Whiteboards are an essential tool for every professional. We use them everyday; some of our customers use them to keep organized, while others use them as a practical method of displaying information and communicating with coworkers. A lot of times using a product like a whiteboard becomes second nature of sorts; we are so used to having them around the office, yet many of us know so little about them. Have you ever wondered where the whiteboard came from? The whiteboard has undergone quite an evolution since its conception in the 1960s. What originally started as a substitute for the traditional chalkboard quickly revolutionized the way we display information.
There are two separate accounts for the conception of the whiteboard. Some say that it was created in the United States, while others say it was created across the pond in the United Kingdom.
The first account (and most widely accepted) is that of Marin Heit. A Korean veteran and photographer, Mr. Heit stumbled upon the application of a dry erase surface when muddling around with film. He discovered that the surface of film negatives could be easily written on, thus lighting the spark that would later become the whiteboard. Heit went on to produce a type of dry erase surface that utilized a similar laminate that can be found on film. However, due to a massive fire at a local trade show where his design was to be revealed, Heit’s original concept board perished. Rather than start fresh again, Heit sold the rights to the design to Dry-Mark, an American-based company seeking to break into the writing board industry. Dry-Mark later began distributing the whiteboards nationwide in the late 60s.
The second account follows the path of UK native Albert Stallion. In the 1960s Stallion worked for Alliance, which was a leading producer in the American steel industry during the period. Alliance’s expertise surrounded the production of enameled steel. Enameled steel is highly scratch resistant and extremely easy to clean. Stallion noticed that enameled steel possessed traits that could potentially serve as an alternative to the common blackboard. During an Alliance board meeting, Stallion decided to pitch the steel as a new innovation to the industry of writing boards. Alliance found Albert’s proposition to be laughable; surely no product could serve as a more effective alternative to the whiteboard! Stallion soon left the company to pursue his own entrepreneurial endeavor—Magniboards—producing and distributing enamel steel writing boards.
Regardless of which man created the whiteboard, whiteboards did not become commonplace until decades later.
Innovating The Whiteboard For The Working-Class
Fast-forward to the 80s; member’s only jackets, Pop Glam, new wave, synth music, acid wash jeans, and slouch socks are all the rage, yet whiteboards have seemingly faded into the distance. Whiteboard are no longer considered innovative or cutting edge—they merely exist as yet another part of the writing surfaces family. Enter Wally Krapf: an entrepreneur for the times. Mr. Krapf’s company, W.A. Krapf Inc. (now known as Magnatag Visible Systems), specialized in manufacturing informational display boards. Mr. Krapf sought to reinvent the way people interacted with writing surfaces. Up until this point writing boards did not serve a large utility. The primary function of a writing surface was to aid in the development of ideas. Yet these ideas never facilitated any discourse—they simply existed—and Wally fought to find something more.
From its beginnings, Magnatag implemented organization within its business model; early systems included school classroom schedules and simple organizational layouts, all printed on green-gridded magnetic wallboards. The wallboards stood for something more than a single purpose; they defined a myriad of possibilities for businesses nationwide. Employers began to turn towards Magnatag when their efforts of communication fell short; employees were able to obtain an abundance of information from a single, streamlined source. It wasn’t until later in the company’s history, that the whiteboard was introduced into the Magnatag family of products as yet another tool to function as a problem-solving device.
Rather than treating the whiteboard as a blank space to be used as a writing template in meetings, Magnatag followed their previous business model and began to look at how people used whiteboards to plan, organize, schedule and display information. For years many manufacturers utilized an un-printable porcelain surface for their whiteboards, limiting the possibilities for innovation on dry erase surfaces. Wally knew that if he dreamed to replicate the success of Magnatag’s previous organizational systems, he would have to find a way to project the layouts onto a dry erase surface.
Krapf developed the “Magnalux” surface, permitting Magnatag to permanently print a variety of templates that allow for easy organization on dry erase material. In addition to the standard calendars that we’re all use to, Magnatag began producing special layouts that help organize a variety of activities in the workplace. From project planning and displaying metrics on the production floor, to helping hospitals communicate with patients, Magnatag developed each product for the people that used them. After developing this proprietary printing process, Magnatag began pairing printed whiteboards with dry erase magnets and magnetic card holders to produce visible systems to help organize and display information.
After years of collaboration between our visible system specialists and our customers, Magnatag now embraces an innovative spirit when it comes to whiteboards and their utility within the workplace. Based upon customer feedback, Magnatag tailors each whiteboard to solve a specific scheduling or information display need. By creating specific printed board kits and combining them with color-coded information magnets, each board feels as if it was created for a specific task, making posting and displaying information a refined experience. The applications of these products range from planning and tracking people and equipment, to visually organizing and communicating complex schedules in a variety of markets, including: Factories, Hospitals, Schools, and branches of the US Military.
Today Magnatag offers over 2,700 unique whiteboards that ship nationwide. Our dry erase surfaces cater to multiple markets, with each product offering a special experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else. It is not the whiteboard that makes the company, but the company that makes the whiteboard an invaluable asset to any business solution. We also offer a variety of accessories to pair alongside our organizational display charts, making communication dynamic.
Click here to get a glimpse of the way Magnatag can help revolutionize the way you display information.