Packaging & Branding

Cannabis Packaging Design

Tamir Bresler
Written by Tamir Bresler

Pay, Hire, or Create?

When it comes to starting a successful cannabis business, the most important aspect besides the quality of the product and a working supply chain management is product differentiation. Product differentiation can come in many different forms: new products, innovative designs, unique packaging, and more.

Here at Cannabis Packaging News, we of course advocate for making your product stand out by creative packaging design. But how do you go about creating it? There are many different ways to arrive at great designs. Some of those ways are more expensive than others. Any of them can get you a brilliant design that will drive your products forwards and upwards.

Choosing the right way to arrive at the best product design possible comes down to figuring out what your resources are, what are your goals, and what is your budget.

  • Resources: Human Capital, Skills, Software License, Time.
  • Goals: Scope, Number of products/markets, Size of Business.
  • Budget: Low, Medium, High.

Choice #1: DIY

  • Resources: To create a design project yourself, the most obvious resource you need to have is the ability to create graphic designs. Often these are skills you acquired from college or through workshops, but this could also have been acquired through time spent in a hobby, or through hands-on experience. Graphic design usually requires access to several licenses. Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are the most commonly used ones, but there are many others. Running these programs requires a desktop or laptop computer with enough RAM memory and a strong enough processor to run them, which is not something an everyday computer has. Finally, designing things yourself takes a heck of a lot of time. If you are trying to run your own business, plus also incorporate your own designs into the products, that could be very overwhelming. Take that into consideration when deciding to pursue this design choice.
  • Goals: If you have the resources necessary to pursue this choice, then the next step is figuring out if your resources are enough to accomplish your goals. Designing things DIY usually support low-medium scopes of projects, such as designing one line of packaging, or creating several alternatives to a single project. Attempting to design labels, and packaging, AND logos all at once can be intimidating and difficult and may probably not even be possible. Choose this option if you are a small business, have a limited range of products and have low-medium inventory.
  • Budget: Since you will most likely not compensate yourself for the time you spend designing, this option by definition is low budget. Pick this choice if you are comfortable working with printers and manufacturers directly to get the best price available for implementing your designs. This may require speaking with sales people and individuals in foreign countries. If you do not feel comfortable negotiating, this may not be the best option for you even though on the surface it may seem like you are saving.


Choice #2: Pay for Design

  • Resources: Hiring out requires no human capital on your end. All you need is a marketplace where you can find a designer right for your needs. The website has seen recent success in the cannabis business sphere for companies searching to reinvigorate their branding (1). The concept is that a company posts a “competition,” the winner of the contest being the person who’s designs the company likes best. Out of 50 submissions, the person whose work is chosen gets paid. Although we at CPN feel this option is slightly disrespectful to the 49 other contestants who put in the work without any compensation, this does give companies the option of choosing one option among many. The time commitment is medium, since you will have to be hands-on with the designer in implementing your vision. Also, no skills or software is needed for picking this choice.
  • Goals: Paying for your designs is a great way to accomplish limited or project-based goals. You could work with the same designer more than once, or choose to hire the cheapest designer available through a freelance marketplace like Upwork. Keep in mind that designers are not dedicated solely to your work, and will only agree to a limited number of edits before charging you for additional time. Therefore, we recommend choosing this strategy for small-medium projects with a short-medium term duration.
  • Budget: This option is usually of low-medium cost, although depending on the depth and length of work it can certainly enter into the high Freelance designers can be paid either per-project or hourly. In a per-project scheme, the entire design is estimated at a certain value, and the artist agrees to render those designs for you at that wage regardless of the time it takes. This is usually how freelancers get paid. The hourly option can be negotiated when it is harder to estimate the amount of work or the duration of a packaging project, such as designing for multiple labels or product lines. Come to written and specific terms regarding the payment structure directly with the freelancer before they commence work. That way, there is no confusion when the project is finished about how much they are to be paid.

Choice #3: Hire an Artist, Sign with a Team

  • Resources: This option essentially reflects a long-term commitment to either an agency or an employee to take care of your design needs.If hiring and employee, you will need a payment structure to provide them with regular wages either as an independent contractor (1099) or an employee (W2). Hiring an employee comes with additional HR strain, and extra time to strain, manage, and discipline. Signing with an agency can be a little more liberating, but takes away a portion of your control. The only thing required when you make a commitment with a design agency is communication and trust.
  • Goals: Both of these choices involve long-term goals spanning more than a few products and possibly more than a few markets. Since currently each state has different requirements for cannabis packaging, this choice would be most beneficial to a company that has holdings in multiple states. Another reason you might want to commit to dedicated staff is if you have a lot of inventory, or are planning to expand. In that case having a dedicated employee removes some of the strain of work from your shoulders. It also ensures that the quality of design is consistent.
  • Budget: High. Without a doubt, hiring an additional employee or signing a contract with an agency is expensive. The question, however, is whether or not it is relatively Studying the market has shown that most fortune 500 companies spend 10% or more of their gross revenue stream directly on advertising, a subset of which is branding and packaging design. So, if your company is successful and blessed enough to have a large revenue stream, paying for an additional employee or a contract might not be as relatively expensive as for a company with more limited revenues.

Choosing how to create your packaging is the first crucial step to creating an awesome product design. And creating excellent product designs is the best way to help you sell your excellent products. So, buckle down and figure out what are your resources, budget, and needs, and choose how to best create your cannabis packaging design.


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About the author

Tamir Bresler

Tamir Bresler

Tamir Bresler immigrated to Washington State from Israel at age 12. He earned his B.S. in Biochemistry from Western Washington University, and spent several years working the Biotech field in San Diego. Tamir has direct, hands-on experience working as a Scientist in the Cannabis industry. He loves to travel with his wife and dog Fluffy, and also has a great radio voice.

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