Gone are the tye-dye shirts, the dank basements, and dirty bongs
Megan Stone began High Road Studios seven years ago in Arizona as a cannabis dispensary design agency with a mission to “reinvent society’s perceptions of cannabis and its users,” she said.
Stone noticed that there was a huge disconnect between the industry’s narrative that cannabis was now safe and could be used medicinally, and shops that looked like “illegal, dangerous places.”
“Nobody wants to go into a place that feels like a criminal outpost to receive something that is supposedly medicine,” she said. “Designing these spaces to feel more safe, more inviting, more comfortable, more shoppable is very important to the growth of the industry.”
Stone wanted to add design-thinking to the spaces — meaning using design to solve practical problems — as well as use natural materials like wood, and layer colours, textures and lighting to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Since beginning High Road, she has designed over 60 dispensaries across the U.S., perfecting a more sophisticated user experience.
She says that the lobby room is often seen by the public from the outside, so it is important that it “sets the tone” for an “elevated experience.”
Taking into consideration the psychology of a first-time customer who might be intimidated by the new experience, she makes sure the lobby space is clean, secure and professional.
She encourages dispensaries to shed the glass walls around receptionists that have shrouded them in the past in order for them to take more of a restaurant host role rather than a security guard.
A branding tool
Design can come in handy for brands who want to distinguish themselves in an industry where advertising restrictions run rampant, Stone explains.
She says a brand could use pictures of the dispensary in their flyers or brochures, or can create a memorable experience that can stick in shoppers’ minds — like going to an Apple Store.
The nice thing about cannabis is its versatility in how it can be dressed up. Stone says there’s no single look that lends itself to the plant, such as the color green or the material wood, but brands can go in many different directions.
However, some design trends are creating a more homogenous look among cannabis companies.
Jennifer Culpepper, the founder of Annapolis-based cannabis design agency Brand Joint, says that one big trend for design and packaging is the minimalist look — lots of whites and clean lines.
Culpepper explains that the minimalist design is actually the second wave of cannabis looks to come about since states’ legalization.
The first was more of an apothecary design — think old fashioned 19th-century remedy shop — since people were beginning to see cannabis as a medicine, but not as a traditional pharmaceutical medicine.
Now companies are turning to a minimalist look in large part because of regulations that restrict the brand elements you can have on a package, such as anything that may appeal to children.
Looking to the future, one can only expect cannabis products and dispensaries to become more design-focused as the industry tries to legitimize itself, appeal to new demographics and nab high-income earners.
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