Chatting on glass
What do screen filters and whiteboards have in common? At Chat Board, a whole lot. Over the last 15 years or more, the company from Ballerup in Denmark has been specializing in production of notice boards with its brand. Chat Board started out, however, in 1982 named Focus Products, when the company’s founder Hans Henning Jensen began developing anti-glare filters made of glass for computer monitors. In the mean-time, however, screens improved, the filters became obsolete and the very basis of the company’s existence was in jeopardy. So what use was experience in the area of technical glass? How about giving up and changing direction entirely?
The crucial impetus for the reorientation came from Hans Henning Jensen’s daughter: At the time, Josefine Honoré was working in the hotel industry and wondered why whiteboards, which were used frequently in her line of work, had to look so terribly boring. There had to be an alternative that met the requirements of a classic whiteboard yet contributed to the visual impact of the room. The idea was born. In an experimental process, her father developed a wall-mounted, magnetic board made of glass in a selection of different colors. In 2002 the first prototype was presented. One size with six different colors – and so it all began for the “Chat Board”.
The product was immediately well-received with orders coming in from interior design retailers in Denmark, and Focus Products decided that from then on they would concentrate exclusively on this line of business. Chat Board made its name as a design brand with its first trade show appearance in 2004 at Formland in Herning in the north of the country. Thus, interior designers began incorporating the glass notice boards into their office plans, which quickly led to major orders. In the private sphere too, sales of the practical “Chat Boards” were consolidated. The company paved the way for its international success with an appearance at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in 2008. Now Orgatec in Cologne, Neue Räume in Zurich, Clerkenwell Design Week and Trends & Traditions in Copenhagen are also among the firm fixtures in its exhibition calendar. With the help of a global sales team, Chat Board has now been able to increase its share of exports to 80 percent of its sales – and in Central Europe in particular, there is strong growth in export sales. In contrast to this, in production there is still a distinct focus on regional partners and a small number of European suppliers, who can do justice to the need for quality workmanship and the requirements in terms of raw materials and sustainability.
Josefine Honoré, who has been Managing Director at Chat Board since 2013, explains the advantages of regional production: “For one thing, we have our administration in the same building complex as manufacturing, which considerably reduces our reaction time, for example in the case of short-notice enquiries or bespoke orders. What’s more, Denmark is known for quality workmanship and particularly high standards when it comes to environmental protection.” One important aspect for Chat Board is the raw materials cycle of each individual component – from production through to later recycling. The short transportation channels alone have already had a positive impact on minimizing carbon dioxide emissions. “For us it’s important to know where our components come from. We also believe we have a responsibility to create jobs in the region. Keeping everything local simply means we maintain a better overview of the workflow with the wellbeing of our employees in mind.” The company is thus somewhat exemplary and can legitimately claim to be family-run – even now, Chat Board remains firmly in the hands of its founding family: Alongside Josefine Honoré, her brother Jesper Jensen is a member of the board and her husband Lars Honoré works in Ballerup as Head of Projects.
The Chat Board portfolio is now broadly based: The magnetic, write-on glass boards are available in 14 standard sizes as well as bespoke special formats. On top of this, there are mobile boards in three sizes (Chat Board Mobile), which facilitate a combination of analogue communication on the Chat Board and digital exchange via flatscreen on the reverse. All glass surfaces are available in 35 colors. Furthermore, Chat Board also offers smaller Chat Board Planners, as well as handy Sketch Boards. The Mini Chat Boards, which come in a wooden box lined with felt (Chat Board Cave), were designed by Copenhagen design studio Saalto & Sigsgaard. The boards can be mounted on the outside of the box or – during a brainstorming meeting, for example – on the larger “Chat Board”. The range is topped off with acoustically effective felt screens (Chat Board BuzziFelt), a room partition on wheels (Chat Board Move), which can be supplied with glass on both sides or with glass on the front and the “Remix” upholstery fabric from Kvadrat on the back, along with “Ecophon” acoustic absorber inside, a work table (Chat Board Table), a wardrobe (Chat Board Wardrobe) and the Chat Board Magazine Rack, as well as matching accessories. Every year new items are added to the collection, such as the ten new colors currently being launched – and another innovation is planned for launch at the Neue Räume fair in November.
Chat Board’s customers include companies like Sony Music, Oatly, Nestlé and, of course, a number of hotels – exactly where the idea was born in the first place. With Chat Board, this son and daughter demonstrate the greatest possible recognition of their father’s work by translating his specialist knowledge in the area of technical glass into a broad spectrum of essential office aids.