How Design Researchers use post-it notes / by Gavin Lau

You might wonder if you really need advice on how to use a post-it note. Well, while these aren’t ground breaking rules, they are good practice and will make your life easier when you come to synthesise your notes later.

The first rule of post-it notes is to write clear and concisely. Remember that you and your colleagues will need to be able to decipher the content in an hour/day/week’s time. By then you’ll probably have forgotten the context of the original idea. It’s very easy, in a moment of feverish clarity, to write something so brief that it’s essentially meaningless just 5 minutes later.

Secondly, label each the post-it with the name of the interviewee that the observation came from. Or, if your note came from a piece of secondary research label it accordingly. When you come to synthesise your notes it will be easier to track back points to their original source.

The third golden rule is another organisational one; try to keep the same type of notes on the same colour of post-it. For example: quotes on blue, facts on green and ideas on orange. It is much easier to glance at a wall covered in notes and get an idea of the mix of observations.

Finally, and possibly most importantly: use a fat pen. Something thick enough that you can read from a few metres away. Writing in very thin pen might be easier but it means you’ll spend your whole time walking back and forth from the wall to read everything.

Clients love to use thin pens. Most people only ever use thin pens. Don’t let them*.

A fat pen will limit how much you can write on one note. The simple limitation of a big pen and a small piece of paper forces you to be concise and efficient.

Who knew post-it notes could be so complex?