1st edition — by Patrick McNeil — Mar. 2, 2007
The Design Element
So I suppose in some ways the idea of using office supplies in a design probably stems from the fact that we sit around all day surrounded by this junk! Paper clips seem to be the most popular, and post it notes coming in second place. Push pins and other oddities can be found as well. At first glance this seems kind of like a pointless thing to do, purely for aesthetics. However, as with many elements, after thinking about it a bit you can see the usefulness of it.
In some ways paperclips can serve as a far more subtle badge in a way. By using a paper clip you create the allusion that it is holding some other element on top of the page. This creates the appearance of depth, and pushes that element it is holding forward. This is not nearly as bold as a badge, but it works just the same. It draws our attention to some element of the page. Directing attention around a page is an important consideration and can most certainly be used to the designers advantage.
I held onto this set of links for a bit to long, so I am sure some of these sites have changed by now. Hopefully the cached screen shots are enough to provide the inspiration you need.