Marijuana, Mary Jane, weed, ganja, pot… whatever you call it, the words still cling to their controversial past. With Cannabis being completely prohibited in most states just forty years ago, to today when decriminalization and legalization are spreading like wildfire across America, it’s safe to say that the cannabis industry has become the new Sacramento Valley circa 1848: a twenty-first-century gold rush and we are in the thick of it.

It seems that everywhere we turn, a new Cannabis company is springing up hoping to get in on the action. From the Cannabidiol (CBD) brands aspiring to attract anxiety-riddled Americans who can’t sleep, hemp skincare lines popping up in Walgreens, medical marijuana dispensaries alleviating a nation’s chronic pain, to recreational facilities catering everything from brownies to buds to anyone looking for a good time.

We are in the midst of a Cannabis revolution and this is only the beginning. With so many businesses flooding the space, and the variety of companies out there, how can a new Cannabis company not only survive but differentiate themselves?

Making the Brand

Take a moment and close your eyes. Think of Coca-Cola, Amazon, Netflix– what do you see? The red and white of the Coca-Cola logo, the smiling orange arrow of Amazon Prime, the big red “N” that pops up when you switch on Netflix? All of these powerhouse brands have one thing in common: exceptional design. With Cannabis companies springing up as fast as their plants grow, it’s imperative to be memorable; the social media-cultured consumer visually judges a company’s brand instantaneously and swipes left to the next one without a second thought. If your design isn’t getting the right message across at first glance, how many potential customer connections are you missing out on?

Design for the Cannabis Industry

Whether you’re the fun recreational brand, a medical brand, or supportive service provider the elements of design remain the same. When it comes to the medicinal space, for example, it’s important to identify the hurdles you are facing as a brand: because of the stigma surrounding Marijuana, the challenge is turning its illicit reputation around and showcasing the medicinal miracle that it is. How can this be done through graphic design?

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Designs by

“The Designed Co team of designers are an excellent resource for Cannabis and Hemp companies of all sizes looking to stand out amongst the competition.” – Kevin Schultz, Co-Founder, President 357 Hemp Logistics

If the goal is to change the public’s perception of Cannabis from a stoner’s daydream to a chemo patient’s relief, then the number one thing to keep in mind is how you want the public to perceive your brand. If you’re a medicinal company with a green cannabis leaf as your logo, or maybe a smoking joint, ask yourself “how does that differentiate me from my competitors” and “do I trust this brand?”.

Think about the first thing people see when they look at everyday brands. What attracted them to pick up Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin, and Nails vitamins at Target?

  • The vibrant packaging
  • The bottle is appealing to the eye but simple and clean
  • The font and design on the label stand out
  • They are different from the other bottles on the shelf
  • Mmmmm Strawberries

You only get a couple of seconds to “speak your brand”, be it packaging, a magazine ad, your banner at a trade show or the first click to your site.

Which one would you pick up first?

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Keep it Simple

Despite the rapid-fire spread of Marijuana legalization across the country, consumers are still building trust in the Cannabis industry. We went from “Reefer Madness,” to “Marijuana Miracle” in less than a couple of years. As an industry, it’s important to incite trust as soon as a consumer comes in contact with your brand; if your branding doesn’t represent who you are as a company and appears unprofessional, your target market will look elsewhere. Trust, in this space, is everything and the first step to building that anchor is through compelling design that represents your brand values and differentiates who you are in a saturated space.

Some Pointers

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  • Bring in a professional. Don’t run to the freelancer job board, 99designs, and Fiverr’s of the world for another cookie-cutter brand design that’s been seen a thousand times before. Look for someone who will not only listen to your needs but create something that stands out based on your vision for your brand. (Insert shameless plug for here) But seriously, consider the fact that you are collectively representing the future of an industry, so put your best foot forward. The last thing the industry needs is to look like the “As Seen on TV” shelf in the back of a Family Dollar.
  • Keep it in the family, keep it local. Work with designers who understand the MJ industry and have experience working with successful brands. That doesn’t mean you have to work with expensive “Mad Men” Ad Agencies, but it also doesn’t mean you should rely on offshore freelancers either. Knowledge and experience will save you thousands in redesigns, long-term.
  • Know your brand. Voice your brand through good design principals, keep it simple so consumers can understand your message without the clutter. If you are recreational have some fun but keep it clean, if you are medical be safe but have some fun. The point is not to sacrifice your message or brand through poorly executed design.
  • Be consistent. “Repetition is the mother of all learning” – Zig Ziglar. Using the same fonts, colors and theme across all design assets is a simple recipe to stand out, be memorable and build a brand that people can count on.

What are you doing to take your brand higher?