Post-It Notes, the tool we use to organize our thoughts and to-do lists, were created as a result of both accident and necessity. In 1968, a 3M employee by the name of Spencer Silver, was trying to develop a super strong adhesive to be used in the manufacture of airplanes. What he created instead was a weak, pressure-sensitive adhesive called Acrylate Copolymer Microspheres, which had a couple of interesting features, including its ability to be re-used and the lack of residue it left after being peeled off. But the employees at 3M were having a difficult time thinking of a profitable use for the substance, so the invention was shelved. But one day, a fellow engineer at 3M had an idea. A singer in his church choir, Art Fry was constantly frustrated that the bookmarks in his hymn book kept falling out, causing him to lose his place. He then thought of Silver’s adhesive, and that it could be used on paper as markers in his hymn book. This idea still didn’t grab the attention of the company’s executives, but a lab manger named Geoff Nicholson was determined to get it to market. So he and his team created enough product to distribute free samples to businesses and people throughout Boise, Idaho, 90 percent of whom reordered the product.
But why yellow paper? That, too, was unintentional. During the process of experimenting, Nicholson’s team borrowed some scrap paper from the lab next door. The color of that paper: yellow. After the scrap pile had been depleted, they simply continued ordering more yellow paper.