Collaborative ToolBar: Accessory of the Year


As an accessory for writing boards, the design for PolyVision’s Collaborative ToolBar is completely unique in the market. We went to the Product Management and R+D team to find out more about how they developed the ToolBar. There, we sat in as Wout Van de Broek from PolyVision’s R+D Department and Kim Allen, Product Manager, started from the beginning to discuss why a writing surfaces manufacturer went rogue and made its own accessory kit.

Modern office setting including office chairs, office tables, and office whiteboard using magnetic whiteboard accessories

“When we began developing Sans, Flow, and our other premium finished products, Wout said, “we couldn’t find an accessory kit that could complement the higher-end look of our boards, so we just used the industry standard – which wasn’t the best fit, but the best option available.” Chuckling, Wout said “In fact, if we ever received a complaint about performance, it was for the tools that accompanied our products – not the products themselves.”

Diagram of PolyVision Collaborative ToolBar explaining the finish, the marker storage, and the round magnet holder for the eraser

There was clearly a gap in the market for premium writing tools for whiteboards and chalkboards that both look and perform great. “In fact,” Kim said, “there are so many different writing tools available that it’s difficult to know which ones work well and which don’t.”

Designing for aesthetics and designing for performance don’t always work together, so how did the PolyVision team succeed? Kim said “changing some of the materials was the main focus. We wanted to enhance the effectiveness of our eraser, while selecting the best-writing markers and chalk to include with our kit.”

Underside of microfiber whiteboard eraser

“Yeah that’s right, Wout chimed in. “Microfiber is far and beyond the best material for erasing on both whiteboard and chalkboard surfaces. It’s also a more sustainable option than felt because it can be washed and reused.” “But there weren’t any microfiber erasers on the market, and the microfiber cloths were bulky and impractical,” Kim pointed out. “Erasing in a circular motion is most effective in removing marker and chalk from our writing surfaces, so we thought about how to encourage that motion, and thought the round design made circular movement really intuitive.”

Office worker using markerboard microfiber eraser to erase drawings on whiteboard

Adding to Kim’s point, Wout said “So we started with the concept of a round, microfiber eraser. Next, we needed to decide whether we wanted the tools to be fully hidden, fully exposed, or somewhere in between.” Before developing prototypes the R+D team conducted market research to determine a few parameters for their designs. These were provided to the design team for prototype development.

High-contrast black dry erase board on wall in meeting room with magnetic whiteboard accessories, meeting table, and meeting chairs

“We developed three prototypes and tested them extensively to see how they would be used, if the design was well-received, how intuitive each was to use, among other factors,” Wout continued. “It was actually really surprising. It wasn’t the response we expected at all from a design perspective, but we’re really pleased with the end result.” “Yeah,” Kim said, “A lot of great points were made about its low profile and how intuitive the ToolBar was to use. Although it comes with premium writing tools, the grips can hold any size pen, marker or other writing tool. It’s incredibly adaptable. You can move it to the right or left or up and down, so whether you’re left-handed, in a wheelchair or very tall, you have the freedom to configure your own product.”

Meeting chairs around large conference table in room with writing surface walls

And, Wout reminds her, “the patented marker storage system allows you to place your markers or chalk where you want without collecting marker debris and chalk dust that later gets all over your clothes and everything else.

We manufacture writing surfaces that last more than 50 years, so we wanted to create a durable, lasting accessory on-par with the quality and design we are known for at PolyVision, and aligned with the value we place on the environment. The Collaborative ToolBar is a new innovation in a market that has been stagnant for the last 20 years. It’s our hope it will be picked up and it gives customers using our Collaborative Worktools the best experience possible.”

Classroom chairs and tables face front of room with dark-colored dry erase board with white writing

Made from aluminum sealed with a wear-resistant coating, not plastic, the ToolBar is both a sustainable and durable writing board accessory covered by a two-year warranty. Visit the Collaborative ToolBar product page for purchasing information and more details.

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