Sticky Notes as a Kind of Design Material: How Sticky Notes Support Design Cognition and Design Collaboration

Linden J. Ball*, Bo Christensen, Kim Halskov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Sticky notes abound as a material in design practice, yet their use is under-explored empirically and theoretically. We address the research question: how do sticky notes support design cognition and collaboration when compared to other kinds of design materials? We compare four types of design materials (sketches, prototypes, cards, sticky notes) and the activities afforded by the properties of these materials. We find that the affordances of sticky notes make them well-suited to supporting cognitive processes associated with visualizing and understanding “part/whole” relationships in concept development. Furthermore, sticky notes facilitate design collaboration by enabling shared attention through material anchors and the modulation of turn-taking. We conclude by suggesting new directions for theorizing about sticky-note usage in design.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101034
JournalDesign Studies
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Design practice
  • Design cognition
  • Collaborative design
  • Affordance
  • Design material

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