Designing Doobies: 4 Firms Take A Whack At Repackaging Pot

Given the rapidly shifting attitudes* toward the legalization of Marijuana and the growing support of medical marijuana use, Print Magazine recently asked some design firms to take a whack at designing what would be packaging for legal Marijuana cigarettes (yes, people… joints).

Firms Try Repackaging Pot

According to Print magazine, the statistics website FiveThirtyEight estimates that if public support continues to grow at its current pace, legalization could happen within 15 years.

Firms Try Repackaging Pot

Print Magazine contacted four firms; Lust, a graphic design practice in Amsterdam established by Thomas Castro, Jeroen Barendse, and Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen; the New York office of Base, which worked with its branches in Europe; the Oslo firm Strømme Throndsen, winner of the 2009 Award for Design Excellence for its flour packaging; and The Heads of State, a two-man operation run by Jason Kernevich and Dustin Summers in Philadelphia.

The brief was simple: What would a legal pack of marijuana cigarettes look like?

Here are the results along with explanations from the design firms:

From The Heads of State:

a new way to package legal marijuana cigarettes

above images courtesy of The Heads Of State

OUR DIRECTION is essentially about preserving the spirit of buying pot illegally. The rituals and customs of scoring a bag of weed are so ingrained in pop culture that to ignore them simply because marijuana is legal seems to do a disservice to decades-old pot culture. The brand is built around a sticker system. We used the Akzidenz family for the type and wanted it to have a slightly under-designed feel to it, something nicely done but not too slick or mass-market. Finding the perfect bag was tricky, but we ended up with a bag that’s 3″ x 4.5.”

APPROACH: Our initial idea was to package the joints in a cigarette box or something like that. But it would take a person a long time to smoke 20 to 30 joints. Paring it down to 12 seemed the way to go.

NAME: There is always a slight mystery involved in buying pot, and you aren’t always sure how good the quality is going to be. We wanted to nod to that with the different product names, while interjecting a bit of humor. We had 14 or 15 names ready to go, and could have gone on and on.

From BASE:

base design

BECAUSE MARIJUANA is illegal, smokers currently tend to appropriate the packaging of readily available, mass-produced products: Altoids tins, film canisters, hollowed-out pens. As these packages have been co-opted by marijuana smokers, we thought, “Why should we impose a new package?” There’s a whole ritual and tactile experience that goes with smoking, and we didn’t want to detract from that. We were also drawn to the idea of using spent objects rather than creating new packaging that would then be discarded. Marijuana should be “green,” after all.

Another thing we wanted to show was how different smokers have come to use different packages to fit the way they smoke. The eyeglasses case could carry a pipe or other paraphernalia; the film canister works for loose doobies and roaches. It’s completely personal, not just in terms of your method of smoking, but also which package feels right to you in your hand, in your pocket. We worked on this project with our offices in Europe, where joints tend to be mixed with tobacco and are more conical in shape, different from the usually submarine-shaped, grass-only joints in the U.S. We wanted to account for some degree of personalization.

APPROACH: We transformed these everyday items into new objects. The white color frees them from their original contexts in the most neutral way and forces you to re-evaluate the packages solely based on form. Any other color would have distracted from that goal.

NAME: The name is merely to indicate the contents. Marijuana should not be branded. Nobody owns marijuana.

From Strømme Throndsen Design:
Strømme Throndsen Design

WHEN WE WERE thinking about building packages, our thoughts went back to the old days, when smoking cigarettes was popular in the upper classes and ladies carried cigarette cases. These days, everyone uses cases for products such as iPods, cell phones, and so forth. In this sense, our approach was twofold: We decided to have an elegant package for White Widow in black and white (large) or black and green (small), with different, smaller cases for the sophisticated target group. White Widow comes in two different packages, with 16 or four cigarettes. The cases hold four cigarettes. The idea is to buy the big box and only take how many you actually need with you. You could also make custom cases, in collaboration with an artist or celebrities or famous brands. For this assignment, we ended up with four different case designs.

NAME: We chose White Widow and G13—common strains of marijuana today—as the brand names because it gave us a chance to have an artistic approach to the brand, with the two capital Ws. G13 is a cool name, probably attractive to young people.

APPROACH: The bling-bling case (1) is golden with diamonds around the lid, while the leather case (2) is very feminine, for the sophisticated woman who has no need to “show off” her wealth. The natural case (3) is made of wood, for those who are more down-to-earth. The music case (4) is inspired by the iPod and karaoke microphones.
G13 comes with four cigarettes (5), wrapped in bright green-and-black plastic. It’s intended for the younger generation—a “party pack,” enough to share at informal parties.

From Lust:
Lust design

WHAT WAS MORE interesting to us than the fact that it’s a marijuana package is the idea of how you can deal with branding strategies in different ways, breaking loose from the swollen language brand managers use. Marketing concepts eliminate anything that differs from the values they embody. As a result, there’s no place in the market for ideas other than the ones brand managers have named and turned into an identity. The fact that there is no name and no brand identification is a deliberate choice: The design makes it recognizable. This fact means the consumer can handle the idea of a brand or identity in a different way—the facts and figures are the brand. The point is to open discussion about the ideas behind identity and branding.

APPROACH: We liked the Jamaica connection for the color scheme. It’s both refreshing and bright, but it also ties the different elements of the pack together. It plays with it, without using the typical symbols.

NAME: We decided to not to use a name or any other identification, but just statistics about marijuana. The seal is an old image of a marijuana plant. The only reason that it’s folded out is to show the complexity of the data.

The above text and images come from an article by by James Gaddy for Print magazine.

* A number of 2009 polls have reflected a major shift in public attitudes about marijuana legalization—on average, more than 40 percent of Americans are now in favor, the highest number on record since the Just Say No 1980s. (A roughly equal number remain opposed.)

To see what medical marijuana looks like, check out this gallery at CNBC