Retrograde evolution of Post-it note packaging

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”).

3M Post-it note package

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?

4 Responses to “Retrograde evolution of Post-it note packaging”

  1. 1 Mike

    Looks like they are outsourcing the packaging?


  2. 2 Nathan Zeldes

    Quite possibly, Mike (or perhaps they are outsourcing the entire manufacturing process?)

    Whichever it is, they should have insisted on outsourcing it with intact specification!

  3. 3 Boaz Rahat


    The Post-it note is older than 20 years old. Therefore the patent on it must have expired, and anyone can manufacture and sell it.

    The package you show does not display a 3M logo, so it may well be a “me too” company manufacturing the product. The “me too” stands for “me too want to sell”, not “me too good designer”.


  4. 4 Nathan Zeldes

    Nope, Boaz, it is a genuine product made in USA by 3M, and imported by 3M Israel. says so on the back of the package… there is also the “3M” text treatment on the front, in small black letters on the blue area, and barely visible in the photo.

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