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Field note—

How to peel a post-it

Megan Lane

16 June 2017

There’s a right way and a wrong way. That’s not something you often hear at Empathy, but when it comes to Post-It peeling, we are very black and white. Very.

Peel it the right way — from the side — and your Post-It will lie flush and it will STICK.
Peel it the wrong way — from the bottom — and you’ll get drift. First your Post-It will curl, making it hard to read, then it will slowly but surely come unstuck.

Why are we so insistent on correctly peeled Post-Its? Because these little squares of sticky-backed paper are a key tool of the design thinking trade. We go through boxes at a time, whether working solo, with our team or with clients.

We use Post-Its to get ideas out of our heads fast so we can move on to the next and the next and the next… Post-Its and Sharpies are a match made in heaven for this task, as thick felt pen + small paper = headline thoughts only. Being able to move these thoughts around — quite literally, by peeling off and regrouping Post-Its — keeps thinking fluid.

From this technicolor blizzard of lightbulb moments, we can then start to look for patterns, key quotes, common threads from which to start to shape possible ways forward.
As correctly peeled Post-Its lie flat and stay in place, they can be easily photographed or scanned for future reference.

All this is much harder to do when you can’t see half your ideas because the Post-Its have curled up and come adrift. There’s a word for colorful paper scattered on the ground
— confetti.