Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Lion, aka Snoop Doggy Dog, doesn't make any bones about it. He loves pot. The rap icon has just launched Leafs by Snoop, a brand of cannabis-based products including custom flavors of buds, edibles, and concentrates, and he has tapped Pentagram's Emily Oberman to craft its visual identity.
It's a big opportunity: legalized marijuana is the fastest growing industry in the U.S., and it is believed the industry will be worth $11 billion by 2019, up from $2.5 billion today. Competition is fierce, so to make Leafs stand out, Snoop no doubt realized he needed to lend his product more than his name: he needed to use design as leverage.
For Oberman, the designer behind The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live, the task was to create a visual identity that eschewed the "rasta, crunchy, hempy, outlaw look" plaguing most marijuana products. "We wanted it to appeal to a broader spectrum of human," Oberman says. "[Marijuana] is a field in which Snoop is a true connoisseur, and with Leafs, he saw an opportunity that was not fake, to create a business that genuinely comes from who he is and what he likes."
During testing, the aesthetic that Snoop ended up gravitating to was one Pentagram is calling "California cool"—patterns plucked from the sights of the Golden State, like palm trees, swimming fish, birds flying, and cloudy skies, dipped in pastels and outlined with gold. "Snoop was naturally attracted to imagery that was more personal to him," Oberman says. The boxes all have patterns that look almost like shirts Snoop would wear pool-side.
One challenge of designing cannabis products is that ever-changing legislation dictates what you can and can't do with the packaging. For example, all buds need to be packaged in resealable, child-proof bottles. The boxes those bottles are stored in can technically come in any shape or size, but a nine-month approval process makes that impractical. In the case of Leafs by Snoop, that meant Pentagram had to figure out how to make industry-standard packaging look unique. It also needed to be versatile enough to handle the legally required language on the side of the packaging (which changes so often it can only be applied as a sticker at point-of-sale) without obscuring the design.
For Leafs by Snoop's Flower product—the buds—Pentagram solved this issue with a white, minimalist lid that drops down over the box. The only thing printed on the outer lid is the gold "Leafs by Snoop" logo, the name of the flavor, and a few other snippets of text. The lid can handle all of the mandated legalese by way of stickers, while giving a peek beneath the skirts at the colorful, California cool texture of the box underneath. According to Oberman, it was designed so opening a box of Flower had almost the feel of unboxing an Apple product. Inside, there's a card containing a quote from Snoop Dogg ("Smoke weed every day!"), some instructions, and a resealable bottle of pot with a child-safe cap.
The edibles—Oberman says they can't call them candies by law—had to be similarly sensitive to the legal requirements of selling cannabis. They're called "Dogg Treats," and they come in an unrippable Tyvek paper—a resealable, child-proof package that carries all the hallmarks of the Leafs by Snoop identity: the faceted logo, the California cool, and text printed in Hurme Geometric No. 1, a versatile sans-serif.
In a project of this kind, the most critical stage of the design process is testing. For Leafs by Snoop, Oberman was put into the position of having to sample round upon round of the product, sometimes with the Dogg himself. "I'm a lightweight," Oberman admits, "so I had to be careful. The hardest product to test was the edibles, because they're so much stronger. So they actually made low dose versions of everything, just for the tasting. I'm a lucky designer that this is part of my job!"
You can can find more info on where to find Leafs by Snoop here.