Understanding the coupled kinetic and thermodynamics factors governing colloidal nanocrystals nucleation and growth are critical factors in the predictable and reproducible synthesis of advanced nanomaterials. We show that the temporal temperature profile is decisive in tuning the particle shape from pseudo-spherical to monodisperse cubes. The shape of the nanocrystals was characterized by transmission electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction. We introduce a mechanism for the shape controlled synthesis in the context of temperature-dependent nucleation and growth and provide experimental evidence to support it. © 2013 The Royal Society of Chemistry.