Fire & Flower Cannabis Co.
In 2018 and 2019 I collaborated with Braintrvst Analytics, (the ‘v’ is pronounced like a ‘u’), to create a multitude of design and development options for this growing Canadian cannabis brand.
The Strain Wall
The core of Fire & Flower’s store experience is the Strain Wall. Created by VP of Fire & Flower Isaac Watson with help from our team at Braintrvst, the Strain Wall guides users with category choices, colours, and shapes to determine products and experiences that are just right for them.
An important aspect of the strain wall is it’s cards: Each product in stock has one. Guests can take as many as they like to use as reference, coasters, or as we heard later, filter paper in cannabis joints (we didn’t plan for this).
I joined the team one month before cannabis legalization in Canada, and we had a few key challenges over the coming weeks, and months.
- Create an at least somewhat easily replicable template for hundreds of Fire & Flower strain product cards
- Determine the strengths and weaknesses of the strain wall and proceed accordingly.
- Keep the essence of the Fire & Flower brand alive, while adapting the Strain Wall in a way that supports it as its own separate organism.
My design partner and I spent countless hours creating the first iteration of Fire & Flower strain card orders, deciding quickly that this wasn’t a sustainable method of work. Strain card data came to us in Excel format; I experimented with Adobe Illustrator scripting and batch processing. Our solution was to build a strain card library of over 200 products. Including a pretty intricate spreadsheet, (complete with a whole bunch of Excel formulas) this made print production way simpler. Also, our printers liked us more.
The Strain Wall that debuted on legalization day wasn’t the Final Iteration. We knew this was going to grow and change. I had already redesigned the legend (a road map of the Strain Wall, including details extrapolating upon strain card content), with final prints delivered days before legalization.
The fact was, in order to improve, we needed more data to create new, customer-centric design iterations. In a brand-new industry, with a brand-new store, including a novel shopping experience, we started with our best guess. We quizzed people at our computer screens, in informal user tests, asking how they would use the Strain Wall to find products that work for them. Several weeks after legalization, we held a focus group to better understand our Strain Wall, including it’s areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. This proved much more helpful than our initial tests.
The focus group was amazing, and to date one of the coolest meetings I’ve been a part of. We invited half a dozen rad Fire & Flower employees into the office and prepared a presentation of what we thought might be helpful design iterations based on our hypotheses, which were based on store visits, industry research and reflection. I took a copious amount of notes during this focus group. It was a pleasure to hear immediate, honest feedback about my designs; sometimes the Fire & Flower team liked what they saw. Sometimes they thought my designs could be altered to changed to solve the problems they were facing on a daily basis. It was all extraordinarily helpful.
So I headed back to the drawing board. The heart of the matter was designing a new strain card; something comprehensive, relatable, and captivating, while adhering to cannabis marketing regulations.
I worked to create Fire & Flower material with adherence to their brand guidelines: deep, earthy colours, organic and modern vector patterns, with natural, wild imagery.
Strain card iterations transformed from solid blocks of carefully chosen colour to background images demonstrating product categorization, to hand-rendered, beautiful vector imagery.
Adaptation was necessary and intrinsic to the process. It was the only constant.