I've been doing design in the cannabis industry for a few years now, and it dawned on me a couple months back that I have never seen a company showing what a cannabis lifestyle in the Midwest looks like.
This makes sense.
Cannabis is still very much illegal in many Midwestern states, and there's still a heavy stigma associated with people who use the plant. Plus, there's really no reason for a company operating in a legal state such as Colorado or California to try to market to people living in prohibition states — and technically, they really shouldn't.
But this only leaves us with a widening gap in legal vs prohibition states' understanding of cannabis.
People who live in a legal state have constant access to a wealth of information. They can walk into a store to safely purchase cannabis that has been responsibly grown and tested for other toxins, and they can talk to someone knowledgable. People are able to explain what's troubling them and a budtender can recommend products based on their specific needs, educating patients about how to use those products responsibly and most effectively along the way.
People living in prohibition, on the other hand, are forced to try to sift through pages of lengthy articles, discussion boards, and horribly designed memes to try to begin understanding this medicine they're hearing about on the news.
There are so many incredible educational resources out there for people who are curious about cannabis. Weedhorn and Green Flower Media offer amazing video courses, and Leafly has thorough and research-based articles about anything you could possibly want to know more about. But with all kinds of unfamiliar vocabulary and lengthy videos/articles, delving into this research on your own to become an educated and responsible consumer can be really overwhelming. I know it was for me!
Hempsley is meant to help close this gap.
I'm no expert. I've spent no time in med school — in fact, I took every health class online because I tend to pass out around talk of blood. But one thing I mastered in my 16 years of school was taking in a wealth of information, extracting the most important components of what I was learning, then simplifying and consolidating that information in a way that helps others more easily understand it — often visually.
I do a lot of reading, a lot of talking to experts in the industry, and a lot of talking with patients about how they use cannabis and what has and hasn't worked for them. Last year, I completed the Master Certificate Program by Cannabis Training University. I've spent hours with writer Kira Gresoski researching this plant, talking through our findings, and hashing out verbiage for translating it to our eBook and event audiences. Now, my number one goal is to share the information I've learned with potential patients — specifically those who are isolated from other support systems because their home happens to be in a state of prohibition.
I'm still learning.
We're all still learning. Cannabis' Schedule I drug status has made research legally impossible, and we are only just now beginning to truly understand how this plant interacts within our bodies. While there is, thankfully, new research coming out every day, we've had to explore methods and dosages of this medicine based on personal testimonies from other patients up until this point.
The silver lining is that it's also forced us to become more aware of our bodies' needs, and it's challenged us to listen to and trust ourselves, no matter what degree of reefer madness residue may be left.
This mindfulness and habit of self-observation can be carried into all aspects of wellness, from supplying our bodies with the nutrients they need to making sure we get enough physical exercise, sleep, and mental rejuvenation time. Everyone is different. You may need 6 hours of sleep while I need 8. You may need to ingest 5 mg THC every 4 hours for pain while I need a hit off a vape pen once every couple days. We need to stop comparing ourselves to one another and focus on listening to what our bodies are telling us is or isn't working. Your body will tell you when you've done enough pushups. When you've had enough to eat. When you've had enough THC to ease your pain. Of course, listening to your body can seem foreign at first — and so we can learn from one another, collecting tips, information, and testimonials, then sort out what applies to us personally as we begin exploring new ways to improve our wellbeing.
This is where Hempsley comes in.
I've been where you are: curious about how this medicine could improve your life but concerned about potential side effects and judgment. I've had to go through trial and error to figure out how to listen to my body and respond to its needs in order to become a better version of myself. So now, I'm here to help you organize what you have learned about your personal wellbeing and guide you through exploring new wellness and selfcare techniques. Outside of information I can provide based on my intermediate understandings of yoga, Ayurveda, energy medicine, nutrition, and more, I can recommend cannabinoid therapies available in your area. If you live in a legal state, I can help you understand how to go about choosing a good THC:CBD ratio and guide and support you through early explorations, experiences, and reflections. If you live in a prohibition area, I can help you understand and find nationally available, hemp-derived products that could benefit you.
