POST-ITS & THE CREATIVE PROCESS.

If you have ever been in a design workshop or studio, you would have probably seen a large wall full of Post-it notes. And you have probably wondered why designers are obsessed with using them. Being a visual learner, I have been always using Post-it notes myself, but I have never thought deeply about their benefits. Since starting my master’s program, I noticed how much Post-it notes are embodied in the design thinking process. At the start of any discussion during our classes, our instructors directly ask us “where are the post-its? Bring me some post-it!”.

Although today, we can find a variety of apps and programs that offer teams and individuals digital platforms to collaborate and organize their work, and some of them are visual, like Trello and Notion. We still notice that designers prefer to work with Post-its. Some might advocate for a paper-free workspace or studio, but based on my experience, a little bit (or a maybe a lot) of Post-its can’t harm us.

Post-it notes have been playing a powerful role in the creative process as visual tools. Besides being fun and colorful, here are five benefits of using Post-it notes:

1. Clarity — When brainstorming, everyone comes up with lots of ideas. Being able to visualize allow each team member to communicate more clearly their thoughts. Post-its can then ease the communication process between team members making the ideas shareable and directly invites everyone into an open dialogue.

2. Efficiency — When facilitating a group discussion, you would want to hear everyone’s ideas but also make sure not to waste time. If facilitated right, Post-its make the creative process more efficient. All you need is a stack of Post-its, a fat pen, and everyone’s thoughts. The size of each note makes the ideas shared concise and the flow of sharing becomes faster. Got an idea? Write it down. Stick it. Step back.

3. Structure — By getting visual, Post-its help everyone structure their thoughts. They allow you to deconstruct complex and confusing information into concise notes. When each team member maps their own thinking, you end up with a structured collective thinking map. This will make the creative process more pragmatic.

4. Collaboration — The clarity mentioned before also plays a role in strengthening collaboration. When working with Post-its, everyone has a voice. The creative process becomes more democratic. By creating this space of dialogue, Post-its open a room for feedback, making the collaboration more effective.

5. Durability (temporarily) — A whiteboard could also ensure the benefits mentioned above. But if you are working on a long-term project, you might not want your notes to be erased overnight. You would want to come back to your notes. Post-its are durable. They will offer you the opportunity to come back to read, review, and synthesize your notes.

You might think it is enough to know about the benefits of using Post-it notes. But what I have noticed recently, when facilitating workshops, some people don’t know how to use Post-its in an effective way. I have seen participants writing long lists on one Post-it, in very small letter size, and sometimes in pencils, making it impossible to read.

The goal of using Post-its is to make use of all the notes generated during a session and to be able to synthesize them at a later phase of our process.

Here are some tips to achieve that:

1. Write briefly. Make sure you write as brief as possible, summarize your notes and ideas. It might help sometimes to add a label to each note.

2. Use a fat pen. Remember it is a visual process. The more you make it appealing, the more clear and shareable your notes are.

3. Color code your notes. Post-its come in different colors and forms. Make sure to benefit from that by keeping the same type of notes on the same color.

4. Learn how to actually peel it. You can notice that most of the time Post-its curl up and don’t stick. And the reason is the way we pull it off. There are actually several blog posts online about this. That’s funny. You can check Skjoldbroder’s blog post: UX micro-tip: keep your Post-its from falling down & curling.

Tools like Post-its can be taken for granted sometimes. However, they are very important artifacts that make our collaboration efforts more efficient and effective.