Ross grew up on the wrong side of the Jukskei. He studied at Vega and was awarded the Top Student prize at his graduation. After working as a freelancer for four years, he founded Nicework with Ben Vorster. He has a penchant for Scandinavian wood furniture and really nice shirts. He is open to bribery- all iPads are welcome. He also likes chocolate cake and is happily married.

April 16, 2017

Nicework turns 10

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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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April 4, 2016

Nicework Showreel 2016 edition

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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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August 1, 2015

The Bright Night Project

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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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May 31, 2015

CreativeMornings: Lebogang Rasethaba

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Our speaker this month is Lebogang Rasethaba a documentary filmmaker, who learnt his trade in China of all places. He creates work for a spread of international brands and can be gawked at across sites like Highsnobiety, i-D and Vice. Recently he teamed up with Spoek Mathambo to create one of his two feature-length documentaries. Future Sound of Msanzi, The Apartheid afterparty. Which is being released in segments by Vice media. He is going to educate us on what the second generartion of robots in South Africa can do now that they have grown up from directing traffic.

Tickets open on the 1st of June at 7am, get them while there are still there to be got. The talk is on the 5th of June. We are being hosted by the wonderful Alexander Theatre. Coffee by Doubleshot, breakfast by Vovo Telo, water by Luna and love and support by Nicework.

We might even have a surprise up our sleeve.

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May 31, 2015

CreativeMornings: Robot

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CreativeMornings Robot

We are very excited about this months theme, especially because we as South African’s like to call anything with a light on it a robot.

We are now at 114 chapters around the world and are geared up to nerd out over this month’s theme: Robot, presented by MailChimp. The theme was chosen by our Prague chapter and illustrated by Ella Cohen.

Our talk is on the 5th of June, stay tuned for more info.

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March 8, 2015

CreativeMornings, sometimes things don’t work out

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This month we had a run of bad luck and were unable to pull off an event for Climate. But we don’t want all of you to lose out. With that in mind we think you should make your own CreativeMornings. We have made this wonderful little kit for you to experience Climate CM style.

  1. Get up early in the morning
  2. Make a cup of tea
  3. Go outside with the cup of tea and find a nice peaceful place
  4. Sit for 20 mins and just think about how the planet makes you feel
  5. Ask yourself what you can do to improve the planet
  6. Share your experiences with us on twitter or Facebook

Thanks for playing and keep in touch for our next event on the 27th of March


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January 30, 2015

Nicework needs a creative director

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Nicework is looking for a creative director to join our team. This role involves delivering world-class creative to a variety of clients. It involves working hard, drinking tea and having fun.

You are:

  • Able to understand complex business problems and apply design thinking to them
  • Execute world class design
  • Mentor, (gently) push and grow your team mates
  • Work across the business – with development, design, management, suppliers and clients
  • Able to think for yourself and can function with ambiguity
  • Capable of surviving periods of high pressure without melting down
  • In possession of an attitude that is positive and proactive.
  • Proud of your talent and willing to apply it
  • In possession of at least a bachelors degree (unless you are some kind of savant in which case you will have you prove it)
  • Well versed at leading a creative team and have at least 5 years experience doing so
  • Able to present to a room full of people and sell the crap out of the work (calm down – we will never make you sell a rubbish idea)
  • Sensitive to the commercial aspect of business and can keep projects on budget and within deadline
  • Clear and decisive with your feedback and guidance to your team mates
  • Committed to managing people and enjoy it
  • A bigger picture kind of person

Your Primary Responsibilities:

  • Development of creative treatment and strategy
  • Presentation to clients and prospects
  • Managing junior people
  • Branding development
  • General graphic design, layout and typography
  • Client interactions face to face, written and by telephone
  • Basic project management
  • Contribution to Nicework marketing in the form of content development, the blog, magazine and social media platforms
  • Quality control of studio work output
  • Identifying cross and upselling opportunities

Secondary Duties:

  • Managing interns and external resources
  • Interviewing new recruits
  • Other duties as defined by management

Bonus points if you can:

  1. Write code
  2. Write copy
  3. Can do basic video editing
  4. Understand animation and broadcast design
  5. Knowledge of Inbound marketing

Be aware: Sometimes the hours are long

Nicework is a great place to work. You will grow, learn and have fun doing it. We built the business to feel like a family and everyone here has everyone else’s back. Its not for everyone but you are not just anyone now are you?

If you are the right human click here

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December 1, 2014

A session with the Cycologist

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Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 3.32.06 PM


While you are reading this, the ticket for our CreativeMornings Cycologist are selling out. 2 groups of 10 people get to experience a session with the Cycologist Vincent Truter right after our talk just go here and grab your ticket before it is too late.

The speaker for December’s CreativeMornings is Vincent Truter, a Jo’burg multidisciplinary creative  and “cycologist”.

Vincent Truter is a Cycologyst From brand strategy to creative direction Vincent Truter is a cross disciplinary creative mind with a passion for sustainability and a penchant for subversion. Building on his awarded career in the creative and branding industries Vincent is now taking a two-weeled journey with his electric bicycle and green mobility company called Cycology and his Green Mobility awareness campaign called #DECONGEST. Join him as he takes you on a two-wheeled journey that connects people, places and passions that gets SA thinking and moving differently.

