Don’t Save the Bullet

One of my early business “mentors” in the music industry, who turned out to be a mentor in everything to avoid, used to tell me that he had all these industry favors stored away to use when we really needed them, and he didn’t want to use them “too soon.” He also loved to call such a favor “firing a bullet.” Well, that business failed and I can tell you right now that holding those bullets back wasn’t doing anything to prevent that.

If you have an advantage to play in your industry, or a proverbial bullet, fire it! What are you waiting for? Life doesn’t happen tomorrow, it happens today and waiting to trigger an opportunity is just not wise especially in our rapid-fire culture. Maybe that saving favors philosophy worked in 1950 and maybe it still works in certain circles, but today, fire your bullets and pull in the favors when you need them.

On the flip side of that, make sure you show up when a favor is pulled from you. Don’t be stingy now, if you want to take, you need to give.

I hope that today you get out there and fire those bullets you have been saving.

Jesse Barney

January 28, 2020

Why you can’t Trademark a Cannabis Business

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a federal government organization. The fact that cannabis remains on the schedule of illegal and dangerous drugs limits it from most patenting and trademarking of businesses in and related to such an “illegal” industry.

Let’s look at how this works. The USPTO is the department that allows US citizens to register a name and/or a visual mark for a business that can be a logo or an icon in a particular category or industry in order to protect that business from being copied and business being done under their name. This way if you started a restaurant call Knobby’s Salads in California and were planning on going national within a few years, no one could use the same name and make money off of your reputation in New York. If they did, you could sue them and they would owe you.


Now, let’s look at the categories. You can register a name in the category of textiles, or advertising, or education and entertainment, you can enter the beverage category, on and on and on it goes. There are 45 main categories with subcategories. In fact here is a great article on about all of the categories.

Guess what? There is no “Cannabis” category. You can’t register a dispensary or a grow operation. So what have people been doing? They have been registering as “retail” and “flower shop” and “farmer” and things of that nature. This can be risky. If the USPTO catches you being a little shady and not forthcoming, they will deny your trademark and you will have to start over, like, choose a new name.


What else have they been doing? Companies will literally start a t-shirt company with the same name as their farm in order to register the name in the T-shirt category, the printing category and the advertising category. Some companies have been known to start as many little ventures as possible in order to register their name in as many categories as possible. This is less risky as it is more honest. This strategy will also make it so that they will be more likely to get their trademark in the cannabis category once it opens up. This strategy is also not cheap as you have to pay the fee for every category you register in.

So in conclusion, this is another reason why you need to heed the guidance of my four posts on Trademarking and Naming.

Post 1
Post 2
Post 3
Post 4

You would also do well to hire someone who is great at branding as well as a great trademark and patent attorney so you can nail this once and for all, the first time you do it rather than scrambling and starting over again and again.

Good luck out there making a scene in the world and I hope this post helps you or someone you know get started on the right foot.

Jesse Barney

January 27, 2020

Strip Away and Level Up

When we are working on our brand, whether it be our personal brand or our company brand, we tend to focus on all the details of how awesome we are. As we should. That’s how we can show depth and breadth. That’s where extra value can show up. We all like to show up with extra value.

However, sometimes we rabbit trail on details that are not related enough to our core even though it is very exciting. For this reason, it is always helpful to have a process for revisiting your core in every detail you are adding.

You might be an incredible host and really good at Emceeing events. Adding public speaking to teach others about your skill not only adds value and teaches your customers about what you do and why it matters, it also rounds out your MC skills with a different skillset of speaking. Also, you will gain a tribe of other people like you who will inspire you and vice versa, which will help you get better as well.

However, when it comes to learning architecture and space design and worrying about how people are moving around in the space where you are Emceeing, you might be better off finding someone who focuses on that so that you can focus on the content.

The way to understand how to set goals and approve the growth decisions you are making is to always refer back and strip away the details to see if the core truths relate.

Content of communication and style of delivery for hosting a party is very different that creating wayfinding and flow in a space to get people to be in the right place and mood to receive that content and style at the right time.

Of course the MC and the architect would do well to learn language that allows them to communicate back and forth so that the MC understands how the architect can help their content and vice versa.

This is a core function of the practice of minimalism. Take away the unnecessary details and reveal the inner kernel of truth of your brand. Once you do that, you can see the relationships, the needs, the attributes you need you gather to round out your skill.

This reminds me of Role Playing Games. You can’t make a super character. You can’t have a wizard that is also really a strong warrior AND a sneaky assassin AND a charismatic thief.

You have to choose what your character is at the beginning and as you go through the game and level up, you choose the attributes to strengthen and the ones to leave weak.

You then shore up your weaknesses by adding members to your adventure party. A wizard travels with a rogue scout and a warrior and a thief. This is why we have organizations and companies. This is also why, if you are a freelancer, you need a network of people that you can refer, so you can always take care of any need even if it is not your skillset.

Strip away the details, remember the main attributes of your character (brand) and make sure you are adding the right skills and party members as you level up. If you find that you are doing something useless, be gentle on yourself, it’s totally okay to get distracted. Just put it down and refocus your energy.

Happy Sunday and enjoy focusing your efforts.

Jesse Barney

January 26, 2020

Ship Something Today

The concept of shipping comes from product manufacturing. Shipping is part of your brand. It the moment when the customer or reader gets to finally interact with you.

Getting your product out the door is hard. Whether it is a blog post, or a tchotchke, or a new car model, getting the prototype out of your head and out of your shop and into the hands of people who can evaluate it, this is the most valuable moment of your branding process.

There is a trick here. When to ship? It has to be good enough, and yet, we know that if we sit and polish more and more, we can make it better and better. This never ends. How do we decide when to stop polishing and ship?


Calling out deadlines in advance, setting goals that feel a little difficult to achieve, but not too difficult and shipping regardless of the state of the prototype on deadline is important.

