About the Sticky Notes Project

I worked in tech in the heyday of sticky notes. They were everywhere. On everyone's desk, in every office supply cabinet, and in every conference room.

I have drawn and doodled my whole life. I never really liked sketch books (though I have bought many and still have quite a collection) - they always seemed too permanent, requiring the drawing to be too perfect. I preferred scratch paper, the margins of notebooks, even the backs of shopping bags - nothing that was going to be saved. So, it seemed natural that I would be drawn to the ephemeral nature of sticky notes. Ironic then, that these temporary things have become such a permanent fixture in my life.

As I went from meeting to meeting, brainstorming session to hack-a-thon, developer demos, UX meetups, kick-off meetings, lunch-time lectures, team birthday parties and just quiet moments at my desk, they were always there. So I started doodling on them, first just with #2 pencils, whatever was handy, then pen, adding in wash, colored pencils and later on, watercolor. Often, they would just end up in the trash. But if I did one I liked, I'd keep it, putting it in some box, or page of a book or stuck to a printed comp or email.

Years later, after many roles and many moves from city to city, I started finding them in weird places and began putting them into one central place. I realized then just how many I had accumulated - and how special many of them were.

You see, I would doodle on them during meetings, to help me focus. I have that thing where I focus on visuals too deeply and then get lost in the details - perhaps a gift as a designer & artist, and sometimes a hassle as just a regular person having to sit still in a meeting. So doodling on the sticky note, especially something fairly hackneyed, that I wouldn't have to think about (barn, mouse, lighthouse, tree, etc.), would give me something unstimulating to look at, and then I could focus more deeply on the conversation and on what's being said. I guess now they would call that fidget-spinning. But my language and default go-to activity, even as a child was to just pick up a pencil and draw on paper. My father was an architect, so there was always a supply of both of those around.

And so all these sticky notes, the product of so many meetings, subway commutes, cafe doodles and temporary value sketches for landscape paintings, has sort of become my art - as much if not more so than the landscape paintings & the illustrated children's books.

Once I had all these sticky notes, I wasn't really sure what to do with them. Luckily, they don't take up too much space - about 4 binders now, organized by category. I wanted to put them somewhere to share online, but I didn't want to scan and label them one by one. And how would I organize them? I had worked in tech for so long, that I knew there was always usually a tech solution for an analog problem. I had also become a proficient enough developer at that point to consider tackling the problem myself - which I did.

After a fair bit of research and a number of proof-of-concepts, I eventually had a solution which allowed me to quickly & easily capture an image and add metadata, such as subject-matter & media. And on one long Thanksgiving days few years back, I entered in around 1000 sticky notes and started building the database. Each image was stored on a remote server, accessible to various apps that I would go on to build, such as an image gallery & stats page, which shows top categories and most-liked notes. I've gone on to explore additional uses for this dataset, including various hardware devices, AR experiences, machine-learning models and a set of native apps for iPhone and Apple Watch. I plan to work with the data beyond just images, leveraging their varying design details & patterns for other things, like music, video and immersive, virtual reality experiences.

Once the original sticky notes were added, I started entering new notes regularly and continue to do so - typically about one a day, so new notes are being added all the time. Take a look at the gallery - you can filter by category or media and sort by date or likes. Feel free to browse the stats page as well. That has been one of the more interesting aspects of the journey - seeing what types of things I've been drawing. I had a sense I was drawing a lot of barns & lighthouses, but I was surprised by the amount of mice & dogs. The AR experience is interesting to explore as well, but as a web-based implementation, currently only available for Android mobile devices.

Beyond my continued sticky note doodling, I update the apps regularly, when I have time or if there's something I'm interested in adding or exploring. I plan to introduce a buy-it-now feature to the gallery, so if there's a sticky note someone likes, they can buy it, and the original will be sent to them. (I suppose an old-school NFT.) So keep an eye out for that. Also, each note in the gallery can be liked. I'm planning to produce a small book (about sticky note sized) of the 100 highest-liked sticky notes and will pull the selections from that data. Keep an eye out for that as well.

Any questions, or just to say hi, feel free to reach out at: hello@stickynotesproject.com