A set of stickers that I think are cool. One says "It's always DNS." Another says "Neurodiversity".

2020 Technology Forecast: Stickers

I’m leaving for my first conference of the year tomorrow! It’s going to be awesome. I’ll have my notorious sticker bag with me for all the lucky attendees at DeliveryConf.

A set of stickers that I think are cool. One says "It's always DNS." Another says "Neurodiversity".

I don’t remember when I started this, but by now I’ve done 2 talks (Write the Docs and DevOpsDays PDX), and I have a whole blog tag, and I’ve sewn specialized sticker transportation bags, and I know exactly how TSA feels about large undifferentiated masses of dense, nitrate-rich paper, and I’ve even been a paid consultant (if we count payment in New York breakfast sandwiches). What I’m saying is that this is a minor but real subspecialty of how I DevRel. So I thought I would offer up predictions for the next year, based on my observation of trends.

Steady trends

  • Diversity stickers sell. Feeling represented by a sticker matters a lot if you feel like you are alone or under-represented. Github’s Blacktocats sticker range is a great example of the kind of squee you can generate by making sure that people feel seen.
    A github sticker with Blacktocats! on a sign that one of the octocats is holding up.
  • Smaller stickers are better than bigger ones. Laptops are not getting bigger, and the real estate is limited. You have to pretty much work for a company to want to sign over 1/6th of your displayable sticker surface to them.
  • Hex stickers in the standard size are still moving well, especially for people with a connection to open source communities and projects. Kubernetes nerds, I see what you did there with the heptagon, but there are a lot of confused people out there.
  • You must put your name on the sticker if you want people to know who it is. I know it seems really obvious to you, but you already know. They can print really tiny now! It’ll be ok. It just has to be somewhere. Also, it means people don’t put your logo on their computer upside down because they can’t tell.
  • Cute characters are still a hit — lots of people take stickers home for kids and teammates, and it feels friendlier to do that with a cute mascot than just a big NAME OF COMPANY.
  • Funny stickers are good as long as they are not making fun of people or punching down. They start conversations, which is part of what we want.

New and increasing trends

  • It’s a brave new world of sticker printing out there. I predict we’ll see more stickers using cutting-edge techniques and materials like holographic, metallic, and even prismatic. My personal dream is lenticular stickers — SO ON BRAND. I think we have the combined powers of Cannabis Marketing and Wine Moms with CriCut Machines to think for the explosion in vinyl technology.
  • Laptop and other sticker display surfaces are at a premium. We’re going to see more competition. Some people will handle this by cooperating, and some people will attempt to make their stickers something that can’t be covered or abutted. That’s a risky game.
  • The problem with a sticker is that it’s single-use. I’ll be interested to see if people start using the back or underside of the sticker paper to do more branding. It’s possible, if expensive.
  • Tech companies are going to work to find some kind of metric for sticker ROI (there are some back-of-napkin calculations now, but it’s not like we have multi-touch attribution for “I googled a conference speaker’s laptop stickers”. (sadly)
  • We’re going to see more themed/chained/collectible series that encourage people to keep engaging with companies. Twilio did something like this at RailsConf 2019, where some of the people you talked to had different stickers, but they all related.


Thanks for listening to my opinions on this vital topic. I need folks from the following companies to send me packages of their stickers for worldwide distribution — I’m running low!

  • NS1
  • Fastly
  • GitHub
  • PagerDuty
  • Cisco DevNet (more API Girl!!!)
  • Elastic
  • Heroku (but please please consider going to a standard hex size)
  • Square (we cannot get enough of the 80s-themed stickers)
  • Twilio

Good job keeping me well-supplied:

  • CodeFresh
  • Gremlin
  • Honeycomb
  • O’Reilly
  • DataDog

I’ll see you all very soon, coming to a conference lunch table near you!