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October 28, 2014

CreativeMornings Summit 2014: A Retrospective

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A little over a year ago, Nicework was given the go ahead to open the Johannesburg chapter of CreativeMornings. It’s been an amazing rollercoaster ride. We’ve had some historical talks, some analog ones, and have even convinced a bunch of people to hang out in a bar in the morning.

Having twisted our rubber arms, Tina and the team from CreativeMornings HQ invited us to a summit in New York. We packed our bags and we were off, armed with our guides-to-Johannesburg that the team at Nicework put together to help our new friends understand why we love our city.

NW makes a JHB guide

Having traveled 12823.253 kilometers and traversed 7 time zones (granted we did spend 2 weeks in France), we arrived in New York, jet lagged and ready for the summit. One train ride into Brooklyn, later we discovered the Invisible Dog and a shiny golden arrow pointing us to all the fun and excitement inside. Ironically, the first time we got to meet  the rest of African contingent from Cape Town was in New York.

The Africans take over NY

The festivities quickly escalated. There was t-shirt printing by Real Thread

Screen printing

…tons of swag…


…and an international delivery of a Makarapa, which we have been told has since become the symbol of “leave me alone, I am wrangling my inbox symbol.”


Day 01

The first morning kicked off early with 175 Attendees, representing 59 cities, 27 countries, and Montreal even brought a dog (we love you Norbert). I always knew that CreativeMornings was driven on people power, but I never expected the sheer amount of love and passion for CreativeMornings at the summit. All of the people I met are professionals in the creative industry, and they all give up their most precious asset to organise CreativeMornings – time. Tina, Sally, Kevin and Carley have done an amazing job of finding incredible people to take the CreativeMornings message across the globe. Fresh off the back of making 30 new friends, eating a bagel or 16 and about 3kgs of cream cheese the summit began. Here is the wonderful introduction video made by Ben Derico.

Tina brought us all to tears with her story of how CreativeMornings came to life. Hosts from LA, Baltimore, Auckland, Berlin, Edmonton, Bogotá, Atlanta, Cape Town, Lima and other cities shared some of their experiences with us. (Lets just say that technical issues are prevalent around the world). We heard from the Vancouver massive, and were even rewarded with micro fibre cloths courtesy of the city. One of my biggest learnings was courtesy of Blake Howard of Atlanta, ALWAYS USE FLAME TRANSITIONS AND EPIC MUSIC. We were blown away by the Flex is Kings dancers and if that was not enough, we were lucky to have some special guests. Sarah Key an amazing poet spoke about a wonderful teacher & I was very glad to be able to see Debbie Millman.

Kick off

Photo by Jérémie Fontana

It was an honour to share the stage and share some of the experiences we have had here in Johannesburg.

A view from above

We finished this first day inside the Empire State building, at the awesome offices of Shutterstock (one of our great global partners).


Day 02

Just to show us how it was done, we attended our very first CreativeMornings/NYC with Steve Powers’ at MoMA. Yes, MoMA.


The summit

Back at the Invisible Dog, the rest of the day was filled with a Q&A with the CreativeMornings Team. As if we had not seen or done enough, we spent the afternoon brainstorming on the future of CreativeMornings, with the help of Fred Dust and his great team from IDEO. We ended the summit with a great party at the Pioneer Works refurbished factory in Red Hook.


Bas Berkhout of Like knows Like made this video on the first day of the summit.

The very first CreativeMornings Summit talent show kicked off with the (not so hidden) singing talents of Maria Linares, Sophia Moon and a touching poem by Paul Oemig. If you are from a large record company, you are welcome to reach out and give them money. The dance floor was opened by the talented Kiwi Mon, who was joined in by Sally Rumble. Drinking and a bit of bad behavior ensued.


Talent Show

Leigh-Anne gives a smack

To finish it all off, CreativeMornings celebrated it’s 6th birthday with a cake, sparklers and 300 family members!


(Image by CreativeMornings)

At the beginning of the Summit we were a room of strangers, but 3 days later I felt like I had a group of friends and family scattered around the world (expect travel soon). CreativeMornings has shifted in my mind from a series of talks in a bunch of cities around the world to a movement that is uniting the creative community across the globe. This is one of the closest communities that I have ever been part of. Everybody is giving their time, love and energy to make it happen, all united behind a common purpose. We are part of something special. It is growing around the world and it is gaining momentum. Watch this space.

If you would like to take part, get in touch.

Here are some of the weird and wonderful things we were exposed to over the 3 days:

None of this would be possible without our official partners – MailChimp, Squarespace & Shutterstock.
Without these companies, CreativeMornings would not be possible!

All these guys came on board to make the #cmsummit14 happen, a big shout out to you:
Moo, Blue Bottle, Sixpoint, 99U, Airbnb, Real Thread, Bklzr, Poppin, Pioneer Works, Great Performances, Baked by Melissa, The Confetti Bar, Lomography, Tattly, The Invisible Dog.

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