With so much attention on digital collaboration, it’s easy to forget there’s still a place for whiteboards, flipcharts and marker pens. Here’s our quick guide to old-school collaboration solutions that don’t need a plug or network connection.
Dry-erase whiteboard paint can transform your office walls into a whiteboard surface. A room completely painted with whiteboard paint invites people to get creative and gives them a sense of freedom, perfect for brainstorming.
Paul Pinder, director of visual display specialist Boards Direct, says ‘whole wall’ solutions can be a good option for small businesses, particularly those in the creative industries wanting to create a dedicated brainstorming area.
However, he warns that they aren’t ideal for everyone: “The problem with these products is that they are a semi-permanent feature and don’t offer the versatility of a whiteboard or the portability of a flipchart that can easily be installed in every room or stored away when not in use,” he said.
“While ‘whole wall’ solutions are great for creativity and have no space limitations, they are only as good as the smoothness of the surface. Given that most walls are not free from imperfections, they do not provide the same writing experience as a whiteboard, which is designed to provide an easy and comfortable surface for writing that also cleans well. Businesses requiring whole wall solutions are now looking towards creative walls made up of whiteboard panels, which provide the same benefits as a whiteboard without the space limitations.”
The traditional whiteboard remains a popular choice in businesses, despite the availability of interactive technology.
Mark Gentry, sales director at , a manufacturer and supplier of whiteboards, noticeboards and presentation products, said: “The market for traditional whiteboards continues to remain buoyant, even with ever increasing technology in teaching and commercial environments, due to the need for spontaneous visual communication – pen to a traditional board often achieves a quicker visual communication.”
Boards Direct, which sells both traditional whiteboards and interactive technology, achieved sales growth of 21% last year thanks in part to rising sales of traditional whiteboards. “We’re seeing sales of traditional whiteboards continue to increase and this is because the UK has seen huge growth in the small office environment,” explained Pinder.
“Figures from the Federation of Small Businesses show that 1.9 million SMEs have been created since 2000, 90% of which employ only the business owner. Rising numbers of self-employed people, small businesses and people working from home are driving growth, as many want an easy, affordable solution for keeping track of workload, meetings and bills etc..”
Pinder is confident that interactive screens will never completely replace standard whiteboards, if only for financial reasons. “At around £2,500, plus maintenance costs, it is not practical to have an interactive screen installed in every room. Nor is it necessary. For companies that want to use their board for an occasional brainstorming exercise, it is not cost-effective to install an interactive board. Nor do they offer the versatility of a traditional board. Developments in technology mean that many whiteboards are also now magnetic, offering the ability to pin notes and other paperwork to them, which makes them much more user friendly and yet still affordable for SMEs.”
The flip chart easel is an inexpensive and effective visual aid that remains a useful accessory when delivering a presentation or brainstorming. Its simplicity and portability are two of its main advantages.
The Post-it brand from 3M includes meeting flp charts with large, white sheets that stick to most wall surfaces and can be removed cleanly without damage or residue.
Amy Collins, brand manager for Post-it from 3M, said: “Collaboration is undoubtedly a critical component in fostering innovation and is something that more companies are incorporating as a key component of their culture. Unlike digital display products, which often limit creativity, traditional display items encourage creativity and foster collaboration, so it is no surprise to see that demand for these items is unaffected by the rise in digital counterparts.”
She added: “Our two best selling items in the traditional display category, The Post-it Table Top Meeting Chart from 3M and the Post-it Super Sticky Meeting Flip Chart from 3M, remain popular choices for brainstorming sessions and meetings.”
A glass writing surface is a stylish and contemporary alternative to a traditional whiteboard. A glass whiteboard or a glass partition that you can write on is less imposing and blends into a room’s design.
Poor readability could be an issue if a clear glass board is used in busy surroundings, but glass boards can come in a variety of colours, avoiding this problem. Glass is actually more durable than traditional whiteboards. Being a non-porous material, glass is stain resistant and can be sterilised, unlike the material used on traditional whiteboards, which eventually becomes stained and difficult to clean.
Another non-permanent solution popular in offices, schools and training companies is Magic Whiteboard, a ‘whiteboard on a roll’ that clings to any hard, flat surface by static so there’s no need for drawing pins, tape or Blu Tac. Magic Whiteboard has now sold over 1 million rolls and the market is continuing to grow at over 15% a year.
Managing director Neil Westwood says portability is a big part of its success. “Magic Whiteboard comes on a lightweight roll. This makes it easy for the customer to carry and take to office meetings, conferences and workshops. It gives you flexibility and you don’t have to worry about taking lots of equipment and flipcharts,” he said.
He adds that with technology, things can go wrong. For example, when an interactive whiteboard breaks, he suggests simply tearing off a couple of sheets of Magic Whiteboard and putting them over the top to create an instant whiteboard surface for use with any dry erase marker. Unlike paper solutions, Magic Whiteboard sheets are erasable and can be reused. They are also recyclable.
In the next issue we will look at digital solutions, including retrofit solutions and purpose-built, interactive whiteboards, and the advantages they have.