Creating Unique Details and Small Wonders for Cannabis Dispensaries

East Indica Render People

The Cannabis industry is evolving at a pace not seen since the introduction of affordable & accessible technology. Much like the pioneers of the technology revolution, the recognizable brands and companies that have dominated the electronics industry are household names - recognizable worldwide and synonymous with catering to a Lifestyle, not a Customer.

The same can be said for the Cannabis industry. As an immature and sometimes chaotic regulatory business, a few brands have managed to become well known through marketing, advertising and social media. With the influx of Celebrity brands & endorsements, it’s starting to become a competition between product characteristics and social credibility.

The visual and emotional association with brand identity has a profound impact on a Consumer’s ability to trigger recognition in a manner that consistently reinforces brand attributes. In our previous blog post, we discussed the role that Brand Affinity plays in influencing consumer choice. The visual choices and elements that go into the design process are heavily influenced by the key attributes of the core brand identity. As part of our 10 years of designing both recreational & medical cannabis dispensaries, we have created innovative spaces that range from minimalist statements to full-blown entertainment venues - each with the specific design goal of transforming an idea into an environment while creating memorable identity.

There is a limit to creativity - it must be balanced with operational efficiency, safety and cost. A dispensary can’t simply be a well-designed space without limits as it must function within regulatory requirements, provide a comfortable & safe shopping environment and meet the Client’s budget needs. As part of McBride's design process, we’ve developed a formula that helps guide a client through the key Consumer touchpoints and physical areas of focus including:

  • Shop exterior/signing & graphics
  • Entry vestibule “statement”
  • Reception & “introduction”
  • Main dispensary “story & experience”
  • Point of sale
  • Packaging & Consumer collateral
  • Incremental retail product design

When planned and designed as a “total” experiential story, each design element contributes to the complete Consumer “journey” and are instrumental in building an emotional relationship with not just a Customer - done correctly, it creates a Brand Advocate. . . .the most powerful piece in the viral marketing toolkit.

It’s no secret that these principles apply to any intelligently designed retail space. What’s the difference between a pleasant shopping environment and an innovative and memorable retail experience?

It’s the details.

It’s the things that people experience and interact with that create memories.

Memories that they talk about, photograph, brag, post, like, share, comment . . . . the list goes on. The details add the creative icing to a delicious and coveted cake.

Let’s look at some examples that The McBride Company has successfully designed that include small wonders and brand-centric details - the difference between a forgettable transaction and a contagious discovery.

The East Indica Company

Inspired by the camaraderie and spirit of our Country’s founders, The East Indica Company creates its uniqueness by creating an alternate history of weed in America - as valuable and controversial as was tea in the 1700’s. From marketing, environmental design, audio design and packaging, every detail of EIC speaks to the revolutionary spirit of the contemporary cannabis consumer. In keeping with the brand, McBride has even provided a “declaration station” for proponents to electronically sign a petition to fully legalize cannabis.


McBride has designed one of the first combination dispensaries/consumption lounges in Oakland California - Root’d. Housed in a reclaimed tool shop, the airplane-styled hangar lounge includes live entertainment in a thematic space that immerses the Guests in an inclusive community branded environment. When one gets hungry, they can visit the “munchie hallway” themed with retro weed media, funky vending machines, video games and a few special effect “surprises” to discover!

Stoned Age

Originally designed as an in-line shopping center rec dispensary, the Stoned Age brand was designed to appeal to a Millennial demographic in upscale regions. From the custom artwork to the packaging design, the retail space relies heavily on attributes of the product brand - evolution, discovery and artistic interpretation of the cannabis journey.

Pineapple Express

Based in California and one of the first retail cannabis entrepreneurs, Pineapple Express was designed to invoke the romance and nostalgia of old Hawaii . . . with a contemporary twist. Innovations such as automatic dispensing/packaging and self-serve touch screens are complemented by brand-centric details including Viewmaster displays of strain types, customized packaging and even the Mystic Pineapple - the “magic 8-ball” of the brand that recommends strain types based on personal preferences.

Grass Monkey

Edgy and sophisticated. Grass Monkey embodies the spirit and passion of the brand through art and icons that speak to street art and innovative products. Famous street-taggers were commissioned to create a blend of art and purpose, complimented by Instagram-worthy icons that create contagious viral marketing.