In Sid Lee’s Free-Form Office, The Walls Are For Scribbles

The ad agency Montreal outpost embodies a culture of free-spirited creativity.

It never ceases to amaze me how ostensibly innovative companies expect their employees to work in perfectly uninspiring digs. For all their “out-of-the-box” thinking, they still think it appropriate to stuff their creatives into office cubicles or, worse still, station them at long, sterile white desks, where all accessories are kept at right angles. (Tip: No diner opts to eat at a communal table when there’s a private table available, so why make your grubbers spend an eight-plus-hour day sitting at one?) That’s not the case at the Montreal office of Sid Lee — an ad agency with clients such as Adidas, Cirque du Soleil, and Fatboy — where you’ll find a mishmash of boldly designed spaces that are reinvented every few months.


“Whoever creates the first 2.0 office space will be very rich.?

The office is essentially open-plan, with as few walls and closed doors as possible for encouraging collaboration and the impromptu sharing of ideas, whether passing each other in a long hallway or sitting at the communal lunch table (nothing’s ever perfect). The design was initially carried out with the help of a couple outside firms, but Sid Lee has since launched a full-service architecture and design division, which will allow it to reshape the atelier as it grows.

One thing that will most likely remain consistent, however, is the vast amount of blackboard space, on which anyone can doodle when they get bored. The agency also occasionally invites artists from around the world to contribute a chalk-rendered piece. “Every year, they are wiped clean just before our annual Sid Lee Day, when everyone is required to be at work but prohibited from working and the artisans are invited to go crazy with them,” Sid Lee’s president and Senior Partner, Jean-François Bouchard, tells Co.Design.

The agency knows that employee happiness doesn’t hinge just on a rad workplace, so it also offers a free breakfast before 9 a.m., as well as regular yoga and Pilates classes. (I know what you’re thinking: Job listings are posted here.) In the future, Bouchard hopes that the office will move beyond blackboards to complete interactivity: “I?m telling you, the person who creates the first 2.0 office space will be a very rich person.”


About the author

A former editor at such publications as WIRED, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company, Belinda Lanks has also written for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, Interior Design, and ARTnews.