Cannabis has been used—in varying degrees of legality—for millennia, but is now slowly becoming a fully legalized industry in the U.S. for the first time in the 21st century. We have noticed the rise in cannabis-related businesses on the 99designs platform where we’ve seen a 55 percent increase in design projects being created for these new brands in the past two years.

Rarely do we see a product land in an American marketplace with high demand already established, which means we’re likely to see cannabis startups pull all the stops when developing their marketing techniques as they attempt to separate themselves from the already-heightened competition. To excel, the new marijuana entrepreneurs need to develop branding that’s original and effective and that takes note of some of the prevailing trends of the moment.


$6.7 Billion

The total dollar amount of legal marijuana sales in the U.S. in 2016, up 30 percent from the previous year.

$20.2 Billion

Projected North American legal marijuana sales by 2021.

$46.4 Billion

The total amount of black market marijuana sales in 2016.


The number of states (including D.C.) that have, or will soon have, laws legalizing marijuana in some form.

1. minimalism

If a cannabis startup isn’t pursuing a medical angle, there are still ways to add credibility to the company. Using a modern minimalist style has become wildly popular recently, and it’s being used in industries from coffee shops to robotics. Minimalist packaging depicts control and precision, which can be crucially important for cannabis businesses trying to appeal to new or novice users in particular.

The reserved and sharp-lined aesthetic can act to demystify a product by focusing attention on only the most important product information. The average consumer shouldn’t have to know the all the active chemicals in the cannabis or the name of a particular strain. They should only know that the cannabis product purchased will be carefully produced and quality controlled. This branding style conveys that like few others can. Terra Cannabis achieves this modern minimalist aesthetic with packaging that includes only the most important product information and a stripped-down marijuana leaf as the logo. Another clever minimalist play on the marijuana leaf is used by Triangle Hemp, with a logo that says it all.


2. apothecary

The established medical cannabis branding typically includes the color green, imagery of a medical cross or a cannabis leaf packaged with buzzwords such as “recover” or “soothe.” But because this sector of cannabis retail is already so packed with competition, cannabis entrepreneurs have countless opportunities to differentiate. A good example of a wellness themed cannabis product is Uncle Bud’s topical pain reliever. By listing cannabidiol (CBD) as the main ingredient and making use of a lab beaker symbol on the label, Uncle Bud’s lets its customers know the product is highly controlled and can be used for legitimate medical purpose. Similarly, Healing Flower’s logo design uses a medical cross made of leaves and a more traditional serif typeface to send a specific message about this medical CBD Oil while conveying its mission.


3. artisanal

Going for the other edge of the experience spectrum can also prove successful. Artisanal branding attempts to angle cannabis as a specialty product produced by skilled farmers for people who want a high-quality experience. This style usually implements circular “stamp” logos, simple naming and, above all, an aesthetic of quality. This branding technique works well because despite cannabis just becoming legal in a few states, many in those states and others have used the drug before. Highlighting quality will legitimize an operation to experienced enthusiasts who are eager to pay a bit more for a quality guarantee and an expansive selection. BloomDocs Marijuana Production Facility, with a stamp style logo created by 99designs designer Strobok, takes artisanal branding to the next level for experienced users looking for a highly curated experience. And hand-drawn logo treatments, like this one by 99designs designer markomavric for Dr. Raw Organics, can help brands convey that the product is carefully crafted (by real people) in small batches. 

4. edgy

The final branding technique does well to highlight the truly extensive customer base of legal cannabis. Using edgier designs that actually further separate cannabis from the rest of the recreational marketplace is refreshingly unapologetic. With a clever spin on an old fashioned pit stop, the logo for The Grass Station dispensary by 99designs designer Kinetec claims the recreational and fun side of the cannabis business. Both styles represent a way to market cannabis as fun to users with a similar mindset.

Cannabis branding is changing quickly. These trends have become huge in the early stages of legalization. But more states are legalizing cannabis every election cycle, and the industry is growing exponentially. With that in mind, try to pull from these trends their essential value and arguments, not necessarily the exact specifications, and create a logo that evokes the exact feelings in a potential customer.