by Hollie Wegman ・ Office Hacks

Office Hack #19 — SapientNitro’s Changing Walls

Envoy is all about making things easier and more fun in the office. In that spirit, we are proud to bring you our new Envoy Office Hacks podcast series. Every week, we deliver the coolest, most ingenious, and just plain fun fixes people have invented to improve efficiency and productivity in their workplace.

If these walls could talk…

At SapientNitro, a digital marketing agency, the walls do talk. This week’s Envoy Office Hack: SapientNitro’s Changing Walls.

“It’s green o’clock. I’m hungry!” Howie, AKA Michael Howatson, Executive Creative Director at SapientNitro

When you walk into SapientNitro’s new Toronto office, you’ll notice something. The walls appear to be alive.

These are not your run-of-the-mill office walls with beige paint and corporate artwork. SapientNitro’s walls are dynamic, colorful displays of the time, the weather, and anything a creative mind wishes to program.

You see, these lit-up digital walls are fully hackable.

“They’re all open and available to our people… I came in a couple of weeks ago and somebody had turned the entire background into a series of keys, and DJ Khaled’s head was just ricocheting around. Hey, why not?” Howie, AKA Michael Howatson, Executive Creative Director at SapientNitro

The day we were there, one wall was a slow rotation of color, signifying the changing weather outside. Another wall was set to “react” every time a new employee arrived at the building and used their passcard. But these giant digital displays also have the ability reflect staff mood.

“We created an app just for us. You have an interface where you can select through a bunch of pre-packaged emotional states, but they’re also told with a little Giphy. And as everyone votes, one of them will take dominance and that will reflect the mood of the office — frustrated, pissed off, scared, sad, happy, celebratory, Thank God it’s Friday — all these different feelings. If that’s what the majority of the office is feeling, it lets you know.” Howie, AKA Michael Howatson, Executive Creative Director at SapientNitro

The walls react to live data streams.

Staff are encouraged to experiment and play with the walls. In fact, experimentation is core to the culture at SapientNitro.

“The only way to create innovative work is to innovate how you do it. Starting with where you do it is probably the easiest first step.” Howie, AKA Michael Howatson, Executive Creative Director at SapientNitro


The Toronto office of SapientNitro was designed to support and promote creative thinking using new technology. The office opened in the fall of 2015.

How to hack it

SapientNitro’s color-changing walls are custom built, using software developed in-house. However, if you’re keen to set up digital wall displays in your workspace, Howie says the basic elements — LED lighting and driver boxes — are all available at electronics stores.

Listen & Subscribe

You can listen to the full story in the Envoy Office Hacks podcast. Please subscribe to the podcast in iTunes — just click here and hit ‘subscribe.’