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May 22, 2003: The Most Practical IA Advice

Don't know why I never mentioned this here before, but when we outfitted our office last year, I went out and purchased a 4'x8' whiteboard from Staples. You know, the kind with a chintzy aluminum frame and weak fastening tabs which, over a year or two, would likely snap off from weight stress. The thing cost about $250, but hey, what good is an information architect without a whiteboard?

The next day I happened to find myself at Lowes. A large white shiny thing caught my eye in the "Lumber'n'Other Large Flat Unwieldy Items" section. Lo and behold, a 4'x8' sheet of melamine, intended for lining a basement shower stall, but perfectly suitable for dry erase markers. And no crappy aluminum frame to fuss with. All for the incredible price of $9.99. I bolted it up on the office wall in minutes, and sent the overpriced version back on its way to Staples.

I fully expect my finding to revolutionize the global practice of information architecture.

Any other nuts'n'bolts IA advice? List it here:

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Comment: Peter Boersma (May 22, 2003)

Yep, great idea!

At my previois workplace, we had two meeting rooms with a *floor-to-ceiling* melamine wall with just the light switch sticking out. Brilliant for those brainstorm sessions where you start with a simple sketch of a sitemap/screenflow and you just keep adding new views to the information, slowly diving into interaction design of crucial screens, while keeping track of the assumptions and requirements.

Congratulations with your purchase!

Comment: Prentiss Riddle (May 22, 2003)

Thanks for the tip. Sounds like a great idea for a kids' room, too.

I'll return the favor with another tip: a necessity for living with children is a $5.99 tarp which they learn *must* be spread on the floor for *all* art projects. (I'm not sure whether it's necessary for IAs as well.)

Comment: Michael (May 22, 2003)

Here's another practical tip. When I used to work in an art gallery, we put up homosote [1] in different rooms to covert entire walls into huge bulletin boards where we tacked up paper materials, photos, and the like. Homosote is a material that looks a lot like drywall and is often used in sound proofing projects. It is relatively inexpensive and can be painted.

[1] http://homasote.com/

Comment: Lou (May 22, 2003)

Michael, homasote sounds good, but here's another alternative to cork boards that we're using in our office. It's way cool, though doesn't insulate sound: we bolted up a sheet of galvanized steel, the same stuff used for ductwork (in fact, you can get it from any heating and cooling company, though you may have to persuade them to cut and sell you a small sheet). Then use some of these incredible high-powered rare earth magnets available from Lee Valley:
http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.asp?SID=&ccurrency=2&page=42346&category=1,42363

Besides the coolness factor, this approach leaves no pushpin holes in your papers and photos, and no cork detritus on the floor. Credit to our pal John Baird (http://www.bairddesigns.com/ ).

Comment: Michael (May 22, 2003)

Very cool. You get that industrial look that is so hip in kitchen appliances these days. If ever I have my own office, I will definitely think of the wall of white board and steel.

Homosote leaves no crumblies, by the way. It's very dense. Does leave holes in you shtuff though. I'm starting to sound like a salesman for the stuff.

Comment: ML (May 22, 2003)

I think if you like "chalk", Crayola sells a special type of paint to create a chalkboard on the wall. I think Benjamin Moore carries that type of paint.

Comment: vanderwal (May 22, 2003)

I knew I was missing something in my house. Like Peter, I worked at a company with many whiteboards, and many were unused. I gathered a collection of four in the office space I was in, which was swing-space for four. I was walking distance from work and would many times get to work with solutions to applications or information flow problems and find my stash of dry erase markers. I would fill up a board or two, then spend an hour or so putting the info in visio. I soon had the CEO and President of the company searching for whiteboard wallpaper. They found it and covered many walls with it from waist up, but this was after I left.

I dearly miss the white boards as I have never had enough of them at anytime since. I also miss walking to work as it was great thinking time.

Comment: Anders Jacobsen (May 23, 2003)

Fantastic idea! I love whiteboards too, and like vanderwal above, I once on a project crammed 4 whiteboards into a small office - fantastic for ad hoc explanations of anything (not only IA, but technical architecture as well!) :-)

Comment: Mark Thristan (May 23, 2003)

Might sound dumb, but fridge magnets (alphabet letters or those boxes of fridge poetry) can also be really useful on a metal wall. Particularly good for getting hands-on participation when user testing for section labels etc.

Comment: Keith Instone (May 23, 2003)

Hey Lou, if you ever do want a white board with the metal frames, I have an extra from the old Argus office.

I am using the 6x4 but the 8x4 will not fit down the stairs to my basement office.

Comment: Ron Zeno (May 26, 2003)

I'm not 100% sure it was the melamine that we used in our old office, but there was a problem with it: It didn't erase very cleanly, especially if it wasn't erased within a few hours. Still, it was an inexpensive way for us to cover a few walls with whiteboards.

Comment: PeterV (May 30, 2003)

Here is the URL for the chalkboard paint that turns any surface (including walls (plaster, drywall, or even paneling), floor surfaces (concrete and wood), and tabletops (wood and laminate)) into a blackboard:

http://www.benjaminmoore.com/wrapper_pg3.asp?L=prod&K=intprods&groupid=26&productid=203#article

Comment: Dharmaraj (Jun 2, 2003)

I recently had gifted my friend's kid a gift - a slate & a plastic "pen" to scribble on. Then there's a "roller" - u pull it from side to side and it erases the things written/scribbled on the slate. Cant recall what it is called....

But wonder if there are 6'x4' or larger sizes of the same around??

Comment: Adam Kalsey (Jun 12, 2003)

There's also magnetic paint. Paint a wall with it and hang your magnets all over.
http://www.abcstuff.com/html/magnetic_paint.html

Comment: Tulie (Jun 16, 2003)

You don't need a metal wall for magnets.
I saw the other day magnetic paint where you paint it on the wall and you can paint over it with any color you want, and you have your own fridge door.

Here is one supplier:
http://www.kling.com/magneticpaintindex.html

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