I belong to a long line of New York writers and editors who love things that look like other things, like mayonnaise that looks like a tube of toothpaste, or teeny-tiny replicas of everyday objects, like a bottle of Windex or a banana. But my true obsession lies in a specific subset of these trompe l’oeil items: notepads and sticky notes.
I first discovered this distinctive type of stationery in Seoul, in a design shop that sold packs of sticky notes shaped like realistic-looking ginkgo and maple leaves. I thought it was a cute visual pun (loose-leaf paper), but a couple trips to Korean stationery stores later, I learned that the shapes of these illusory notepads weren’t limited to paper-based puns. There’s a seemingly endless variety of visual tricks played by these sheets of paper, including ones that look like slices of salami or Swiss cheese, Band-Aid-shaped sticky notes that could be stuck to a piece of paper instead of your arm, even 3-D notepads that are glued together to look like whole pieces of fruit.
Some might argue that these colorful, patterned Post-its are garish and hard to read, but I like them exactly because they’re almost impossible to ignore. I dare you to walk by what looks like a slice of cheese slapped onto the fridge and not stop to look at it. It’s certainly a more striking reminder to take out the trash than even a fluorescent, square Post-it note. And there’s something joyful about taking something pedestrian, like a note to send that check to your landlord, and slapping it on a piece of bread. Here are some of my favorite trompe l’oeil notepads that I already own and some I’ve got on my wish list.
A version of the ginkgo-shaped sticky notes that started it all.
They also come in green.
These cherry-blossom sticky notes come in two sizes, so you can either write notes on the full, large flower or the single, smaller petals.
There are plenty of food-inspired notepad optical illusions, like this stack of paper that looks like a hunk of Swiss cheese — and each sheet looks like an individual slice.
If you’d prefer sheets of paper without a sticky back, Urban Outfitters sells this cheese-shaped notepad for all of your Gouda ideas.
This hunk-of-salami notepad has several hundred sheets of paper, so it’ll take you a long time to work through the whole link.
Finish off your paper sandwich with some bread-shaped sticky notes.
Or you can make toast with this Pad of Butter, made out of a pad of paper.
For those with a sweet tooth, there are also pastry-inspired paper products, like this Oreo-shaped notepad …
… And this 3-D cupcake from Kikkerland that stands up vertically on your desk, just like a real dessert would.
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, there are plenty of fruit-shaped sticky notes, like these apples …
… Or these mislabeled lemon slices (since they’re actually green slices of lime).
There are also 3-D fruit-shaped memo pads that can be split apart to look like sliced pieces of fruit, with seeds on the inside and all.
You can get vegetable-shaped notepads, too, like this head of lettuce.
On the slightly grosser end of the spectrum, there are these Band-Aid-shaped sticky notes.
These crystal-shaped sticky notes are arguably the least realistic-looking, since they’ve got a watercolor-looking design, but the overall effect is still striking.
This is technically not a notepad shaped like something else, but a camera-shaped dispenser for regular-shaped Post-it notes, in case you want to ease into your collection of trompe l’oeil paper goods.
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