CreativeMornings Johannesburg turned 5 we made it happen

Building the creative community in Johannesburg and South Africa are very close to our hearts. Which is one of the reasons we have been running CreativeMornings in Johannesburg for the last 5 years.

Since September 2017 we have hosted 53 talks for 3253 different people. 

There was even a photo booth

Special thanks to everyone who helped make it happen. Especially the Nicework team

Alexa, Alexis, Andrea, Anri, Arlene, Ayanda, Ben, Brittany, Candice, Conor, Dave, Gordon, Jason, Jess, Johan, Kyle, Lauren, Luci, Naledi, Rebecca, Rochelle, Romey, Tessa, Thea, Tumi and Yadev

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Well, that is what you want everyone to believe. We think we are living in the age where we print has evolved from every day to something special. Printing something presents an opportunity to establish an emotional connection with a reader. When we started Nicework 11 years ago every branding job involved the production of physical assets. We produced full-colour letterheads, compliment slips, custom envelopes, business cards, glossy folders and sometimes even personalised stationery for each of the management team. All of this has been replaced with Microsoft templates and digital signatures.

When you print something you have the opportunity to engage a few more senses. It is a very personal thing to receive a something physical, especially custom-designed printed materials. Which captivate the eyes and hearts of an audience. Delivered by features like unique inks, foiling techniques, die cuts, folds and textures. We use print to help brands deliver positive, engaging and powerful results that increase promotional efforts. Print possesses gravity and authority not held by digital channels, which are increasingly getting fuller and fuller with content that delivers less and less value. Print is where we historically mark births, deaths, marriages and major announcements – we still use the term ‘front page news’. This sense of authority has always had applications for branding and marketing.

And the most crucial assumption brands have made about people, particularly millennials is that they prefer the immediacy of digital. In an age where the average office worker receives 121 emails a day and sends around 40 business emails daily. We believe that people respond to the physicality of a printed piece. For us, what makes print so good is that you have to make considerations about what goes into it. You are making a commitment and creating something with a level of permanence.

Here is a selection of projects we have worked on with clients to tell their story and the impact they had.

Here are four compelling reasons to invest in printing a project:

When you have a piece of content that deserves the focused time of your audience. We can help you to make something which is treasured, which ends its days making the bookshelf, coffee table or toilet just that little bit prettier and more civilised. When you create something that deserves the time of the reader, printing it, is a way of giving it the gravitas it deserves.

When you have something that needs to set in time. Something that people will reference or look back on over a period of time.

To introduce an idea or kick off a project. The reality of today is the majority of content is delivered digitally (and will continue to be) but a beautifully designed piece of print can introduce a concept, let people know a change is coming or launch a new project in a way that stands out. It is a great way to set the tone in the beginning before switching to digital.

And lastly our favourite reason. The reason we like the myth that “print is dead”. Everyone else has gone digital. This presents an opportunity to stand out.

If you have a project that deserves more than an email in a spam folder. Get in touch for some Nicework
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Nice Magazine: A plan (already behind), the selection of objects and the slow move in a positive direction

Every good project starts with a well-laid plan. Team Nicework set out with a collaborative, agile planning session. We broke the project down into epics and task. You can even see the original publish date of February 2018.

“Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face” — Mike Tyson

2018 has already been a busy year for Nicework and our time has been swallowed with branding precincts, developing learning content and adding Service design to our offering.

Undeterred by our current missed deadline, we moved onto the first step in the plan. Select the objects that will tell the studio’s story. This is essentially the process of sifting through all the objects that have clung to every available flat surface in the studio.

As a side note, this was being done at the same time a server migration, which you can see covered in a sample of objects.
Because we believe in collaboration we lured Leigh-Anne into the studio to help us to art direct and photograph the objects we had selected. Not all the selected objects made the cut.

Some of our favourite rejected objects are:

  • A Reebok sneaker key ring from the launch at the Alexander Theatre
  • An iron patch from Paul Sahre collected at Design Indaba in 2010
  • A cricket ball?
  • A bucket of mixed shot glasses from a myriad of Notworking parties
  • A snow globe that has not only gone cloudy but also has a fallen Santa

Keep an eye on our Instagram account for the objects that made it into the photo shoot. Our next steps are to select the final objects, loop in some of the Nicework Alumni to contribute and relook the masthead which is in need of a refresh since our rebrand.

Catch up on past issues of the Nice Magazine here

Follow along with the open redesign of the Magazine here or on Instagram

I would love to hear your thoughts on the process so far.

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Nice Magazine: An open archaeological design exploration

Having been in the design world for nearly two decades, I have identified a few simple signs that a creative company has been around for a while. The first, a collection of ageing or dead Macintoshs, usually accompanied by some sort of grumble that “they don’t make these like they used to.”. The second is far more interesting to me. I’m talking about the Design Detritus, a collection of objects that have accumulated in any creative studio. Each object is a mark of time from either some long delivered design job, a studio mate who has moved on to greener pastures or from some failed side project that never reached the shining hope of its potential. These objects that make up the detritus are filled with stories from the events of the past, a physical signature of passing time. They are essentially historical artefacts of the studio’s history. Nicework celebrated its 11th Birthday on the 4th of February 2018, we have some wonderful things to explore.