A lot happens when we add a deadline. It creates pressure. It creates accountability. The drive of creating expectation and meeting it is strong. We have to meet the deadline and tell the story of why our prototype is not as polished as we want. We have to allow for the criticism that comes from people seeing our product as unfinished.

This is the reason to do something that has a daily deadline. Something that is a gift to the world. Something that is adding value to our humanity without a need for return. This is why I write this blog. I alluded to this in my post yesterday. I have set a goal to post a blog every day. I don’t always. But I try. It’s the first thing I do every day. I wake up and my goal is to come up with something fresh that is present in my life that I am processing and see a way forward and share that learning with you.

The second level of the blog that is a little less obvious is that I also create all of the graphics for the headers. This can sometimes be the most challenging as the writing itself is already hard, and creating a relatable visual quickly makes it feel more than difficult.

I try to go from concept to finished writing and graphic in less than an hour if I can. It usually goes a little long, but I get as close as I can.
The reason I am explaining all of this is so you might feel inspired to do the same. Maybe it’s a daily sketch on your instagram. Maybe it’s writing a blog about your relationship. Maybe it’s doing yoga everyday and posting the challenging pose you are working on. The point is, if you tell your audience that you are going to show up a certain way and you create an expectation of shipping, then you will be accountable to show up and ship.

This shipping creates a feedback loop for us. A reflection of what we are saying, what we are making. It gives our audience the opportunity to help us shape our practice and make it better with us. More importantly it allows us to see ourselves through their lens more easily. Even if they never give us direct feedback, we are automatically gaining more empathy through going through the process of ship, refine, ship, refine, ship, refine.

So, in summation, I hope that you are inspired to ship something today. Something with meaning and value that will make the world a better place. On top of that I hope that you reflect on what you ship and that you ship it again tomorrow, refined by your own reflection and the reflection of others.

Enjoy creating and shipping and if you are inspired, ship it to me!

Jesse Barney

January 24, 2020

Explain it to Yourself First

Writing isn’t just valuable for the reader. It is equally as valuable for the writer.

I have been writing a blog off and on for 6 years. Mostly to try to share the things I don’t feel I speak clearly about. At first, I thought the main point was to share my knowledge with others and get feedback. Indeed, that is one of the reasons to write a blog and one does have to think about the reader when writing. However, as I write more and more, it is starting to translate to the way I speak and feel more and more. It's becoming something where I get more out of it than anyone.

What I mean is this. I am starting to see that I often speak sentences to others that I have not gone through the work of explaining to myself first. Last night, my partner asked me a question and I gave her an answer that was a summation rather than a clear explanation. The problem was that I had not even made the clear explanation to myself, so I definitely could not make it clear to her. I noticed the lack and stopped the conversation to take the time to explain the answer to myself out loud, while she listened.

The end result was that I understood myself clearly, as did she and neither of us had any questions about the subject at hand (I can’t remember what we talked about, but I can remember the process clearly.)

As this happened, my brain made a leap. This is exactly why I write. To get better at writing. One of the deep joys of communicating is learning how to go deeper and be more complete without rambling. To speak and see the hearer and perceive how well they receive and adjust the communication to improve the reception.

What is interesting here is that we are really doing this for ourselves. This is how we can see and understand ourselves more fully. In other words, when we take the time to do the work of explaining ourselves fully to ourselves, the chance for others to hear and understand us goes up exponentially.

I know this post is really meta, writing about writing, communicating about communicating, but isn’t that the core function of economy, communication and sharing? If we all spend part of the day, every day, shaping our communication skills, doesn’t that make us better leaders, mothers, brothers, sisters, co-workers, preachers, teachers, salespeople, etc? On top of that, if we all spend time everyday, wouldn’t the acceleration of skill be magnified with our collective consciousness?

I think so.

In closing, I am happy to see myself improve at noticing these things in quick conversation and I hope that you are inspired as well to spend time everyday working on and sharing (this is very important) art and communications with yourself and then the rest of us no matter how complete you think it is.

If this inspires you, send me a note at and tell me your thoughts, I would love to hear your reflections.

Have a wonderful day and may it be filled with joy and peace even in struggle and tribulation.

Jesse Barney

January 23, 2020

What is Design Anyway?

It’s a good question. Many people think design is the science of making something look cool.

While great design almost always looks attractive, this is not the primary goal of design.

Design is the process of identifying a problem and finding the best possible solution to that problem.

A graphic designer works on visual problems. Does the graphic say what the words say? Can it be understood at a glance? Does it make people look in a visually crowded space?

An architect works on the problems of how people move around in spaces that we build. Where do you put your coat when you enter? How does the shape and arrangement of the room make people move around in the the space?

An industrial designer solves the problems of how the human body interacts with physical things to make simple things like chairs and spoons work even better or sometimes just differently than before.

Often, we miss the mark of design by focusing on how these things look when we should be focusing on how they work.

I find it helpful to ask the big questions in any design process again and again no matter what stage of the process I am in. Questions like, “Why are we doing this,” and “What is it for,” are the main two I am constantly jumping back to. We all get caught up in our own ideas and standing back and looking at our designs from afar and asking the big questions can get us back on the path to truth.

If you are interested in a very deep exploration of the basics of design thinking, read “Design as Art” by Bruno Munari. It is a fantastic book on design and why it is different than art and it is a monumental classic in design thinking.

Have a nice day and happy designing!

Jesse Barney

January 22, 2020

The Phish Model

I had no idea when I was 16 years old in that basement smoking a joint, listening to Phish’s album Rift for the first time, that the band I fell in love with that day would be such a great model for modern business.

Unbeknownst to most people in the music industry and for that matter the rest of the world, in the eighties and nineties, while the whole world was busy hanging on to what had been built by the Industrial Age, Phish saw the future.

Phish built a business around a tribe. Something small. Instead of making 20 cents on a record sale and trying to do that 10 million times a year to make money, Phish built a business around getting a small handful of people to support them with thousands of dollars per year at live concert experiences. Of course, they weren’t the first to do this, they were really copying the Dead. But where the Dead were more a group of ragtag hippies just having fun and were known for shabby business, especially in the early days, Phish built an empire.

