First commit: 2023-01-30

Last updated: 2023-01-30

While the post-it (or sticky note, if you‘d like to avoid the 3M trademark) is a useful tool in a physical office, it‘s virtual cousin is a skeuomorphic crux to be left behind.

They suffer the same draw-backs (lack of context, lack of coherence, lack of accountability and a general illusion of having written a finished thought) but without the main argument for using one (they‘re sticky and thus actually useful in a physical setting).

So, one thing I‘ve been trying to do is ditching the virtual post-it and instead embrace notes, scribbles, screenshots, and snippets. Let‘s see where this goes.

From Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsinos Creating a Culture of Innovation (2020):

I introduced this in the studio as I feel they inspire a behaviour that isn’t conducive to risk taking or thinking with rigour. Someone will write the word ‘data’on a post-it note and days later that note sits there, without context and becomes meaningless. It lets us off the hook from ever having to think through ideas and concepts in detail. They’re a lazy illusion of thinking. Instead we have whiteboards in the studio so we can stand together as a team and use written and visual forms.

They become constellations of words, illustrations, code, images of interfaces. You can amend them and it slows you down to properly communicate with someone. There’s an immediate need to do something with those ideas as the whiteboard feels more temporary. Post-its tempts you believe they work well as repository for thinking. So people delude themselves into thinking you’ll come back to a collection of Post-its.

They also create an artificial barrier between the facilitator or designer and the impact you can have by doing work. Services are not made of post-it notes, they’re made of data, interfaces and people. It also gives designers the illusion of control over a process of brainstorm but again, that’s not action. That’s not what a designer is capable of. There are other processes we can take, other ways to do things.

Don’t bring a post-it to a database fight1

  1. paraphrased from Madeline Ashby‘s and Scott Smith‘s “How to Future” (2020)]