Case Study:

US Marijuana Analysis

The United States Marijuana Analysis Report started with a question posed by NPR: what happens when we decide to make a T-Shirt? How is the cotton collected? Where is it picked? What technology is used to harvest it? The project, initiated by Planet Money, attempts to answer this question by taking a deep dive into the people and places their T-Shirt interacts with before its purchased by a consumer.

With an emphasis on environmental sustainability, the prompt for our projects had the same idea. What industries do we frequent often and what hidden worlds (and often hidden injustices) of its development can we unearth? We began by tracking our personal consumption over seven days with no holds barred: from the toothpaste we used in the morning to the utilities we used inside our school building, we mapped each object and service on a large piece of kraft paper to get a birds-eye view of what our personal footprints looked like. On this piece of paper we cataloged, commented, and looked for patterns in our daily routines and what they meant.

So, it’s not much of a secret on how I arrived at the topic for my “hidden worlds” project. At the time, I occasionally enjoyed smoking recreationally but understood that there was an immeasurable amount of information behind the scenes of such a taboo topic. At the beginning of the process I explored aspects of marijuana production like its environmental impacts (not good) and the science behind how it functioned and how it was cultivated. Ultimately, however, it was obvious to me that there was a clear avenue to develop: privilege and lack thereof. I was incredibly aware that the color of my skin and my position at the College for Creative Studies gave me the platform to openly talk about my recreational consumption. Not everyone could have the conversation I wanted to have.

Now that I had determined what I wanted to talk about, I got to work developing a visual vernacular that reflected the topic. Most importantly I came to the conclusion that I would take inspiration from government documents to put the discussion of legality at the forefront of the experience. My first drafts partially conveyed that idea but felt a little too “peppy.” (Sorry for the bad image quality).

To write this booklet, I collected information primarily from the ACLU, the Marijuana Policy Project, and a monumental article from Harper’s Magazine. After flowing this content into the document, I started to achieve the visual identity I was seeking for the project. That said, it didn’t feel like it was really conveying what I wanted it to. On top of being generally informative about marijuana policy and legality, it missed a punch or much of a takeaway at all. At this point I went to work at developing a secondary system to convey the pieces of information that still needed a place to live.

After criting these sketches with the class it became apparent that they felt a little too unrelated from the original piece. For the final round of revisions I tightened them back up and developed a cohesive system for the entire secondary system to use. Instead of activating random parts of the page or using graphics and illustrations inconsistently I opted for a text only solution that can be seen in the final product.

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