Not that long ago there was a white paper put out by Harvard Business School showing that a Sole Proprietor can make a hundred thousand a year by getting one thousand people to spend a hundred dollars a year and that with the internet, that is easier than ever. Phish understood this concept innately before the internet and built a tribe of thousands who would support them no matter what.

Phish was creating the kinds of tight communities thirty years ago that the internet is now producing through groups on social media and chat platforms. They built a fully independent nomadic economy that lived on the road and in the parking lots of venues and cities around the nation.

Phish created a world and an experience that their fans never wanted to end and still don't. There are fans that spend ten thousand dollars a year and more on tickets and merchandise. A lot of them. Like thousands and thousands of them.

Our challenge as freelancers, business people and entrepreneurs is that we want the fast option. The Phish Model is not fast. It is slow and dedicated. It focuses relentlessly on the core why, faces big challenges and grows and evolves over time like any good relationship.

So in the end, refocusing on our why, and narrowing our vision to what gets our tribe truly inspired up is a surefire path to long-lasting success in anything we do. It takes time and there will be major bumps along the way but our determination and dedication will not fail us. In this refocusing we find renewed energy to hack away at the big mountains in our way to building our own tribe.

Have a nice day and I hope you enjoy focusing your efforts in your life as I do.

Jesse Barney

January 20, 2020

Function First

As a graphic and brand designer this is my #1 rule I live by.

What does it mean? It means that we should always work on figuring what the function needs to be, and the best ways to make that function work.

One of the best examples of a beautiful function first design is the spoon. The spoon has a sensual sort of shape to it. No one set out to make it that way, all of the curves and parts are designed to do one thing. Bring liquid from a bowl on a table to your mouth without spilling.

This is no small feat. It is a miracle of geometry and physics that was produced over hundreds of years by many different designers.

The point is, the spoon is a perfect example of a function first design, it looks great because it works so well with the human body.

In a similar way, when designing branding and graphics, if the need is considered most important and the function of communication is considered first, then the graphic or brand is far more likely to work.

In other words the question “What is it for?” Is far more important than, “what does it look like?” Focus on what it’s for with reckless abandon and in the end it will look great.

Jesse Barney

January 19, 2020

Water and Branding

Whats inside what's inside the jar? No, it's not a typo. I did ask what's inside what inside

When we encounter design, we often ooh and ah at the branding and the packaging and the trim job and the "bag appeal." Why don't we more often admire better qualities such as the ecologically friendly nature of the packaging or even more important, where the water comes from that waters your plants and how much it takes to irrigate your crop? The reality us, underneath all of the shiny foil our perception of a brand is really about what we really believe the product is made of. Not only philosophically but also tangibly.

Enter the queen of water friendly crops, dry farmed agricultural cannabis. That's right friends. No water. In the right location, cannabis succeeds incredibly well at being dry farmed with nearly zero surface watering.  The cannabis tap root finds it all from the ground. If you don't believe me, ask Sunshine Johnson or Chrystal Ortiz.

The design thinking gets really fun here because it can impact large scale agriculture. Regenerative farming is here and we would do well to start designing our laws and infrastructure around it.

Dry farming prime ag locations? You can't dry farm just anywhere, it takes some specific ecoligical scenarios to be readily available and the farmers doing it need to be supported.

From a state perspective, identifying dry farm prime ag and giving it preference for cannabis permitting because of it's ability to  make better cannabis on less resource is incredible important for many reasons.

Saving water resources by not extracting water from surface water systems.
Solving issues arising from drainage and leeching of even the most organic of compost.
Rising quality of cannabis by the nature of it growing directly in the native soil as opposed to lots of imported dirt
Creating a better understanding of terroir and Appalachia through more direct association of plant to local environment and soil.

This is just the beginning. There are so many reasons to find and support sun grown, dry farmed, regenerative cannabis that when we have/find the option, we ought never choose anything else.

Jesse Barney

January 17, 2020

Make ‘Em Think it Was Their Idea

This phrase gets tossed around a lot in the creative world. Especially involved with anything we have to pitch.

But there is a better way.

Just spend your time and energy finding out what your clients best idea is. Bring it out of them. Shape it as it comes out and reveal the truth of their excellence.

This means that the heavy lifting happens in the research phase. The interviewing and the reading, and the looking at reports and numbers and doing equations.

So rather than bringing our ego to the table as creatives and trying to figure out how to trick the client into our “genius,” let’s get  inside their world and make them look the best that they can to the outside world.

That way we are on the same side of the table and the client feels that we are on their team.

This philosophy works for more than just a client relationship. It can help you understand your spouse or significant other better, or any relationship really.

Try it! It’s fun and it gets results!

Jesse Barney

January 13, 2020

Own Your Work

We all have to sell something. Even if it’s just the reason we get out of bed, we are always selling things.

We all are trying to convince our boss that they should give us a raise, convince the client they should pay us, convince the teacher we should get a good grade. All of these actions are a form of meeting a threshold of approval.

What we tend to forget is that meeting a threshold of approval isn’t necessarily about what we do, but how and why we do it. In other words, it’s one thing to give an answer to a question. It is entirely another to give all the backstory to how you answered the question, and why. It's entirely different to own your work. To take responsibility for it, and for how it is handled in the world. It is after all, yours.

Many artists have found as they put their paintings up for sale for years that they sell at a certain rate. When they take the time to tell a fuller story behind each piece, they often find the pieces selling at a higher pace. It seems so easy, so why didn’t the artist do so at the beginning? It only took a small slice of time to explain the piece compared to creating the piece itself...

The question is, why do we tend to hold back? Why do we want to create things and not also create all of the ancillary storytelling pieces that go along with the thing itself? Why don’t we more than savor the moment? We can make it flavorable again and again and again.

