Can we all take a second and appreciate that our current reality looks a lot like the future we predicted ever so long ago? A moment in time with actual hoverboards, self-aware robots, and a new (good) Star Wars movie?
Yep, the future is now. So why, on a daily basis, am I still using something as…last millennium…as sticky notes?
Invented in 1968, the sticky note didn’t immediately become the ubiquitous office staple and project management tool we take for granted today. In fact, between failed internal pitches and lackluster regional launches, it took manufacturer 3M twelve years to successfully bring Post-it notes to a national market. Today, the company sells close to 50 billion every year.
And it all happened kind of by accident. The product’s original inventor, chemist Spencer Silver, was actually trying to create industrial-strength glue. What he developed instead turned out to be far too easily removable, but—strangely—didn’t lose its stickiness when removed. The compound allowed something as light as a scrap of paper to be frequently repositioned on a surface and still maintain some amount of cling every time.
That adjustability is the defining element of sticky notes, and that’s precisely what makes them so useful even in 2016. Whether you’re outlining an organizational chart, plotting a screenplay, or throwing a potluck, sticky notes let you rearrange your ideas and add or throw out steps almost as quickly as you can think.
Nearly a decade into the iPhone era, the digital world has yet to catch up to the level of simplicity sticky notes represent. Consider how many maneuvers it takes to jot down a note on your smartphone: you need to swipe to unlock the device, enter your passcode, find and click on the right app, open a new file, and start typing. A sticky note, on the other hand, has exactly three steps: scribble, peel, and stick.
We love them and still use them for so many reasons. They’re great for brainstorming as it’s really easy to get ideas out and share them with the team. They’re colorful, visual and fun to use. Monica, our founder, loves them because they help her organize her thoughts better. It’s a way of externalizing your brain. Quickly. Their small size forces us to be concise. They’re flexible. Everyone knows how to use them.
And then there’s the tactile, creative, hard-to-pin-down element. Something about sticky notes inspires us to doodle on them, use them to compose elaborate mosaics, and even design clothing out of them. They’re like Legos or blown-up pixels: the constituent parts of anything and everything you could imagine.
In many ways, Cardsmith is our attempt to carry the magic of sticky notes over into a non-physical environment. When Monica and I first brainstormed this concept, we knew we wanted something highly visual that enabled our users to be as creative and collaborative as possible. The language of sticky notes—their simple shapes, color codes, disposability, and modularity—made them a perfect model for what Cardsmith would become, from day one.
So, how did it turn out? Or rather, how is it turning out? Cardsmith is a continual work in progress. Give it a try and let us know what you think. We’re always happy to hear your suggestions and feedback—help us shape the future!