Marker Board Walls

Brainstorming space

Turns out that brainstorming is an epigraphic activity — something best done on walls. Reading and writing on walls is a different function than reading a book. A broad wall-view is an ideal approach for collaborative design — multiple views in a single glance. Thus the tremendous interest in flip charts, graphic capture, doodling, giant post-its, whiteboards, and all the electronic equivalents of those. By far the cheapest and easiest epigraphic display is a large whiteboard. And when it comes to whiteboards, you can’t be too big.

The Cheapest:
I was able to get a magnificently large — 4 by 8 feet –and fabulously cheap whiteboard for all of $13 at Home Depot. What you want is the Solid White Tileboard (sometimes called Melamine tile wall panel) used as a tile substitute in bathrooms. Some know it as showerboard because a couple of sheets of this and you have a nice waterproof shower stall. You’ll need a $1 tube of panel adhesive to glue this 1/8 inch surface to the wall or a piece of plywood. Melamine is the same stuff official whiteboards are made from. These huge sheets are slick and work perfectly well with dry-erase markers. You can cover an entire wall for $50. You can also cut it into smaller pieces with a regular circular saw.

The Best:
Upscale from the tileboard guerrilla wall, the premium epigraphic surface is ceramic coated metal. When I built my office/studio I covered an entire wall with this material. It takes a dry-erase marker with ease, but it also accept magnets, so it can double as a pin board. I layout books in progress, hang blueprints, charts, maps, or use it as an art galley — whatever. When using markers on it there is zero ghosting after erasing (sometimes a slight problem with Melamine). This ceramic coated steel also comes in eye-saving low-gloss light gray color, so the blazing white of a whole wall is significantly muted, yet it has plenty of contrast for any marker color.

This stuff is called P3 Ceramicsteel, and it is not cheap (at least when covering a whole wall). You can get them as an unadorned sheet (a special order), without frames or mounting, but they usuallly come mounted on particle board with an alumium backing. These now cost about $200 per 4 x 8 foot sheet. I used the same material for small magnetic boards near my desk.

-- KK 03/7/05

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