The Passion of the Post-It

The Post-It Note was conceived in church. A new researcher at 3m in the early 70s, Art Fry, found that the small bookmarks in his choir hymnal failed to remain within the confines of the song book, instead falling regularly to the floor. This infuriated him so much that he sought out the new adhesive of a colleague, Dr. Spencer Silver, and applied it to small pieces of paper, thus inventing an entirely new way to secure bookmarks in church hymnals.

Eventually, of course, the Post-It Note became one of 3m’s bestselling products, reinventing itself in ways far transcending the original and narrow hymnal application. Although initial research showed little consumer interest in the square goblins, by 1979 the product became a phenomenal success. The army of the small yellow squares seemed to be an unstoppable force, slowly dominating the formerly blank spaces on the corners of computer screens and cubicle walls.

In the early-80s, concerns arose that while the Post-It Notes were being used to carry more and more information, the brains of low-level office workers everywhere were carrying less and less, as they became increasingly dependant on the scraps of paper to remember the 4:00 PM meeting with the Assistant Vice President for Corporate Development, or to remind themselves that “Success = Brains + Hard Work”, or that Bobby needs to be collected at 2:30.

Memory loss was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, however, as leaked documents from deep inside 3m’s corporate headquarters revealed the true nature and scope of the Post-It’s plans. Yellow 94, the seventh Post-It Note ever created and the unofficial leader of the Post-Its, was staging an attempted corporate coup to take control of 3m. Internal memos exposed the plot and the media swarmed. If Yellow 94 gained control of the company, he planned to mass produce his brethren until the sun itself was blotted out by the anemic yellow gobblers of graphite and ink. Yellow 94 was a born leader, with a deeper yellow tint than the later Post-It versions, a crease on his top left corner, and a ruthless drive to succeed. The news media found him simultaneously repulsive and magnetic and followed him obsessively. During the John Hinckley trial, Yellow 94 regularly captured the front-page headline above the recovery of President Reagan and the evidence against his would-be assassin.

Yellow 94’s hostile takeover would likely have been successful but for his untimely and highly suspicious death. He was found crumpled in a dumpster four days after he had been reported missing from the Post-It Opposition Headquarters. To this day, no charges have been filed.

The attempts to replace him at the Opposition HQ were stymied by infighting, and a new leader failed to emerge. The 3m execs reestablished control over the Post-Its and continued to profit handsomely from their labor until the early 90s tech boom provided better and less cluttered ways to keep valued notes. The Post-Its continued to sell, but any plans for world domination increasingly seemed hubristic. In an attempt to compete, the Post-Its evolved into smaller “flag” shapes as well as giving birth to a digital branch of the family. They survive today, but those in the know find extinction to be a likely scenario sometime in the near future.