The Assignment
To create a high end cannabis brand for the emerging recreational market.

The Challenges
The first step was research, and I had a lot to learn about cannabis; cultivation and genetics, effects and medical usage, THC and CBD, manufacturing and extraction processes, and most challenging, the shifting landscape of California regulations. Depth of knowledge is key to brand authenticity, which can make or break a brand in such a competitive and deeply rooted culture.

The Logo
Before the brand strategy, I was excited to get started on the identity. The client was very receptive to ideas, so the process was very positive and collaborative. I was able to shotgun ideas initially, and really dial in the refinements. We agreed on the fire and crown symbology, with an ‘anointed’ connotation, but getting it to ‘feel right’ was a process, and my comfort zone leans toward graphic over illustrative. 

The mark is clean, the fire and crown well defined, and due to the full spectrum color use to follow, I went with black-and-white (a rich 90% black, actually). I went with the triangle, as a universal symbol for fire with alchemical origins.

An industry ‘standard’ seemed to be developing, where purple, orange and green represented Indica, Sativa and Hybrid genotypes, respectively. There is something intuitive about these representations, as Indicas are known for their cool, relaxing properties, Sativas for an active, energetic high, and Hybrids as the blend, or universal cannabis ‘green’.
I feel like the secondary color palette looks like a style guide for comic book villains, and I wanted to create a color expression that was intuitive, and illustrated the nuance of the strain differences, the effects, and the mood, while adding a much needed organic element to the package. So I broke out the watercolors and made a mess.

My goal was to create interesting abstract transitions across the spectrum – deep purples cascading into blues for the heavy Indicas, grassy greens bleeding into warm hues for the Sativa-Dominant Hybrids, ands so on. Most of my paintings were awful, but there were some small isolated areas that achieved that sublime beauty I had hoped to achieve.

The Strain Problem
The various strains are careful cross bred to yielded a fascinating genealogy with unique properties, selected for effects, potency, flavor, resiliency, and a host of other characteristics. Most of the strain names are fun and evocative, and I wanted to express and distil them into unique individual art pieces, while creating a consistent motif throughout the line. My client works with a small network of growers, so the supply chain can be somewhat unpredictable, making it difficult to stay ahead of the curve with custom art.

The Solution
I created five general strain archetypes that cover the gamut, so individual strains could be packaged according to their genetic subtype as they became available. This is a bit unorthodox, but I feel that this is a direction that this industry could be going. With so many strains, and so many growers creating new strains, the easiest way to communicate with the average, or new consumer, is to speak to the effects and general character of the flower. The package needed to be clear, informative, intuitive, positive, welcoming, and high end, of course. I had the color system and the general effects (CA law prohibits medical claims), I just needed names. And a custom tamper-evident box that fits child-proof jars. And strain labels for the jars. And tamper-evident seals for the jars. And a logo stamp for the gold tissue paper, that prevents the jar from knocking around. And maybe a branded sticker inside…like a prize? 

The first three printed were the Indica, Bear Hug, the 50/50 Hybrid, Emerald City, and the Sativa, Fire Flower. Not included in this run are Velvet Skies and Happy Hour, the I+Hybrid, and S+Hybrids, respectively. I engineered the package myself, built and tested the die line, tested the die line, then tested the die line several more times. I used matte UV, UV gloss and gold foil.

I’m just going to unload images at this point. I did a series of pre-rolls (the industry term for joints), on foil stock with some translucent/opaque ink play. I envisioned an esoteric quality to the brand, so I have hidden secret codes in every package – the intent here is the website will have a place to enter the solutions for promotional purposes. Fun, right? For example, on the Gorilla Ghost (a pre-roll with Gorilla Dawg flower, and Ghost OG extract-infused paper), the pac man-style gorilla ghost has a halo of morse code that says ‘R.I.P. Harambe‘. Fun!

Beyond that, some things were produced, others were not. Jar labels, Concentrate Jar labels, An edibles line of seasonal gummies, a Vape Pen box, a Gift Box, a CBD line, some T-Shirt ideas…

I’ll end this with some brand development social media strategy,  where the brand really starts to come to life…

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