A Post on Post-its, Cheap Art, Lasers and History
I am not much of a student of history. I do, however, believe it’s important to honor the previous generations for the contributions and sacrifices that give rise to the current generation. I’ve always liked Newton’s quote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
The history of Origin Ventures is rooted in the success of the Quill office products company. It was started by two brothers who built it for 47 years before it was acquired by Staples. The success of Quill made Origin Ventures possible.
When we moved into our new Origin offices in January, we had a lot of wall space to fill. In addition to not being a student of history, I am also not a student of art (perhaps there is a correlation). Lacking instincts in selecting art, combined with the high cost of art, is not a good combination. As a result, I thought there might be a way to make our own art that was cheap. Furthermore, I felt it would be meaningful to use art in a way to tie Quill to Origin somehow.
My initial idea was to use paper clips to create an abstract version of the original Grubhub logo. That logo had a covered silver food platter, and the Grubhub investment was a defining event for Origin, and the medium being an office product would tie it to Quill. My partners were entertained by the idea, but thoughtfully and respectfully suggested we keep brainstorming. I am glad they did.
Then one day, I stumbled upon this article. A fellow named Ben Brucker covered an office wall in Post-it notes as if each were a pixel, “drawing” several low-res 8-bit superheros. It was a week later that I realized that this might work for our office. It took a week, because you see, as you age, inspiration takes longer to marinate. “Eureka” is not followed by an exclamation and it’s all lowercase.
I decided to investigate if I could make post-it art of the Origin “egg”. I had not realized until I joined Origin, but the logo is ingenious. At the same time it’s our (1) initials (O is the egg, the V is the crack in the egg), (2) it’s an egg, signaling renewal, incubation and hope (like startups) and (3) the egg is hatching, like startups and ideas do.
We decided on a wall that had the right proportions and could provide sufficient resolution with 3"x3" post-it notes to make for a decent enough picture.
This became an engineering challenge, and I turned to Excel. I took our logo and made it a watermark. With the Excel grid (with the proper 44x28 resolution on the wall) superimposed, I filled in all the cells that had the black of logo behind them. This gave us a roadmap (I moved the grid out of the way of the watermark so it was easier to see each note):
Along with our fearless intern Arno Niazi, I did a test run to see if the notes would stick (they did, especially the super-sticky ones) and if we could keep the notes straight. The latter was really challenging, and we realized quickly that just lining them up wasn’t enough. We left the test run for a couple of weeks to see if the notes would curl or fall off. They seemed fine.
Enter lasers. We used one of these on a tripod to line up a row perfectly level in the middle of the wall. Once we had that, everything was relative and was much easier to place level. Nonetheless, there are many places where slight variance in size or placement of the note results in more white space. But that’s the fun of it, and reflective of our business- things aren’t perfect and that’s part of the charm. Plus resourcefulness rules the day.
Once we had the meridian, Arno hired a Task Rabbit to finish the rest. An intern hiring an intern. It took about four hours. The Task Rabbit did a lot better job than we did in the test run (proof once again that specialization of labor and Task Rabbit are a genius ideas). Here’s the montage (you can see the lasers clearly in the first two pictures):
Yes, they are stuck directly to the wall and no, we can’t take it with us if we move. And light gray Post-its are hard to find; we had to buy them in the Colors of New York City bundle and we are now long Post-it notes for the office.
We are really excited by the results. In the end we got a pretty cheap piece of art (especially if you look at price per square inch) that’s meaningful and whimsical. I regret not leaving the last three Post-its to be placed by the brothers and my partner Steve. Here’s the finished product:
Here’s where I need your help. We need a name for this thing. Shoot some suggestions at us in the comments.
UPDATE: as I was looking up Ben Brucker who inspired us to do this project, I realized he did an AMA on the project. Would have been super helpful if we had read this before we did the project!