Imagine Pot Was Legal. How Would You Brand It?

Print Magazine asked four designers to imagine what a legal pot package might look like. Here's what they produced.

Woeful state budgets have relit the long-burning debate about pot legalization—-couldn't California rescue itself by making weed legal, then taxing it? Meanwhile, more than 40% of Americans now favor legalization—which is the highest portion since the 1980s; Nate Silver, at FiveThirtyEight, has watched the trends and estimates that popular support will become overwhelming in 15 years time.

So Print, the hoary graphic-design magazine, posed a challenge to four top designers: How should the package of legal weed actually look? Each of them took a radically different approach.

Lust, a graphic design practice in Amsterdam, tackled the controversy of the product head-on—-albeit in a very dry, very arch manner. They opted to cover the package in infographics about weed, and its effects—which they claim would create an anti-brand brand, and also, presumably, turn the product into something more neutral than the demon weed. The only stoner reference is the Jamaican & Rastafarian color themse:

pot branding

 pot branding

The New York office of Base worked with its branches in Europe, to create a goofy nod towards weed's illegal past, with containers made from repurposed packaging from other brands—in other words, a reference to the stash boxes ubitquitous in dorm rooms all over the country:

pot packaging

Strømme Throndsen, an Olso firm that won the 2009 Award for Design Excellence for its flour packaging, produced the design strategy most likely to make it to the real world: Their packaging concept is modular, with a big box containing smaller packages, so that the user need only take whatever they need with them. Inside, the invididual cases could be branded to suit different demographics—which, by the looks of it, would include a red-eyed Apple designer and Paris Hilton:

pot branding

pot branding

pot branding

The Heads of State, a Philadelphia duo comprising Jason Kernevich and Dustin Summers, wanted to stick with the illicit connotations of the drug—pointing out that to eliminate that bad-boy rep is to do a disservice to the product (and it's various brand connotations). So they kept the whole "bag of weed" concept, and branded the various strains with goofy stickers:

bigheads pot packaging

Read more about all the entries at Print, which just relaunched its Web site today.

Dealers Pushing Pot on Social Networks Create Legal Haze

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  • Matin Sn

    hi.I have an idea for marijuana smoking.This could also be an idea for advertising.I had to do was to sell the idea to a reputable company?

  • Matin Sn

    hi.I have an idea for marijuana smoking.This could also be an idea for advertising.I had to do was to sell the idea to a reputable company?

  • matt normand

    Have any of you idiots hear of Whataburger? Design Brand two is a knock-off that is a little too close to pass. If anything, it will be confused by the stoners at Whataburger fumbling for pocket change to buy the exact thing that will curb their munchies. None of these designs pass as good design. In fact all of these designs are horrible and do not even begin to touch on what real branding is. Thumbs way down, low pass.

  • Taylor Kile

    nice packaging very cool g13 pack i like the tear tab concept . . but the whole concept of weed becoming legal nationwide and commercialized is close to impossible because it breaks treaties we have with other countries ..good design and concepts

  • Rick Thomchick

    @Jody Lentz, you are SO RIGHT, thank you for pointing this out. I hope our government decides to decriminalize and not legalize.

  • Jody Lentz

    If weed were packaged like this (with the possible exception of #4), it would require the commercialization of cannabis, which would be the worst possible scenario. Tobacco is not nearly as dangerous as the 400+ additives the corporations have added to it to make it exponentially more addictive. Philip Morris (Altria) allegedly has factories ready to start cranking out joints by the pack, which would no doubt include weed tainted by preservatives and lovely ingredients like saltpeter. Besides, making it legal would crater the market...

  • Dave Cyra

    I like the use of the color scheme on the first one, but the graphs are dumb and they might want to put a spell check their English when they're spelling "harmful". Honestly, the group from New York that used its office in Europe to slap white paint and a sticker on other brand's packaging could have been created by a 5th grader. For the last one I thought I was buying new t-shirts from Target, not weed. The third is the only viable option and looked like the team actually stepped outside of the "but it's not legal" box to put some thought into crafting a brand.

  • Gabriella Sannino

    I am surprised no one came up with a package w/420 on it somewhere. That is a true give away if you want to brand the "cannabis culture" there is some great information on Wikpidea. It's apparent whomever did the R&D is not in touch with the actual culture of pot. Nevertheless, a great attempt. Enjoyed the post.

  • Rick Thomchick

    Wow these are TERRIBLE designs and a bad omen for weed branding if it ever becomes legal. I can think of at least 50 people off the top of my head who would do a better job on the package design.

  • Cassie Chatwin

    @ Bill Nelson - Actually, considering the state of the world's economy, weed's growing efficiency, and the risks comparative to legalized drugs such as alcohol and tobacco- legalizing weed is a serious possibility. Legalizing it will allow the government to 'moderate' its use, they can implement a tax, and it will open a new industry as well as offer a plethora of new jobs. Addressing the United States, legalizing marijuana will cut back on the number of people going to jail for pot-related drug charges, in turn easing the need for taxes to cover their living expenses. Its an industry that is in high demand, and will always continue to be. Financially, legalizing it would be a very smart move.

  • Bill Nelson

    its illegal and thats that. we'll get fantastic designs when it is legal. lets use these for tobacco in the mean time.

  • Brynton Hendricks

    Good question and great design on the packaging.....imagine it was legal. I don't smoke it, but with that packaging design i would :-)