A pair of white surfaces that erase easily and can temporarily hold some form of analogue data for a period of time. Simple enough. They are reusable and don’t take up more space than they already do. The information they hold can be likened to the days in grade school figuring out a math problem (long division like) on a piece of paper with a trusty #2 pencil. Or, a more likely scenario for those who read these posts, a small surface on the outside of your dorm room door where people leave notes, draw inappropriate pictures, or “accidentally” use a permanent marker and destroy your investment. Whatever you use them for, whiteboards are a good tool to have around (and they’re not a foreign concept to most).
As I have been given the opportunity to set up my own office in a little basement on account of our recent move, I’ve been focusing on the types of tools I like to have around me at any given moment. The whiteboard was one of the first things to spring to my mind. Over the course of my time in graduate school (in particular) and as an instructor I’ve frequently used changeable surfaces to great advantage. Unlike pencil, which is painful to erase, the whiteboard feels effortless to change. As such, it provides the benefit of not feeling permanent. Oftentimes I stop working because I feel a great weight of uncertainty, as if every word must be painstakingly carved into stone and will be difficult to readjust at a later date. This is nonsense, of course (especially with computers), but anything that tricks the mind into getting ideas out is helpful. In fact, it’s very easy to brainstorm with a whiteboard. You can draw organic lines (rather than the structured WYSIWYG applications we normally work in) and this allows you to work in a more freely creative way.