Meet the Googler who got two artists to create a work of art inside a spreadsheet

Michael BologninoGoogleMichael Bolognino

Michael Bolognino needed to find a way to prove that spreadsheets aren’t just for tracking budgets or running equations. 

As the product marketing manager for Google Apps, his job is to come up with large-scale projects that showcase creative and collaborative ways to use some of the company’s most business-centric products like Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Today, he unveiled the final result of his latest idea: A giant mural designed by two artists in different parts of the world, worked on exclusively through Google Sheets. 

The project started over a month ago, when he challenged two illustrators  —  Marina Esmeraldo in Barcelona, and Mallory Heyer in New York City — to try to “break the grid” of Google’s data app, Sheets.  

“It’s using a tool that’s meant to crunch data to actually build something beautiful — to use it as a canvas,” Bolognino tells Business Insider. 

The artists met via Google’s chat app, Hangouts, and then hacked away on the design inside Sheets for a month, using data management tools like conditional formatting to create colour gradients and resizing cells to create a vibrant scene. 

Here’s a timelapse of some of their work:

You can find the full spreadsheet here. 

The new mural marks Bolognino’s third collaborative test a success. Previously, he sicced two emerging musicians on Google Docs to write an original song and set up a moderated discussion on writing constitutions which also took place inside Docs.

Next up, he’s thinking of either tackling its presentation app, Slides, or its to-do list app, Keep.

All told, Bolognino’s been at Google for six years years. Before starting his current gig with the Apps suite, he did much more traditional marketing for other products like Google Voice, Blogger, and Picasa.

We’re told that Bolognino’s role is fairly unique at Google — most products don’t have a designated staff member working on campaigns of this kind. 

Take another look inside the project:

First, the artists met virtually to talk about their ideas.


But the real creation process all took place inside Sheets.


Here's the final design Esmeraldo and Heyer came up with:


... Which eventually got painted on a giant wall in Brooklyn:

Wes Tarca

After the wall was finished they got to meet for the first time in person

Wes Tarca

And revel in seeing their digital work made real

Wes Tarca

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