I propose it is because we are scared and a bit prideful. We don’t want to take the time to write our stories because we think no one will read them. That injures our pride, because our internal experience is that our perspective is the only one that matters, because it’s the only one that’s truly ours. We get bummed when we think about our deepest treasures, left in the sea of the world's consumption, to rot away unnoticed. Soon, the spiral of loneliness gets out of hand and we feel we will never be seen.

There is no easy way out. The only way is through. Start trying to be seen. Every day. Those who practice the most at presenting their art, their art will be the most seen. They may not be the best artist, but they will be the best at being seen. It’s easy for the rest of us to complain and say that they don’t deserve to be seen because they aren’t good enough. That doesn’t get us anywhere. The facts remain. The person with the banner on the mountain is the most visible. So what can we do? Start practicing our sharing. Show works in progress, write stories about our days and how our consciousness’ interacted with the art, and whatever we do, we must share it. As always, I recommend building your own site or having one built and sharing there first, and sharing from there to other sites. Own your artwork, that includes all of the describing of the artwork. Own it by describing it, documenting it, and sharing it to a platform you own.

Love and Peace and Happy Owning.

Jesse Barney

January 9, 2020

Mix It Up

Mix It Up

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results.

We all get stuck sometimes and the best remedy is to make a change. Do something different, try a new food or walk a different route to work.

Trying new things opens up new neural pathways and helps us to be creative and solve problems.

Try something new today! Whether it’s that 5 min of meditation you always want to do or a new skill you want to learn or that phone number you have always wanted to ask for... Just do it!

Jesse Barney

January 6, 2020

Memento Mori

Death is scary. We don’t like to talk about it. However, I think that mindfulness of the end of life helps us shape our approach to communication, relationships, leadership, family life and more. I have to admit, I do have a view on death that is somewhat surprising and exceptional to some. I believe that this life is a beginning, an introduction. We are like seeds growing into plants and the day we die is the day the seed dies and becomes what it is meant to be. I believe there is deep meaning to the sun spending it’s life force to give the solar system energy for life. I believe that metaphor is resonant in everything in the universe. There is no life without death. To eat is to absorb the nutrients and life force of another in order to live another day. I believe that metaphor of infinite universal sacrifice is a giant hint at the truth behind the veil.

Now that I have taken you a least a bit behind the foundation for my thinking, here are three things I believe the correct mindfulness of death helps us with:

1. Creating the need to pass on our knowledge.
When we are aware of the passing of life, we value our most treasured lessons and are more inspired to share and teach. If we have never taught, then we should gain even more inspiration to learn to share. Documenting and sharing our deepest and most treasured knowledge is most assuredly a high form of love.

2. Giving us presence to speak what really matters in this short breath of life.
Related to the first point, it is in the stripping away of things that don’t matter and speaking only the things that do. We don’t have time to waste on frivolity. When we realize this, we spend more time with people that matter, doing and saying things that matter.

3. Giving us thankfulness for all that we have in this present moment.  When we are aware that change is always inevitable and nothing we have will last, we are more aware of how beautiful the passing moment is. This gratitude becomes a deep wellspring of joy

I hope this post gives you presence today and that you in turn give your gratitude and love to all around you as we all love you and are also grateful that you are in our life today. I am excited to continue this infinite journey with you, and you hope you are inspired to get out there and Stir the Pot.

Jesse Barney

January 5, 2020

Cannabis Should be Packaged like Beer and Wine.

There’s a reason quality alcohols come in cans, brown bottles and have very little to no air in the packaging. Light and oxygen.

Light and oxygen degrade the freshness of our products. 2020 should be the year of no more clear glass bottles for cannabis. We should be packaging our cannabis in brown glass, or even better, completely opaque. This is because light degrades all the chemical compounds in the plant, so the darker the glass, the closer the flavor and experience will be, according to the growers finished cure.

As far as oxygen, I haven’t seen a great way to reduce the amount of air inside a package of flower without crushing the flowers. In this regard, concentrates are much easier to control, and there is room for innovation for flower. Filling a container completely with concentrate that is not liquid will usually result in a dried top layer that seals in the rest of the concentrate and keeps it separate from any air in the jar, however little there is. This will not work with liquid as any air will mix into the liquid over time, causing oxidization.

Traditional hash in the form of a temple ball handles all of this perfectly, and it doesn’t need to be in a jar at all. A nice ball of hash is self preserving, the oils on the outside of the ball form a protective layer for the rest of the ball so you can keep it for months and even years while retaining the terpenes and cannabinoids in a much more stable state. Of course, this is dependent on a little care for the ball. It needs to be kept dark, cool and dry.

There is a need for preservation of the compounds we love. Coupled with the competition that will enter the market when global import and export becomes real, it leads me to believe that the smart concentrate makers are going to focus more and more on dry sieving and ice water techniques to produce their concentrates. Not only does it solve many packaging problems that we have, it’s an overall better product for shelf life than anything modern cannabis tech has come up with to date. Also, the processing techniques require far less machinery and intense scientific knowledge to operate. This means the investment in hash making goes towards artisan makers and people rather than industrial processes.

The real challenge here as usual is the storytelling and branding and education on the consumer side that lets people know why traditional hash is better on a shelf than almost any other product. As per usual, most people in America just don’t know. It’s not our fault, people spend lot’s of money teaching us the wrong things. We don’t even have a really good grasp of our place in the timeline of cannabis. Nor do we have any understanding of the global cannabis trade especially as it relates to history and where we are in time.

There is so much to teach, and so much misinformation, so many fads… It seems like everyday there’s a new way to consume or misrepresent cannabis that degrades the nature of the plant and the medicine it provides.

A simple solution to start moving in the right direction is to change the color of the jar you use to package your weed and tell your customer why. This will spark a cultural interest that will make change much like the craft beer and wine movements impacted the alcohol industry.

As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you get inspired to get out there and Stir the Pot.

