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Whiteboards for everyone | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

Whiteboards for everyone

pen

whiteboard

60 Minutes interviews Coldplay’s front man Chris Martin


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I’ve always had a sketchbook with me back to the days when I was in school. They’ve never been that pretty and def. not something to show other people as a best practice as what to do. Over the years the sizes and formats have changed. I’ve had big hardcover books, moleskine’s and now I always carry a small muji w/ me. But I’ve never felt completely at ease using them. Looking back now, I’ve had an uncomfortable permance dealing w/ ink to paper. It wasn’t until I started working at daylife that I really started working with a whiteboard. Simple interaction stuff, nothing that fancy. About a month ago while I was working at home on some data flows for the new ten15am site (coming soon) I blurted out to twitter “i wish at this precise moment at home that i had an erasable white board” b/c I couldn’t get down on paper what I wanted.

About a week later I found myself at the muji store in the nyt building b/c I had to buy some new pens and sketchbook. As I was walking around I discovered that muji sold a couple different sized whiteboards. Thinking back to my initial issue I bought the mid size board that’s pictured above. I don’t know what the exact size is so I placed an iphone on top of it for scale. I also picked up a brush and a pen. The pen is actually pretty cool but there’s two pieces that you have to buy. There’s the ink and the actual pen, though from the packaging I wouldn’t have known that I needed both pieces if one of the people at muji hadn’t mentioned it to me. As an visceral experience, putting the ink into the pen and watching the white felt tip go black is actually a really cool thing to watch. If you end up getting one you’ll know exactly what I mean… In the end the total price was about thirty dollars.

After bringing that board home I sketched out a ton of things, it opened up a lot of freedom to explore options that I never felt I had on paper. I was so pumped I went back to muji the next day and bought another whiteboard for work. Typically when I’m happy w/ where the idea is on the board (or not) I’ll take a quick picture from my iphone and email the image to me so I have a copy of it somewhere. That allows me to have a record to come back to. The proportion and size of the board fits nicely with the iphone and everything is readable. Now that I’ve been working with this process for a while I’m not sure how I could have worked without one. So if there’s one takeaway from this post – go find yourself a whiteboard b/c it might open up things in a great way.

I’ve been meaning to do this whiteboard post for a while, but it wasn’t until I saw a video clip on smarterware about coldplay on 60 minutes where for a couple minutes Chris talks about process. I’ll spare you from watching the whole thing (unless you’re a fan and then you should start from the beginning) and fast forward to about 7:01 when Chris is described as a list maker that puts notes on scraps of paper and anything else that’s available including his piano. Such a great idea to be able to relax enough to let an idea come together. I was a bit surprised that the pen is permanent and not like whiteboard erasable – but to each they’re own I guess. Either way it’s worth watching to see how someone else works out concepts. He also briefly talked about rules, tons of rules – b/c they’re important in his own words. If you’re making out specifications for a project that idea of rules is something that’s relatable.

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  • http://loquat73.blogspot.com/ Paulo Pereira

    I saw that piece on 60 minutes last week, it was interesting hearing how Chris works his ideas out. I have always bee fascinated how people work out their ideas, – actually working on a post about how I work on ideas/concepts for projects.

    I have tried the whiteboard but because I used them at work and they are huge- I always felt that they were too overwhelming. Hearing the Muji makes smaller manageable versions of the white board I should try them out to see if they work better for me.

    Thanks for the tip.

  • http://egobsd.org/log/ candice

    4×8 sheets of tileboard make great wall coverings if you want to go the huge route ever, as well. I used to do something similar to this with my whiteboarding – take a picture of it so I'd have it client-site if I needed to remember what was on there.

    I currently work with none, however, and carry around a graph paper notebook because I move around too much lately

  • http://tokyohanna.com Johanna

    I'm really interested in your slight aversion to pen + paper… do you know where exactly this comes from /what the reason is that makes you gravitate toward white board more? Do you have a Wacom tablet /if you had one, would you use it with the same frequency? What's different?

  • http://www.selophane.com selophane

    I never thought to use a white board as a sketching surface.

    I have always found myself using my sketch books as semi-note books, less about sketching and more about scrap paper. A whiteboard could serve the same purpose, especially with the ease of availability of cellphone photography to preserve that sketch.

    On a side note, I love MUJI; I have for years. Its a shame it has taken them this long to reach the US. I wish they would expand beyond NYC (at least a store in DC would be nice) or have a web presence in the US. I am always tempted to order from the UK store and pay for international shipping.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    i still make a lot of notes in my notebook, but the whiteboard allows me to be a bit looser w/ ideas. i know if i want to build something up I can revise it as time goes by. w/ paper i have to start over again. i suppose if i used a lot of tracing paper that would work too in terms of building up ideas. hopefully that makes sense.

    i do have a wacom tablet, but i don't use it much for drawing. more for clicking and pointing.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    it is kind of telling that they have no e-com solution even after they've started expanding stores here…

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    good idea about tileboard, i've seen people also use windows in the past.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    i'd be interested in hearing how your process changed (or if it didn't) after you try it out…