The story of Nicework’s founding happened in two parts. The first happened at 2 am at a party called Fraymentos (hosted by Adi Loveland), in a club that was literally underground. Ben, Donovan and I formed the idea alternating between dancing to bad house music and shots of Jagermeister (that was still a thing back then). Next we mapped out our master plan onto a single sheet of A4 paper at Scuzzi in Parkview. It was simple… borrow a bit of cash, buy a G4 tower, get clients and make a profit! On the 4th of February 2007, Nicework moved into a garden cottage which Don’s mom very kindly allowed us to inhabit. We spent our days designing anything legal for money and swimming in the pool at lunchtime.
After a couple of months, we decided to upgrade our fledgling company. We found the smallest office space we could (The Anchor Building in the Media Mill), bought a fax machine (we thought it was important- it was not) and went through the pain of opening a company bank account. We hired our first designer and copywriter and learnt that tracking time is absolutely necessary (not something the robot overlords demand), contracts are essential and cash flow is the most important element for every company. This was our experimental phase. The studio was filled with flash websites, colourful animations and some pretty wild design ideas. Blue Moon, one of our earliest clients gave us our first real taste of large campaign work and we got involved in all branding, presentation design and audio/video work. We were also very busy curating a series of exhibitions, designing the NICE Magazine, getting up to trouble with our neighbours Injozi, Clickmaven and Humanoid, activating the Alexander Theatre with Anikesh Ramani and renovating a building in Braamfontein (which we never moved into). The renaming and rebranding of Demographica (who would go on to becoming one of our longest standing clients) was a step towards becoming a serious design agency.
As with all business owners, we have always tried to improve and elevate our game. As our team expanded, we moved office – the second floor of The Media Mill! The business evolved into 5 core areas of focus- Branding, Graphic Design, Presentations, Film & Video and Websites. We’ve been lucky enough to have worked on some monumental projects over the last 10 years. Ogilvy & Mather invited us to work alongside director, Leigh Ogilvie on Young Gifted and Black for Channel O. The song features a collaboration of amazing South African artists and we had loads of fun working on the design and animated elements. The campaign went on to win a series of awards. Bentel Architects asked Nicework to help celebrate 70 years in business by publishing a 120-page book showcasing their company history and work. Early players in the South African property development space, Lenny Bentel and Raymond Ackerman worked together to build the first Pick n Pays, with many malls following as our economy grew. Bentel has been instrumental in creating the landscape of South Africa’s cities. When the World Cup came to our shores, we had the privilege of working alongside Andrew Wessels and the team on Kelly Rowland’s music video- Every Where You Go for MTN’s 2010 World Cup sponsorship. Artlogic enlisted Nicework to help with on the graphics for the inaugural Joburg Artfair. Our work ouput on this project found itself in every corner of the event, from directional signage through to printed catalogues and billboards. We helped heavy engineering firm, DCD Dorbyl rename to DCD and unify their 13 companies under one flexible identity system as part of a repositioning project. A valuable fact: we got to make a sign you can see from space.
We continued our “meteoric rise” through the Anchor Building and took over the 3rd floor with Gass Architecture Studios and Gentlemen Films. Demographica had to make their honour lap and we loved rebranding Warren’s business for the second time. Foodcorp enlisted Nicework to help create presentations for their sales and marketing conference for 3 years running, culminating in a trip to Mauritius with 180 of their staff. We ran a 26-meter long screen, delivering 14 presentations in 2 days, and drinking all the rum we could get our hands on. Working with social media specialists, Retroviral, we helped create a very Jo’burg aesthetic and generate more awareness around the premier horseracing event- Sansui Summer Cup . To give back to the creative community in Johannesburg we opened our cities’ chapter of CreativeMornings – which we have run for almost 4 years. Our largest book project to date was realised in Re-imagining South Africa- 300 pages that document the thoughts of 20 iconic South Africans on the next 20 years of our country.
Our next chapter is more strategic- we’ve documented our methodology, introduced a series of facilitated strategic workshops and rebranded our company. Using this new approach, our most diverse project has been to reposition and rebrand a portion of Pretoria’s CBD- 012 central. This ongoing project sees us evolving the brand on a constant basis. Tireless work from the folks over at Cityprop – who initiated 012 central, have helped drive artists, businesses, and events back into the city. We’ve been blessed with diverse and challenging work, and with any luck the trend will continue! We’re busy on content for a micro MBA app, helping a brand make bread sexy again and inspiring business owners in the tourism industry with a series of videos.
All in all, 32 people have helped us to make this challenging, tiring, scary, fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyable ride possible, and we’re full of excitement for the next 10 years. Thank you from Ben and I, to you, our clients, friends, and family who have stood by us and made it all possible.
It is nice to be important but important to be nice.
Onwards and upwards.