Jesse Barney

January 3, 2020

Trademarking and Naming IV

The Symbols

In this fourth and final post on naming, it’s time to cover the symbols. What do they mean and when can you use them? Only the ™ and the ® have relevance to business name defense. The copyright would apply if you had made original art for your logo or brand that you didn’t want anyone else selling as art. So, here we go!

™ The Trademark symbol. This is a symbol that is free to use if you have a mark worth using (see previous three posts). You don’t have to register anything to use it legally. It is a non binding signifier that your mark should not be copied. If you know your name is original and unique and you have a custom drawn logotype or word mark than you should put this mark next to your logo. You can set this mark in most fonts by holding option(alt on pc) and hitting the number 2 on your keyboard.

® The Registered Trademark symbol. This is a symbol that you are only legally allowed to use if you have gone through the trademarking process with the USPTO and been awarded your trademark. If you can use it, you should. This character is set by holding option (alt on pc) and hitting the letter r.

© The Copyright symbol. This little guy has (almost) nothing to do with what we have been talking about, but I decided to include it even though it probably needs its own post. This is used for artwork and music and anything where you make copies. Every artist owns the copyright to any original work they put out the moment they get the art out of their head and make the first “copy.” It is smart to document your art when you make it. Timestamp it somehow. There is the legend of bands who used to record a song and then mail a tape and the lyrics to themselves and not open it so they had an official piece of evidence with a date on it. Now, you just publish your songs online and that date stamps it. A copyright isn’t something you have to go through a process for, you just need to document the copies so you can prove you were the first to make an artwork, if it ever comes to that. You can set this character by holding option (alt on pc) g. This is why the new media model is put out more, faster, and don't let it sit on your hard drive. Publish it!

That's about all I have on that. I hope you have found this series on naming helpful, if you know someone creating a new product or service, share these with them as they will find them extremely helpful.  I wish I would have know about all this 20 years ago when I started my first business.

Peace and Love and Happy Building!

Jesse Barney

December 22, 2019

Trademarking and Naming III

What about the url?

This is where things can get tricky and fun. The web domain name, or url, now plays a role in proving your trademark to the USPTO. You see, there is still a lot to explain about things the USPTO are looking for in your name.

Timing. You see, part of the reason for this law of trademarking is that two people can have similar ideas at the same time and these rules keep people from naming things the same way which help consumers differentiate and protects business people from being copied and stolen from. A url can help your right to the name in this way…

Let’s say I wanted to start a t-shirt company and I wanted to call it Wildhair Shirts. Before going to the USPTO the first thing I would do is Google the name and see what comes up. If nothing specific to that name comes up, my chances of getting  a good url and this name registered with the USPTO are going way up.

Then, I would go to my favorite domain purchasing and basic web hosting site, Namecheap, and I would search for and see if it was available. If it was, I would buy it, as that is a great sign that the name is not being used by anyone.

Now, let’s say I bought the relevant urls (buying as many urls that cover bases like, .org, .net and and other relevant names is a good idea for the same reasons that I would get the first) and built a published site for them describing my company and future products while I start working on the business plan that ends up taking me a couple of years to actually fully launch.

Within that time, someone else starts a company by the same name in a different state. They have a website called because I bought all the name specific ones before they launched…

Now, in our story, we went ahead and registered our business with the USPTO, and our other Wild Hair Shirt company didn’t register federally so no one is the wiser. Everything seems good. It has all worked out.

Until the other Wildhair starts to get big. They started local, but they grew, and when they expanded to a national market, they noticed me, as I have them. Now they want the registered trademark and they believe they started before me because they believe they used the name first. Now I am going to court. They want to prove that they had the name first, and that they were doing business first (It’s true, they sold a shirt before I did.) and that even though they hadn’t registered the trademark, they had it in use before I did. If they prove that, I will lose the rights to use the name and will be forced to rebrand. If they fail in proving that, then I will be awarded the rights to the name.

One of the pieces of evidence that a Judge will look at is, who had the urls first and who published a live, relevant website first. Since I was the first to get the urls and the site published, and I did the fed trademark work as well, I am likely to win. Notice I said likely. Nothing is guaranteed here. Even if I think I did everything right, the judge could possibly see something a different way and I could lose. This is why, despite these informative posts, I will always say “GET AN IP ATTORNEY!”

The attorney has more experience, and knows more about how to make your name as defensible as possible. In an ideal world, you have a designer like me on your team who knows all of the ins and outs of making marks visually distinctive, and you also have an ip attorney making sure those marks are defensible in a court of law.

The moral of the story is: If you have a great idea, and a good name that you know is unique and likely to be defensible, and you have googled for it, and searched and can’t find anything, and you have searched for the url and it is available… BUY IT. But don’t JUST buy it. Put some kind of website up describing what you are doing and the intention of the company. It doesn’t have to look good. It just has to work. WIX or Squarespace or Wordpress or a whole host of others will help you build a site for free. You just have to pay for the connection to the customer url. A published website is stamped and dated material and will help you defend your name if anyone ever tries to take it. Don’t just take my word for it, call an IP attorney and at least get a consultation. If they tell you something different, let me know and I will update these blog posts, otherwise they will likely just give you even more info to chew on and process BEFORE choosing all of this.

Peace and Love and Happy Building!

Jesse Barney

December 21, 2019

Trademarking and Naming Part II:

As I said, this would be a multi part series. Why? Because there is so much to cover. There is a lot of detail to the subject and even in this multi post series could not possibly cover all of it. That’s why there are lawyers who devote their entire lives to the subject. If you are really doing this yourself I highly recommend getting a trademark attorney at least to help you. Some of the best money you can spend.

If you’re like me though, and you like to do everything yourself. It is possible even though it can be very frustrating.

Here we go:

What's in a name?

In another post, I wrote about the fact that the USPTO doesn’t like three things in a federal trademark application: Proper Names, Geographic Location and generic words in the industry and category the trademark is being applied.

