Tom Lynch

Split-Flap Display

© Agnese Sanvito

Since I first saw a Split-Flap Display at London Waterloo when I was a small child I have been fascinated by them. The striking contrast of the white on black text in that beautiful sans-serif typeface. The jaw dropping speed and precision with which they flicker past. The distinctive clattering of the mechanisms all jumping into action out of no where, dissipating as each part of the display locks into it’s new position.

I love the drama, the movement, the nostalgia and the analog nature of these displays, which has spurred me on to build my own design.


The project started in my final year of my undergraduate degree at University for the Creative Arts, where I intended to build 140 to display messages from the relatively new Twitter social network at the time. Not realising it I embarked on a near 5 year journey teaching myself everything from how to use a laser cutter, prototyping skills, electronics, PCB design and manufacture, and mechanical design.

If you are interested in reading more about the backstory of the design and development process check out the Split-Flap Display category on my blog.

MobileStudio JackSpade by Jim Stephenson 01a

© Agnese Sanvito

London Design Festival + RIBA
The first opportunity to have a quantity of units built was in Summer 2014 where they were exhibited as part of the London Design Festival for the RIBA Windows project. I was commissioned by Jack Spade + The Mobile Studio to build this part of their installation. The displays worked with only one of two hiccups which were soon resolved with minor modifications. The design has had some testing but is still in development.

I frequently get requests from people asking if they can purchase or commission me to build a display for their studio, office, production, show, etc… The idea of designing my own is to enable me to make small numbers of these for interesting exhibitions. For example at Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire I had it following a hashtag displaying adjectives that people had used to describe their experience at the event and tweeting back a photo.

Split-Flap Displays are not cheap, there are a large number of expensive components, and a serious amount of assembly work. One of the biggest costs is the custom screen printed and die cut flaps themselves, which are as expensive as the rest of the unit. Each module consists of about £400 to £500 in materials and labour.

The units are 136MM wide, 150MM deep, and 200MM high, however the screw heads add a couple MM here and there. The unit’s are handmade so there will be deviations.

I am not an engineer, neight electrical or mechanical, my background is in design so this object isn’t intended to be a product for mass manufacture, and shouldn’t be considered extensively tested, they are an experiment.

Feel free to email me if you have further questions.