We're starting small.
We have big plans for Hempsley's future as cannabis laws in the Midwest progress, but for now, we are keeping things purely informational in nature. Since we're based in Missouri, which is technically the only state in the red zone for non-psychoactive CBD products, we don't sell any products and have no affiliations with any of the companies we promote. These are simply products and companies that we truly, authentically believe in, and we want to educate people about their benefits while showcasing their seamless addition to the Midwestern lifestyle.
Designing for a Purpose
As a designer, the part of Hempsley I was most excited about was building a new brand. I am fiercely passionate about creating experiences that both captivate and educate and was excited about the idea of creating a brand designed specifically to target conservative, law-abiding Midwesterners. The other twist to the design problem: this isn't just a cannabis brand. This is a holistic wellness guidance company showing cannabinoid therapies as just one option in the larger context of natural medicines.
Now, if we're being honest here, I went through a phase in college where I absolutely hated Missouri and swore I would leave as soon as I possibly could. Looking back, I really just hated everything about the Visual Communications department at my school, but poor Missouri took the brunt of my anger for a good while there. After spending a summer in Boulder, CO, 11 hours away from all the people I loved most in the world, I realized just how much being at home meant to me. I'm incredibly close with my family, and being separated from my favorite people simply doesn't make sense. Now, I've learned to appreciate the nuances of Midwestern life. I take joy in long stretches of back roads, watching cows come in and out of view. I find beautiful humor in the aesthetic culture of the Lake of the Ozarks and other small towns.
So I decided to stay and try to help affect change here.
Turns out, that's just as hard as everyone warns it is. I tried offering my services to local efforts, but it seemed that everyone only wanted donations. As a freelancer just starting up, I truly didn't have any extra money to spare, but I understood that everyone already had their initiative ideas in place — nobody wanted an eager, recent college grad pestering them about a poster campaign. So, I tried fundraising for New Approach Missouri, and even gathered petition signatures a couple of times. Turns out, I'm honestly just not very good at either of those tasks. I've never been good at asking people for money, and stopping people randomly to ask if they "support medical cannabis for Missouri" has to be one of the most terrifying things I've ever made myself do.
But I know that I'm good at visually organizing and translating information.
I've always enjoyed helping people, and I of course love being creative. So, I decided to play to my strengths and focus on education through graphic design. It's my personal theory that the people who need cannabis education most aren't out there looking for it — you have to bring the information to them, and do so in a way that is approachable, non-judgmental or condescending, simple, and brief. The best way to do this in a way that will truly be a positive influence on their perspective about cannabis? Get out there and have authentic interactions with people, establish meaningful relationships, and introduce the idea of cannabinoid therapies at a time most appropriate for that individual.
Hempsley has been a unique challenge for me because, unlike Kristen Williams Designs where I was trying to encapsulate everything I am as a designer, I am trying to appeal to a more conservative demographic. I want Hempsley to be a brand that your grandma, raised in rural Missouri, who's never even tried a drop of alcohol, would be comfortable approaching for information about cannabis. I want Hempsley to be a frequent go-to place for your dad who fishes, hunts, and grills. Cannabis brands right now often feature imagery with beach, mountain, or big city vibes; Hempsley is specifically designed to resonate with Midwesterners who have been raised around farms, lakes, wooded hiking trails, and small towns.
In the Beginning
The idea for Hempsley was developed over about 8 months, with ideas starting to flow as I worked with Kira Gresoski on other projects. Kira and I came up with the name Hempsley together during a brainstorm session, inspired by a book title I had seen earlier that day: Hemsley + Hemsley. We really liked Hempsley because it felt friendly, familiar, and has historical roots as a family name.
Over time, Hempsley began to take shape in my head, and it was back in September that I began working on a logo. In October, I spent about 8 hours one night sifting through the massive Pinterest board of ideas I had gathered from the year and putting together the three mood boards you see here. I then printed them each at 13x19" and hung them on my wall next to my work area and to stare at and contemplate every day.
