Friday, March 26, 2010

Reimagining the whiteboard

I started my professional career consulting, so I've always used whiteboards -- I don't develop software or primarily consult, but I've found that they are very useful in thought and idea development.

Unfortunately most whiteboards are expensive and heavy and have to be hung. Luckily there are people out there that are reimagining the whiteboard and the premise behind it, which are making them more accessible, cheaper, bigger, and scalable.

My favorite "portable whiteboard" consists of giant easel pad sticky notes like these from 3M. I like these because you can fold them up and take them away with you at the end of a session and the adhesive backing is strong enough to keep them up for multi-day sessions if you are using the same room. Of course, they're not really a whiteboard because you cant erase anything from them (unless you use one of those stupid novelty pencils).

If you want to turn a wall in a room or an entire room into a whiteboard, there is now paint that will let you do so, which is called IdeaPaint. Although I've yet to have a chance to actually use this stuff, it is supposed to create whiteboard surfaces with a single coat of paint, meaning that you can have as big or small a whiteboard as you want if you have a paintable surface. IdeaPaint is supposed to be more generally available this summer at places like Lowes and Home Depot; you can order it now in multiple colors to match your decor directly from the IdeaPaint site.

Another product that I just came across is called Whiteyboard (gotta love the name). As opposed to hard-installed, framed whiteboards, Whiteyboard sells a few different sizes of their frameless plastic boards that install using a non-damaging adhesive; their largest board, which is 4x6, weighs less than 2 pounds and costs $25. Think of Whiteyboard like a big sticker that you slap on the wall for an instant whiteboard surface and although it doesn't come in fashion colors like IdeaPaint, it goes right up with no special tools required.

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