‘Green: A Field Guide to Marijuana’

Book Design

Book design for a comprehensive, infographic manual on marijuana.

As the legalization of marijuana gains momentum across the U.S., there's a growing need for practical information about cannabis that is not clouded in a haze of hippy nostalgia or stoner clichés. Pentagram has designed Green: A Field Guide to Marijuana, a new book from Chronicle that is an accessible and comprehensive manual for the occasional user and the dedicated connoisseur alike.

Green was written by Dan Michaels, the founder of the cannabis research group Sinsemedia, and features the striking photography of Eric Christiansen and his studio Nugshots, which specializes in detailed macro shots of various cannabis strains. The book demystifies its subject with a straightforward, almost clinical approach that balances useful information with gorgeous images that show the natural beauty of cannabis plants and their buds.

The designers created a clean, elegant framework for the book that organizes the material and makes it appealing for users of all levels of experience. The sophisticated presentation introduces design to a subject that has always had a scruffy or groovy vibe. Data visualizations, diagrams and other infographics, several developed in collaboration with Michaels, help establish a scientific context that is also friendly and entertaining. High or not, it’s not hard for readers to get lost in looking at the book: Fast Company recently called Green "the most beautiful book about weed you've ever seen."

Green's cover puts the subject front and center, vividly illustrating the title with an up-close image of a bud. The title typography is die-cut to reveal a blast of fluorescent orange inside, like the blaze of a lit joint. Opening the book exposes the bright orange endpapers, along with an image of a plume of smoke. The book’s fore edge is printed a vibrant marijuana green. The eye-catching cover will be honored with an award at this fall's New York Book Show.

The content has been divided into two sections: "Primer," an overview of all the marijuana basics, and "Buds," a compendium of over 150 exceptional strains, organized alphabetically by name. Each section is introduced by a double-page spread that features a photographic detail and custom stencil-like custom typography that echoes the cover.

True to its name, “Primer” explains everything you need to know about pot. The designers developed information graphics to explain the different species and strains of consumable marijuana (sativa and indica), basic plant anatomy, the chemical compounds of THC, and terpenoids, the cannabis plant oils that play a role in aroma and flavor. These taste profiles are illustrated in a colorful “palette” that uses different colors to represent the various flavors, from sour to savory.

The section also features a guide to buying marijuana; 100 terms for cannabis from Atshitshi to Zambi (a separate list isolates negative terms like brick and bunk); tips for keeping pot fresh; various smoking options like joints, blunts, pipes and bongs; step-by-step illustrations for how to roll a perfect joint; and the proper etiquette for smoking. Lest the user overindulge, the book helpfully includes the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML) principles for responsible use. Typography is set in the easily read Aperçu and Lyon.

The “Buds” section opens with a color-coding system that plots the cannabis strains on a spectrum from sativa (green) to indica (purple), with the mid-point blue representing a true hybrid. These codes are used to classify the 159 strains profiled in the section. Alphabetized by name, from Abusive OG to XXX OG, each strain is featured in a single spread that includes information like lineage, smell/taste, notes on the mental or physical high, top medicinal uses, awards, and a thoughtful description that any specialist will appreciate. (“The smoke is deceptively dense and hits with a heavy full-body stone that seems to slow the world down.”) Similar strains are also noted and indicated according to the color-coding system.

Each profile is accompanied by a portrait of the bud at hand. The colorful names of the strains—Candy Chem, Girl Scout Cookies, Grape Ape, Michael Phelps, Motorbreath, Northern Blueberry, Panama Red and Strawberry Cough are but a few examples—are matched by Christiansen’s vivid macro photographs. Seen together, the images show the remarkable variety and beauty of the cannabis strains. The section closes with another chart that diagrams all the profiled buds by strain type from sativa to indica.

Food & Drink
Book Design
New York
Eddie Opara
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