In my rather long post, I did not talk about the exceptions very much. So let’s jump in to some reason why you may ignore the USPTO and apply for your rule breaking name.

The first exception is, if you intend to stay local, and you are the first with the name in your area, and you can use your geographic wordmark without legally offending someone else's, then it doesn't matter at all. Register your business name with the state you live in and you are done. Otherwise, start over using the concept outlined in the last half of this post.

The proper name exception is similar, you need a pretty unique name first of all, and then you have to be first to register a business in the category you are in. Once it's gone, it's gone. Imagine trying to open a national chain of anything called "Smith's." The trademarks are gone. They don't exist. Except for few brief seconds where a new category opens up.

As for generic words, there aren't really any good times for that. Black Rubber Tire Company is not a brand, it's just what the thing is, no more, no less. Talon Tires, however speaks to the idea of grip, grab, bite and if you have great tires for sale well then, we have a winner.

This is why the words, “green, leaf, canna Mari, Mary, kind, dope, weed, etc,” just have to go from the cannabis industry. Go ahead and google things like “nature’s solution” or “greenleaf dispensary” and see how many results you get.

On the other hand, google “Hippie House Cannabis” or “Sculpture Dispensary” and see how many results you get. Biiiig difference. The last two, I made up on the spot, and I knew they were original before googling to make sure.

The point is, use abstract concepts instead of generic, industry specific concepts and associations! Do you happen to love playing baseball and as you get older you find that cannabis help you continue to enjoy playing even when it hurts a little? Then it would make sense to go for a name like Home Run Cannabis Co. Go ahead and google it. It doesn’t exist yet. Why? Because the relationship is so personal and unique that no one else would think of it.

Ok, I just gave away three solid names for free, Go ahead and take them, or better, take the knowledge and start creating names that mean a lot to you and translate how you feel, and then you will be onto something. Remember also, this is only ONE way to approach naming. A simple google search for "how to name my business" and you will find many many many posts by many companies and people outlining other aspects. You would be wise to do such a search for a couple hours and learn from others as well.

In the next post, I will add the next layer which will really reveal whether your name is worth chasing after to begin with. How to search for your url and how it impacts your trademark.

Happy Brand Building!

Jesse Barney

December 19, 2019

Trademarking & Naming in Cannabis

What is a trademark anyway?

A trademark is a unique name and or symbol that is defensible in a court of law from use by anyone else.  This is the first of a two part series.

There are three things the US Patent and Trademark office doesn’t like, and I have distilled that info for you here.

1. Generic terms for the industry/category. For cannabis this means no green, canna, flower, leaf, seed, CBD, THC, hemp or any other common or generic term directly related.

2. Locations. Humboldt, Cali, Oregon, Denver or any of those will not be federally defensible once there is a Cannabis Trademark Category.

3. No proper names. Sorry, but John Smith Dispensary just won’t hold up. If you have the most unique name in the world, the USPTO might give it to you, but it’s a gamble, you would probably have to do a lot of work to hide that it’s your name… In this case hire a trademark attorney no matter what!

I know some of you are jumping up and down upset and defensive about your name and you don’t want to change or admit that you have a bad name.

There are exceptions. When you combine one of these with something specific, it can work. I did it with Barney Design Co. Mostly because I happened to be first. I got lucky AND I knew what I was doing. Also, I am small, chances are your ambition with your cannabis business are much bigger on a customer scale than me.

But rather than flirt with danger, I would like to share with you what you should be trying to do when naming.

Go for the abstract. Maybe you love Persian rugs so you call your company Ornate Concentrates. Maybe you like the concept of going deep in life and you grow two strains and two strains only, better than anyone so you call it Mariana’s Garden (get it?) Then there's Shady Oak, Icarus Feather, Steel and Denim. You get the idea. The less obvious and directly connected the better. The crux to this is there does need to be a connection for you, no matter how abstract it may be. There needs to be a story. It can’t be random and made up, unless you are Steven King, then you can create an alternate fantasy reality and people will buy into it.

This is the first step to brainstorming a list of names. Did you screw up and name your business California Cannabis or Holistic Wellness Center? There is no better time to change than now. If you need help, I am always here and any brand designer worth a damn knows this stuff so ask them! You live in the age of the internet where you can know as much as the professional, at least enough to ask the right questions to see if they know.

If you have a great name and you want to trademark it, I would advise hiring a trademark and copyright attorney to make sure. David Branfman at Branfman Mayfield Bustarde Reichenthal LLP is a fantastic and affordable attorney who has done a lot in Cannabis and has worked in trademarking and copywriting for a long time. He will work hard to help you create a defensible name that you can protect.

Conversely, if you are super savvy, need to save money and have time, you can register your name yourself. The USPTO is a bit cumbersome and some of the forms and rules don’t make a lot of sense to those of us who don’t speak legalese but I have several friends who have registered their own trademark so it is possible, although I will say they all just about pulled their hair out.

Anyways, more info in the next post,

Jesse Barney

December 18, 2019

The Revolution Will Not

The revolution will not happen on someone else's platform.

The revolution will NOT be viral. Unless we start using our own platforms and ditching those controlled by massive corporations. The only way out is to use all the marketing and communications knowledge we have gained as humans to build out our own platforms and host our own content and drive our communities there. Otherwise our attention will continue to be the commodity sold to producers who only want us to consume.

This is one of the reasons I built my own site and I keep working on it and changing things and adding content. I won't be constricted to instagram and facebook. This is also why I would ask you, if you are reading this, and you like connecting to me in this deeper way, please send me a real email. Tell me who you are. What you are about. I am genuinely interested. I will email you back. I won't send you sales emails or anything, unless you tell me you want to see my merch designs when they come out. I will reach out occasionally when I see something really important going on and will occasionally ask you to confirm that you still like the emails you get from me.

Oh, and if you reach out because of this blog post, let me know, it gives me an understanding of where you are coming from.

Let's make our own television.

