the home category.

  • Post-it® Brand Extreme note stuck on outside brick wall with snow.
  • Post-it® Brand Extreme production packaging collection.

2019 – Post-it® App

Creating a full teamwork solution by bridging the analog and digital worlds, the Post-it® App was relaunched with enhanced capabilities. Instead of teams spending hours transcribing notes after a brainstorm, teams can now instantly capture and share notes with the team without recaps or delays. With enhancements like cross device functionality, handwriting recognition and exports to partners like Trello
it’s no wonder it was awarded ‘Best of’ App of 2019 by Google Play.

  • Post-it® Brand App close up.

2020 – Post-it® Flex Write Surface

With workplace environments still shifting to open spaces, as well as brainstorming, scrum and agile thinking trends flourishing, Post-it® Brand developed a new to the market technology that allows teams to continue working better together. Post-it® Flex Write Surface is a whiteboard surface that you can use both dry erase and permanent markers on, without stains. It cleans with simply water and a cloth.

  • Person writing with marker Post-it® Brand Flexible Write Surface.
  • Person showing wiping off marker on Post-it® Brand Flexible Write Surface.
  • Person shown you can use plain water to wipe off the Post-it® Brand Flexible Write Surface.

2020 – Post-it® Foil Tabs

  • Person shown using Post-it® Brand foil tabs to mark chapters in book. Foil tabs to mark pages for organizing and personalizing.

    A beloved office organizing tool, the Post-it® Tab, was in need of a revamp to align with the rise of personalization and bullet journaling trends. These shimmering, iridescent, foil-based Tabs add stylish organization to journals, planners and notebooks.

1 CNN online edition. Thursday, April 4, 2013

Evernote is a trademark of Evernote Corporation 3M, Post-it and the color Canary Yellow are trademarks of 3M. © 3M 2020

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