It was mid-December that I finally decided on a direction (moodboard number 2!) and began illustrations. A large part of Hempsley graphics will include botanical watercolor illustrations, so I started with a cannabis plant. Then this past month, I've been creating more stock illustrations for the brand to help visually narrate our ideas.
Hours were spent developing and perfecting every letterform you see in our logo. It started on paper, experimenting with lots of different pen styles — everything from brush pens to blunt tip markers and even a calligraphy pen. Eventually, I was satisfied with enough different pieces of my hand-drawn elements to scan in and create a decent template of the entire word, then brought it into Adobe Illustrator and got to work. After taking it as far as I could, I enlisted typography guru Kathryn Sutton to help flush out the last kinks and put on finishing touches — and I could not be more thrilled with how it turned out!
I knew from the moment I conceptualized Hempsley that I wanted a logotype as our mark.
The logo is meant to be reminiscent of a mother's handwriting — something that reminds you of getting a note in your lunchbox. It's supposed to be comforting, warm, inviting, yet clean, reputable and professional.
We're striving for familiar, trustworthy, reliable, welcoming, informative, and professional. When it comes to color theory, blues represent friendliness, calmness, responsibility, and trustworthiness while greens represent growth, renewal, stability, and nature — and the berry accent color brings just a touch of luxury and power to round out the color scheme.
Again, I want to showcase a healthy and responsible Midwestern lifestyle. I believe the most effective way to do this is through authentic imagery, but good branding imagery requires good props that match the aesthetic of your message. So, working on a startup budget, I spent months in thrift shops searching for items that fit into this brand I was creating in my head — one that was clean but had nostalgic, homey details. And really, what better way to present an authentic Midwestern aesthetic than by using the locals' second-hand stuff?
Inside secret: I got a set of plastic drawers from Walmart, laid bubble wrap in the bottom of each drawer, then organized my Hempsley props into each one. Since I want to keep my Hempsley props completely separate form all my other work, this is absolutely perfect for making things easily accessible and transportable! I also use all natural light, so keep your eyes peeled for blue hands as I'm forced to shoot outside in the dreary winter months.
Inside secret: When shopping, I would ask myself how many times I could see myself using an item as a prop. If the number was at least 4 times that of the dollar price, I would go ahead and buy the item. So, for example, if a cloth cost $2, I would try to assess whether or not I could see it appearing in at least 8 different images.
A big part of creating a warm and cozy aesthetic involves textures. I was on the lookout for subtle textiles with interesting details and really love the collection I ended up with.
Consistent backgrounds are a staple in excellent branding. I spent time researching different construction methods on Pinterest and exploring the layering of various stains and paints, and eventually settled on the four wood textures you see here, plus a small dark green countertop I found at the local Habitat for Humanity.
All the backgrounds are easy to transport and double sided for maximum usage potential. Shout out to my incredible dad for teaching me how to use all his power tools and overseeing the shopping and construction process of these beauties!!
It's important to me to show a variety of ages coming together for wellness. Hempsley is about improving wellness for the whole family through natural medicines, so the goal with our photography is to keep it clean yet authentic in a warm, family setting that represents reliability and community.
In addition to kitchen props, I invested in some vintage photos from Itchy's Flea Market in Columbia. Again exuding a Midwestern nostalgia, I felt these images embodied the warmth we want to convey with Hempsley.
We'll be curating nationally available, hemp-derived products we use ourselves and suggesting ways to easily add them into your daily life. We're all about simple, nutritious, and versatile recipes that anyone can handle, made with Midwest-friendly ingredients.
We are so excited to get Hempsley into the world and begin building a community!
We'll be launching on January 31, 2017 and doing announcements across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, so be sure to follow for the latest updates! You can also subscribe to my newsletter for exclusive offers and insights as we launch. :)
Copyright © 2017 Kristen Williams, All Rights Reserved