Jesse Barney

December 16, 2019

A Creative and an Editor Walk Into a Bar.

To erase or not to erase?

When I was a kid, maybe in about third grade, I had an art class where a guest artist was brought into the classroom one Friday to teach us. I remember being excited because I was drawing every spare moment of every day and had been for a couple of years.

In part of the lesson the teacher showed us two pieces. One where the artist had clearly drawn without erasing. I remember the image was a very natural, flowy line drawn form of a woman in a voluminous dress and was very detailed. The other piece was a series of very black balls where the artist had erased the highlight so there was a very bright contrast between the highlight and the shadow of each ball, making them look like black steel or something. She asked us to raise our hands as to which one we liked. The class was almost universally drawn to the balls. She then asked a question "Is it ok that the artist use the eraser in his drawing to achieve the effect? Should he not have been able to achieve the same result without the eraser?"

I remember thinking emphatically, no. I remember thinking that it was a greater skill to have drawn such a beautiful form without erasing. Sadly, the teacher was not able to correct my misinterpretation of the lesson that day. The point is this, the lesson really was that both were great ways of attaining different goals. The pieces were very different and therefore the path to the end result was also very different.

In other words, one piece was made completely through processes of addition. The other, however, made its impact through a process of subtraction which gave it a certain striking character that was visually more impressive than the other because of its strong contrast. What am I getting at here? Surely, it has more to do than just a couple of processes of drawing and a lesson on contrast. It does, although I must admit, this analogy breaks here because it really just reminds me of what I really want to talk about rather than being exactly analogous...

This is what I want to really get at. I often tell people I have a philosophy about iteration and editing. I like to say that you should never put the creator and the editor in the same room. It's not an absolute never, but I think it's a generally a good idea to keep them separate and here's why.
The creative person is very sensitive. I know, I am one. They love the things that they make. Everything they make is a baby to them. They put their heart and soul into it. The creative needs safe space to create relentlessly without being stopped or told that their ideas are stupid. If you keep the editor from talking to them while they are creating, they will create more and better ideas.

I'm not just talking about two people in a working environment. I am talking about the creative and the editor in your head. We all have them, the angel and the demon. The one telling us that we suck and the other telling us that we're great. The trick is, we need them both, but not at the same time. We get too confused by their back and forth.

If you give the creator free rein and let them create more and better ideas, then you give the editor more and better ideas to edit. On the flip side, keeping the creative out of the room when the editor is at work is very important. When the editor is cutting and killing the darlings and babies of the creator, the creator will get sensitive and defensive and want to keep ideas that might not be that great. Let the editor cut at will after the creator has fully fleshed out all of his ideas.

This is how we arrive at our best work. Let both sides have their day by preventing both of them from getting in the others way.

Jesse Barney

December 14, 2019

BDC Manifesto 06

06 Form

Remain neutral to start. You can always add, but once form is established, it is hard to change. Forming out of neutrality, slowly over time, allows for evolution.

We are not rigid. We can admit wrongs and learn to become better. Better at relating our designs to their intended recipients, better at empathy, better at everything.

The recipient of our designs should also form their story into the design. If our design has too much personality there is no room for others. That’s just plain rude.

Jesse Barney

December 12, 2019

BDC Manifesto 07

07 Culture

I am all for breaking rules. We take our culture to new places that way. However, most of culture is built out of what has been built before us. Respecting the tradition and history of design is more important than being original.

Originality after all is mostly the remixing and innovating of tradition. We all stand on the shoulders of giants and our designs succeed when we remember that.

Jesse Barney

December 12, 2019

BDC Manifesto 08

08 Synthesis

Experience with a broad spectrum of techniques, mediums and applications is exceedingly helpful in design. It enhances our empathy. Synthesis begets synthesis. The more we synthesize, the more rapidly we can expand into new areas of thinking and bring in new information and skills.

On the other side, design is the ultimate discipline of synthesis. The principles of design apply everywhere. Comprehensive understanding of design enables more immediate synthesis of anything.

Jesse Barney

December 12, 2019

BDC Manifesto 09

09 Minimalism

Simplicity is power.

Say it with less.

Same for graphics.

Simple messages work better than complex designs.

The relief of space makes our design stand out.

Silence defines the sound.

Jesse Barney

December 12, 2019

BDC Manifesto 10

10 Permanence

We are against the culture of obsolescence. We make designs that last. We make things that get better with use, age and the beauty of patina.

We despise momentary trends.

We prefer simple shapes, classic typography and timeless stories. We strive for this in design because it is good for our minds, the planet, our economies and our overconsumptive nature.

We like design to be clean, strong and lasting.

Jesse Barney

December 12, 2019

BDC Manifesto 11

11 Responsibility

Design is the profession of responsibility.

Design goes into the world and makes change.

Bad design makes change we don’t want or need.

Good design makes change that is appropriate and useful.

Our responsibility is to ourselves, our integrity, the quality of the project, and to the public who will use our designs at large.

Jesse Barney

December 12, 2019

BDC Manifesto 05

05 Function

Design is function. It is mathematical. It solves problems. When we focus on function and solving the problem relentlessly, we arrive at forms that are astoundingly appropriate, and therefore, beautiful.

When function is top priority, design decisions become easier. The function is the meaning, it speaks to us about materials, color, texture, voice, type, lifestyle, culture and more.

Jesse Barney

December 9, 2019

BDC Manifesto 04

As Massimo Vignelli said, “God is in the details.” It is the discipline of process that reveals the details. Creativity does not come through glimpses of inspiration. It is the dedication of consistently applying skill and knowledge with a sprinkle of bravery that brings forth magic.

Process is one of the keys to great design.

Process means we keep going. We don’t stop. We keep digging and exploring.

Jesse Barney

December 5, 2019

BDC Manifesto 03

03 Engage

If we have understanding in our designs and we are communicating, but not touching lives, minds and hearts, then we have missed the mark. This does not mean we stoop to whatever current fad we can to obtain a moment of engagement. We have to find the kernel of truth in our design, because when we find that, we will touch the tribe that we are solving the problem for, creating change, leading to engagement that was not there before.