“…as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold — everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment — an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by — I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, ‘Can you see anything?’ it was all I could do to get out the words, ‘Yes, wonderful things.” ― Howard Carter, Tomb of Tutankhamen

Stories have always been important in the work we do. Storytelling can take you on a journey that inspires you to learn about yourself and the world around you. It can reflect social values in a culture that motivate people. Stories have been used to interpret the universe, resolve natural and physical phenomena, teach morals, maintain cultural values, pass on methods of survival and to find meaning. We are interested in telling the story of our studio using the objects that have accumulated on the flat surfaces of Nicework. Can we graphically inspect a series of objects in a way that is both interesting to the viewer but also satisfying to the people of Nicework in the way that looking at memorabilia from your past is?

Nicework has been creating the Nice Magazine on and off (if we are being truly honest it is more off than on) for the last 7 years. We had grand ideas to launch this issue to celebrate our 10 year birthday but as you can see by the publish date of this article that we have fallen well behind on this task. We are going to go on an archaeological dig of sorts over the next two (probably six) months where we collect the objects around the studio, extract their stories and explore them in a variety of ways. The resulting document will be a snapshot of a few moments in the history of a company that has spanned 11 years, 32 people, hundreds of design briefs and many thousands of cups of tea.

We are going to share the process of creating the next issue of the magazine in an experiment in open design. You will be able to see how we plan, process and deliver a passion project while being completely inundated with client briefs and short deadlines. We are going to collaborate with some of the Nicework alumni, convince the production team to participate and create something beautiful. If you are interested, follow along with the links below:

Catch up on past issues of the Nice Magazine here

Follow along with the open redesign of the Magazine here or on Instagram

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The Vignelli Canon

I recently re-listened to this podcast featuring the late Massimo Vignelli, best-known for creating the iconic New York City subway map, discusses intellectual elegance, education, love, the pitfalls of marketing, and his long career in design.

I urge you to download the  Vingelli Canon a concise bible of his approach to designing just about anything. This is a must-read for any designer. Enjoy.

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Case Study – The Telkom Story

Our friends at Blue Moon invited us to work with them on bringing the Telkom Story to life. We had some fun taking a regular 2D car and making it 3D. Watch the video below to see how we tackled the project.

Get in touch if you want to explore the 4th dimension with us

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Nicework turns 10

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.

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Nicework Showreel 2016 edition

We have been hard at work for the last few days refreshing not only our brand but also our showreel. This short cut down represents just a handful of the millions of hours spent crafting design and pushing keyframes to tell the best stories possible for our clients. We have been so busy in fact that this is the first update we have pushed out since 2012 or even the one from 2009 (we know, we know). One of the hardest things for us is to select just a few pieces to showcase what we are capable of but we are taking the advice we give clients and keeping it short and simple.

Late in 2015 we had the dubious honour of having David Hillier join us from the Deli and we thought we would mark the occasion with a shiny new showcase… Enjoy.

Everybody loves videos. We make the best ones. Speak to us to get yours today.

Special thanks to all the clients who made this possible.
We would also like to thank our team. David Hillier, Alexis Schofield, Kyle Goulden and Luci Badenhorst.

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The Bright Night Project

Our Creative Director Ross Drakes and his wife Leigh-Anne have launched a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo. They need you to help make an exhibition of South Africa’s most talented photographers and illustrators a reality – to create a Johannesburg based platform to recognise and showcase these works at the level they deserve. What different about this exhibition? It will be held, in the dark.


In the dark?

The works of these 20 photographers and illustrators will be lit only by the light of the Little Sun – a high-quality solar-powered LED lamp developed by artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen in an effort to provide clean, reliable, affordable light to the 1.1 billion people worldwide without access to electricity. This gives us the opportunity not only to create a platform for these incredibly talented artists, but also to shed a little light on others, as many of the Little Suns used in this project will be donated once the exhibition comes down.

Some of the people who are exhibiting:

sindiso ross lousi koos karabo Janan Chirs

We asked the why crowdfunding?

From the get-go, we saw crowdfunding as the place this project would be realised. What better way to make a project a reality than offering the people who want to see it happen, the chance to be part of making make it happen?

We chose the ‘fixed funding’ structure of crowdfunding; what this means is that if we don’t get 100% or our funding goal, the backer will be fully refunded at the end of the campaign (27 August), simple as that. Going for fixed funding was a risk for us but we felt it gives backers the security that if they back us and we reach our goal, boom, the project happens. But if we don’t reach target, poof, backers get refunded and its like nothing happened at all.


What’s in it for you?

Entrance to the ‘blackout’ exhibition opening in October. They have reserved this opening for the backers, the people that made it happen. So by backing the campaign, and selecting a ‘ticket’ perk their backers will be able to go and explore the Museum of African Design, in the dark, lit only by the light from their Little Suns. An opportunity to wander the space and discover each piece done by these artists, and maybe even take a Little Sun home.

To watch the The Bright Night Project video, learn more about the project, back it and secure yourself a ticket to the evening, visit the campaign page


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