Volume 48, Issue 12- December 2013

Magnetic Attraction

Know Your Stuff Before Jumping into Glass Marker Boards
by Ellen Rogers

Cookie cutter is out; individual is in. Everyone, it seems, is looking for the next big thing; a way to differentiate; a way to make their offices space unique. For years now glass products have been a staple of interior design. Glass can add color, texture, pattern and shine; in recent years we’ve seen the industry go a step beyond simply the aesthetics. Glass has become a functional component.

You may or not realize it, but you can write on glass—pretty much any glass—with a dry-erase pen and it will wipe clean. Add a backpainted coating and hang the glass on the wall and you’ve got one nice dry-erase board.

There’s more. That glass can also be constructed with magnetic properties as well. No more push-pins and bulletin boards needed.

Magnetic glass marker boards have become a hot-ticket item in many different interior environments. As a result glass companies may be eager to jump on board and add this option to their product portfolios. However, it’s still a new concept for many—and there are questions to address.

Where Can I Use It?

Before getting involved, it’s important to have an understanding of where these products are most frequently being used. Vick Channel, national sales manager for Summit Glass Coatings in Englewood, Colo., says most of the applications that his company sees consist of conference rooms, private offices and healthcare applications.

The customers vary greatly,” he says. “Most sales are to companies doing tenant improvements or to interior glaziers. Selection of glass marker boards appeals to the upscale client. The contemporary look adds style to the office environment.”

Wolverine Glass Products in Wyoming, Mich., is a fabricator of AGC Glass Co.’s Krystal Kolours backpainted glass. Jay Vaughan, operations manager, says while contract glaziers are the primary customer for fabricators, interior designers and architects also can be driving forces.

“So presenting to these two groups is a must,” says Vaughan. “We seek out the customer who is not looking for a quick fix or a cheap price. We seek out those who want both longevity in the product and a classy look.”

He continues, “Once a client begins using these they realize very quickly that even if a permanent marker is used, the artwork or writing can be removed and the board goes back to its normal look, and there is no ink residue from past meetings. It gives a very clean look even after years of use.”

Boards Direct in the U.K. manufactures the Casca magnetic glass marker boards, also with the Krystal Kolours line. The company recently began working with Wolverine Glass, which will be manufacturing and delivering the Casca range in the U.S.

In addition to the dry-erase surface, one additional feature is the magnetic properties, says David Shaw with Boards Direct.

“This product replaces traditional marker boards and noticeboards,” Shaw explains. “The most common setting is corporate boardrooms and conference/training rooms, but we also see a demand for homes (kitchens, home office, etc.), colleges and universities, and health care. The boards are frameless and very easy to clean, thereby making them attractive to health care environments.”

Selling Points

Those already involved with these product lines say there are a number of benefits.

“There are many advantages,” says Channel, “including durability, they are easily cleaned and it’s a non-porous product.”

Glenn Comiskey, president of Eurostyle Glass Colours in Boca Raton, Fla., adds that the abundance of color choices has been a big draw to his company’s product line. “You have a choice of colors to match the décor,” he says, pointing out that some of the most popular colors have been varying shades of blues, as well as off whites. “For hospital applications, the glass is non-porous so it does not hold bacteria and it’s easy to clean.”

Vaughan says that unlike the materials used in typical marker boards, you do not have to use specific markers made for these boards. 

“You can literally use permanent markers without worries about the ink being able to be completely removed,” he says. “These types of boards can be cleaned up and restored to their original surface condition with no marker residue to leave a cluttered and dirty look. If maintained properly, such boards will retain a very clean and classy look for many years.”

He adds, “Another big advantage is custom sizes are not a problem and do not create an upcharge.”

Shaw says, “Aesthetically, glass boards are in a different league than traditional white boards and noticeboards. [They offer a] range of colors, the option to customize sizes/colors, add a logo, and have a clean, frameless design. Functionally, glass is the ultimate writing surface.”

Show Them Your Stuff

Marker board products will be new to many potential customers. It’s important for suppliers to be armed with the data, samples and information that may be requested. Channel says this can include product test results, with testing performed by a third party that does not have a vested interest in the product.

“[Customers] want to see and touch the product and have choices in shapes, colors, sizes,” says Channel. “Often we are asked for installation instructions or referrals to companies who provide installations. Last, they want to see the manufacturer’s warranty.”

Comiskey agrees. “We supply colored glass samples, test data and show customers samples of hardware to mount the glass if they are not going to adhere it to the wall.”

“When selling this product it is always prudent to carry a sample kit,” says Vaughan. “Glaziers want to know how to install it and how difficult it is to get. When you point out that it performs just as a mirror would, they no longer worry about how to install and handle the product.”

A Tough Sell?

As with any new product, customers and potential customers likely will have a number of questions and concerns.

“When potential clients hear that this product is glass their first worry is, ‘will it break and if it does what will happen?’” says Vaughan. “The answer to that is yes, it can break. However, this product is manufactured just like mirror and application of Category II safety tape can mitigate some of that concern. It also can be mounted using mirror mastic, thus sticking it to the wall. Then, if by some chance it does break, it stays in place until it can be removed and replaced. Tempered glass boards can also be used where safety is a factor.”

Another challenge, Shaw adds, is simply the price differential over the more traditional boards.

“Also it is a challenge to convey on and off screen the beauty of the products,” he says, and adds his company plans on having a presence at more trade shows in the future to allow architects, designers and installers the opportunity to see firsthand what these products look and feel like.

“Our philosophy is to present our products as much as possible through exhibitions,” says Shaw. “We market the product to architects and interior designers via email campaigns and mail shots. They can then specify the brand in refurbishments and new builds. We have samples of the glass and mini-versions of our boards so that customers can see the design and functionality, and can then make the correct color choice.”

While conference rooms, offices and hospitals may be some of the most common uses for magnetic glass marker boards, these are likely just the start. As the interest grows and the architectural and design community becomes more aware of the possibilities and as the glass industry embraces the opportunity to use glass in yet another application, expect to see this product thrive.

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