Design Trust

Dec 2016 – Dec 2018
Scope of work

Nobody understands the importance of a professional image more than CannaReps. This was especially true in the cannabis sector during the pre-legalization era in Canada.

CannaReps was the brainchild of Connekta’s two founders, Adolfo and Enid, developed as a training program to help connect people to accurate and relevant cannabis information. It started with the Cann Help Deck, a collection of cards containing the most current cannabis knowledge that was only found amongst experienced dispensary workers. The cards were designed to convey information in a simple and easy-to-understand format and served as a training tool for dispensaries. With this resource, CannaReps started training programs for dispensary workers covering product knowledge, customer service skills and cannabis sommelier skills to provide appropriate guidance to their customers and patients.

Recognizing the Challenge

Before establishing credibility as a training program, CannaReps faced resistance from the public. Much of the information available to the public—even to this day—still includes misleading information and myths that need to be dispelled. However, as a professional field overlooked due to policy, laws and long-term stigma, much of the information was only available to industry workers. Even respected institutions could be disseminating incorrect information. To establish trust and credibility, CannaReps needed to stand out in the crowded space in order to demonstrate our knowledge and expertise. Cannabis—and its appreciation—had long been a taboo in mainstream culture which was why our biggest challenge was to change people’s attitude.

In the early stage, the public is skeptical for several reasons. Apart from questioning CannaReps’ expertise in the subject, people also questioned the value for developing cannabis sommelier skills. Cannabis use have been long associated with negative connotations (“stoners”), therefore people undervalue the skills of determining cannabis quality, customer service and cannabis knowledge. Therefore it became CannaReps’ mission to dispel these common misconceptions and make the public understand the depth of knowledge in the cannabis and dispensary industry.

Identifying the Objective

It was clear to us that the CannaReps team needed to be recognized as experts in order to earn trust and credibility. However, their expertise had to be understood not as an authoritative body, since the cannabis community distrusted authority before legalization. We knew that much of the understanding of cannabis needed to be credited to the community and people (growers, patients, advocates) who have been working underground for decades, and our goal was to help bridge the gap so that these people and their contributions could be recognised and appreciated. Being easily relatable and not posture as an authority figure helped CannaReps gain recognition from the community, which then allowed them to influence the mainstream.

Creating a ‘Trustworthy Expert’ Brand

We developed the CannaReps brand with an objective to create a trustworthy, yet friendly, look.

For the main brand colour, we started with green, which is used in most cannabis-related organizations, and tweaked it to stand out from a sea of similar colours. A complementary red was selected as the accent colour for emphasis.

We selected Gotham as the primary typeface for its working-class personality and legibility, and Averta Italic as the accent typeface for its fun and casual character.

In the initial program launch, we used a lot of illustrations to create an easy, approachable look. This was in sync with the Cann Help Deck’s visual language which used colour codes and illustrations to visualize complex ideas in a format that was easily digestible.

At CannaReps, in-person training and hands-on experience are the best ways to truly teach people to understand cannabis. This is what sets CannaReps apart from other cannabis educators, so it was important for us to communicate this in our marketing. When a potential customer sees how interactive the class is, they are more convinced to learn more from CannaReps. As we developed additional marketing assets, we switched our key marketing communication medium from abstract illustrations to photography, which is now the current visual language we use in CannaReps’ branding today.

With Julie joining the team as CEO bringing new perspective and resources, CannaReps expanded its courses to major cities across the country. To facilitate the quick launching of courses and workshops, we developed a visual system for our marketing communication, so that a junior designer could easily put together a new design without losing the brand consistency.

Designing for the learning experience

We designed all of our course material with a visual-based approach.

As the first tool designed for CannaReps, the Cann Help Deck adopted an easy-to-use format, a core principle we use to develop every training tool for CannaReps. We took inspiration from other design tools we had seen and used them to develop our worksheets, cards, and journey maps, with visual elements that create an engaging and fun learning experience.

A set of templates and format for all the training material are also designed and developed to address the issue of not having professional designers in-house, to tackle the challenge of the fast-paced course content updating and development, while keep the student experience consistent with the brand message.

Evolving for the future

As the Cannabis industry evolves into its early stage after legalization, the general attitude towards cannabis is changing significantly compared to 2 years ago. There is an increasing demand for professional and practical cannabis knowledge, sommelier skills and expertise, as well as increasing competition as more players enter the space. This makes it even more important for CannaReps to remain true to its unique brand proposition to deliver a unique, hands-on customer experience. The initial brand proposition and all brand assets we created allowed CannaReps to set itself apart from the competition and be different.  Now we continue to use design as a key tool to engage with the public and be the unique voice that continues to share the stories from the community that made it all happen.