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3M Co. re-invented a classic Thursday with the launch of a limited-edition series of designer Post-it notes aimed at high-end boutiques, gift and stationery stores.

The line, called the Post-it Signature Series, will feature exclusive designs from 16 artists, including six students from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. The idea is to appeal to the high design sense of small, chic and often independent retailers such as Bibelot, Patina, the Paper Patisserie and Martin Patrick3.

“This is a first. It certainly is the first time [3M’s consumer business group] is going into that smaller retail boutique channel,” said Robert Brittain, spokesman for 3M’s consumer business group. “It’s the first time we are giving them a reason to come to us and place their orders.”

3M’s first designer Post-it notes will include a collection of 21 design themes including aquatic, modern geometric shapes, men’s fashion, women’s fashion and more.

Each design collection will be sold at a suggested price of $14.95 to $19.95 and offer a set of 4-inch-by-4-inch sticky squares; a 4-by-8-inch list pad, and 1-by-3-inch page-markers. The product trio can be sold as a packaged gift or sold separately.

3M officials acknowledge that the price point is higher than 3M’s traditional Post-it notes, which have morphed in recent years from just plain yellow into an wide array of colors and sizes. Now it’s on to upscale design.

“We are excited,” said Erica Schiebel, 3M marketing and communications supervisor. “We have dabbled a little bit with designs through our traditional channels like Staples and Office Max. But this is a big, concerted effort. It’s a way for us to reach some alternative channels and play in that design area.”

The Post-it notes launch, which officially begins Sunday at the National Stationery Show in New York City, is different for 3M in two ways. It only targets small trendy boutiques, gift shops and stationery stores. And it is mostly a Web-based marketing effort in which the retailer will place orders directly with 3M via its new site.

Schiebel said the new effort is designed to reach the estimated 30,000 to 40,000 high-end stationery and gift boutiques around the country. Most are owned by small-business people who can’t afford to place large orders that are customary for traditional 3M customers such as Staples, Office Max, Office Depot and Target.

Under 3M’s new program, the boutiques can order as few as “24 units” which amounts to a wholesale order of roughly $200 worth of sticky pads, Schiebel said.

If Post-it Signature’s first wave is successful, it could generate millions for Maplewood-based 3M Co. and inspire future design editions.

Brittain, the spokesman for 3M’s consumer group, said each design series will be a “limited edition,” but it is not known how long each series will be available. Right now, it is believed that a design would be available until sold out. Then 3M would present a fresh line of designs or artists, he said.

Madalyn Fusco found out in December that the blue-and-orange underwater theme she created in class at the request of a 3M design rep was chosen for Post-it’s national rollout.

“It’s amazing. I never had anything like this happen to me before. It’s very exciting,” said Fusco who will graduate in December from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Fusco and five other students were each paid about $500 for their design. She’s already used the money for tuition, and is hopeful she will be asked to contribute again.

Schiebel said 3M decided to reach out to the college in an effort to keep its Minnesota connections strong.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725