The founders of Crown Dispensaries have been the kings of cannabis in the greater Los Angeles area for nearly 15 years. The majority of that time they were trying to avoid drawing too much attention to their enterprise but when recreational marijuana was legalized in California in 2016 Crown’s needs for promotion and visibility changed. That’s when Pentagram got the call. Now Pentagram Austin, partnering with Grace Hall and Chris McCray of Austin’s McCray & Co., has developed a comprehensive, atypical identity system and a fresh, branded exterior and interior design concept for the company’s line of retail dispensaries.
Pentagram’s Austin office, which has extensive experience and a successful track record in creating identities for cannabis brands, encouraged the Crown founders to keep their new look elevated and quality-oriented in order to distinguish the brand from other cannabis retail businesses in the L.A. market.
Now that medical marijuana has been sanctioned in 33 states and recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states including California, the novelty of the legitimate cannabis outlet has dissipated. The legal market has begun to mature and it’s entering a new phase of sophistication, professionalism and acceptance. The charming, but low-rent, “Cheech & Chong” aesthetic of your “parent’s marijuana branding,” a look that evolved underground in the 60s, has become a tired cliché that doesn’t appeal to the wide variety and diversity of the modern cannabis consumer.
The use of the classic marijuana leaf as a symbol for cannabis products and dispensaries is commonplace and so prevalent that a cursory search of cannabis branding will bring up a cascade of pot leaf logos and marks in every conceivable form and iteration. The Pentagram team pointed out the fact that successful coffee brands like Starbucks or Green Mountain Coffee, companies firmly planted in a long established industry, don’t use coffee beans or plants for their identities. They use distinctive symbols like a mermaid or snowcapped mountains to express their brands.
With that in mind the Pentagram team developed a unique identity system based on a “coat-of-arms” style seal. The seal or family crest, a traditional symbol for kings and queens (the wearers of crowns), seemed like the perfect graphic device for expressing the Crown brand. The new Crown Dispensaries seal includes an icon of a crown sitting on top of a shield containing symbols for Los Angeles and Southern California, where the line of dispensaries are located―and one small marijuana leaf.
The shield is flanked by two lions standing on a banner inscribed with the words “Rex Cannabis,” Latin for “King Cannabis.” The lion, a symbol of the British monarchy, is used throughout the identity system and inspired Crown’s new tagline, “Your Highness.” A set of secondary marks including two versions of a lion walking on all fours and a simplified shield and crown icon, can be used as alternate symbols for the brand.
The all-caps “Crown” wordmark is set in Beirut Display, a beautiful, slightly quirky Roman typeface designed by the Luzi Type foundry based in Bern, Switzerland. The Pentagram team chose the font for its classicism and hint of royalty. Beirut Text and Messina Sans Mono, a modern sans-serif face that includes some slab-serif characters (also by Luzi Type), play a supporting role. Metallic gold and a dark blue, the colors of royalty, are the primary colors of the new identity system and complimentary shades of cardinal red and a light blue finish out the color palette. In addition, the design team created custom iconography and a set of patterns for use on signage and merchandise in the retail environment.
The Pentagram team also designed a set of uniforms for Crown’s knowledgeable, helpful staff. The uniforms, comprised of navy blue polo shirts, black work shorts and pants, and snappy trucker hats, are designed to be casual and comfortable but also a bit preppy and well groomed. This look, “Ralph Lauren meets Dickies,” adds a professional, crisp appearance to the Crown sales force. It’s a look that’s in line with the classic, upscale attitude of the new Crown Dispensaries brand identity and unique in the cannabis retail space.
The Pentagram team joined forces with McCray & Co. to develop a flagship store for the Crown brand. The new retail concept, which will eventually be rolled out to Crown’s 16 planned dispensaries, is housed in a former tire-repair shop located on L.A.’s Van Nuys Boulevard―a major north-south thoroughfare known as a teenage cruising scene from the 1950s through the 70s. The interior of the large concrete structure is outfitted with “castle-inspired” product display tables and shelving, custom designed by the McCray team, and walls adorned with lush, palatial drapes and oil paintings that would feel right at home in London’s Buckingham Palace. A custom, crown-shaped light fixture positioned over a circular check-in desk greets customers at the front entrance with a brilliant expression of nobility.
The updated exterior design of the old tire shop picks up the royalty theme and is inspired by L.A.’s historic dingbat style, a regional architectural vernacular popular in the area in the 1950’s. The new dingbat styling, including a geometric pattern of blue and white tile and playful, crown-shaped light fixtures, wraps around the top of the building’s facade facing the street. The flagship store’s crowning architectural element however, is a massive concrete sign, 30-feet high by 22-feet wide, which towers over the delivery entrance on the south side of the building. The monolithic billboard, grandfathered from another era and newly clad with striated white metal, frames the new identity and conjures up images of drapes or Roman columns found in a monarch’s palace.
The new Crown Dispensaries flagship store, which can now be seen a mile down one of L.A.’s most famous boulevards, unveils a new, sophisticated attitude in cannabis retail branding. One that is worthy of “Your Highness.”