Everyone uses the 3M Post-it note, and it’s often used as an example of the role of serendipity in product development – and of the wisdom of maintaining a corporate culture that encourages and empowers the pursuit of such serendipity.
But the Post-it note story has another interesting lesson, and it has to do with the degradation of the design of its packaging. The original version of the ubiquitous 100-note packet was wrapped in cellophane, with the highly original trick that you could open it by grabbing the packet with two hands on opposite sides, and cracking the cellophane open with a single rapid twist, rotating the two ends in opposing directions. This was by design; in fact, I recall it said so explicitly on the packet. It was the fastest, easiest way to open a cellophane wrapping that I ever saw; and whenever I did the little twist I felt a twinge of admiration for its designer (and perhaps a bit of triumphant gloating over the cellophane, a wrapping material noted for its unfriendliness – think “CD Jewel Case”).
So guess what? A few years ago 3M did away with this method. Now they provide the usual thin strip whose end you need to pry loose and pull. Sure, it’s no big deal; but the new method is more complicated to manufacture, slightly harder to use, and, above all, is less elegant .
I’m disappointed in 3M: when you got a good thing, you shouldn’t mess with it. But if you must mess with it, can’t you go forward, not backward, in simplicity and functionality?