The software part is coming along nicely, but I also need to start looking into the hardware part.
I started mocking something up based on other projects I've seen in the past using an Ikea picture frame. Laying out spacing of the letters and LEDs seems like 16x12 or 12x16 is a good ratio to start with and should work for a standard word clock and more.
Coincidentally I stumbled across a chip IS31FL3733 that is a general purpose 12×16 LEDs matrix driver which sounds like it could work out perfectly for what I need. I'm going to get ahold of a few of these and see if it lives up to the hype.