By standing firm in the river of fads with conviction for what we stand for, we become timeless trendsetters and connect with the best of humanity.

Jesse Barney

December 3, 2019

BDC Manifesto 02

02 Communicate

Understanding is useless without language. If we cannot share our understanding with each other then it is in vain. There must be thorough study of language in every design problem. Not only design language, but also the language surrounding the problem itself.

A robust language used properly creates consistency, which is paramount to any great design.

Jesse Barney

December 2, 2019

Failure Part I

Last week I wrote a fantastic piece on failure..

That's right. I failed to publish it.

I was the wee hours of the morning as usual. I had just finished a pretty long winded piece on my personal failures over the course of my life and the lessons I am embarking on learning from those failures. It was deep. It was detailed. I felt really good about the writing. As usual, I went to make an image for the header, inspired by the words on the page, something to do with rebuilding a bridge. The first part of creating a graphic for me, is to find a source to be an inspiration for drawing or manipulating in some new way.

So I went to search for a cool bridge to draw. I thought I opened a new tab before I typed in the search bar. But I didn't. As my image search opened, I realized I had just closed my writing without saving it.

The lesson is an old one. Save your work along the way and make backups. Also, slow down and double check things. In fact, I normally write in Ulysses, an app that is extremely wonderful for writing and saves every character typed, but I had gotten in a hurry and written the post directly within my site. Always write in an autosave writing program that saves every character.

Then I failed some more. I couldn't really remember how I started the piece. I was so shocked at the loss that I couldn't remember what exactly I had written. Then I got depressed and mad as I sat for almost an hour trying to recreate something that I couldn't find.

But the real lesson is that I can still write about failure. I have more time. I can write a ten piece series on failure. Hell, I can write a fuckin' book about failure. I'm pro level. Last weeks failure isn't holding me down, in fact it has fueled me to do more and share more.

A year ago that would not have been the case. I had all but given up. Thank the Firstborn Starchild for the few real dear friends (you know exactly who you are) who reached out and held me up when I wanted to slip into a hole and disappear from the shame that came through my failures.

So there you go. Many of you feel it. Beaten down. Often by our own decisions or lack thereof. It's okay. You can get up again. Besides, this life of pain is short and it's almost over. It's just dust in the wind. But while we are still here we can get up and sing into its gusts.

Much love friends,

Jesse Barney

November 30, 2019

BDC Manifesto 01

01 Understand

Every part of a design problem must be holistically understood before design can begin.

The entire subject must be fully grasped in order to translate the meaning of the design to the observer.

It is the job of the designer to understand the business and economies of the client fully. This demands an immense amount of collaboration and sharing. That’s the fun part.

To understand is the beginning of great design.

Jesse Barney

November 30, 2019

What is a Brand?

People throw the word around a lot. Brand. What is it? A custom shaped piece of metal that you get really hot and use to burn the shape into the flesh of an animal? No, that's a branding iron...

So is it the mark left on an animal? Yes. That is exactly how we think of brand and brand identity. But it's not quite right still.

We think of brand identity as the tool used to imprint the brand on someones mind like a branding iron. On the other side we think of the brand as the impression we leave on someone when they interact with our identity.

So close. So very close. What's missing is the understanding that it is not we, the brand and marketing people who make the impression. Rather, it is the people we seek to impress. They do it themselves. That's what gets scary. As designers, it's the moment we lose control of our work.

You see, our brand is how others choose to see us. It's the stories they tell themselves. We have no control over that. Not if we choose to be moral people, unlike those who work in government propaganda... But I digress. Sure, we can influence these stories, and we do, but ultimately what our audience thinks of us is up to them.

So what's the trick? How do we get people to understand us properly?

There is no trick. There is no easy way. You have to wake up and do the hard work of being communicative and transparent. You have to quiet your inner Sasquatch who wants to run and hide and stay under the cover of the infinite forest. You have to take the risks of exposing yourself in order to be loved. You have to let the haters hate and do it with poise.

Then, even more importantly, (actually you need to start here,) you need to listen. Listen to the feedback. Hear what your audience has to say to you. If they aren't talking, ask them to. If you don't even have one person in your audience, keep practicing your communication until you do.

Then process the feedback and go at it again. This is how we get better at representing ourselves.

The biggest companies can have the toughest time doing this. Inside of them, you have lots of people who love the company and are showing up, doing good work and serving their customers, wishing that their customers could see them and understand how much love they have for the customer (branding iron). Outside, you have a customer that mistrusts big companies and doesn't really believe the previous sentence at all, in fact quite the opposite, but they know they need the services provided so they feel at the mercy of the big company (brand). So the brand of that company is shit. The best in their field have realized that they way out is through.

There are companies who have survived this distrust. Think Coke and Mc'Donald's. For forty years or so, they have sat right next to tobacco and alcohol when it comes to how we as society regard them. Junk food, we call it. But those companies got square with the idea by saying, "yeah, we know it's junk for your health, but would life be any fun without it?" People understand that. Life without ever having a coke? Lame.

Okay Coke, you're right, life is no fun without you, we all like to party at some point. So society respond and says, "okay, well, if you are going to make money off of fun, and admit that it's not healthy if over indulged, we want you to spend some of your money teaching people how to be healthy." Coke says okay and starts supporting athletics and healthy food programs and buying organic juice companies...

Now what we have here is a giant society wide conversation that Coke is having with all of us. And when they do it right, they are really listening to us.

So at the end of the day, you might say, "I'm not Coke," and there are all these reasons why you don't need to or can't communicate with your audience because you don't have marketing, pr, graphics, film, or photography skills at your fingertips and you aren't even that great at the internet, in fact, you might hate facebook and instagram and you might even think it's ruining us all.

Okay, squatchy. Listen here. You DO have all of those things. You can write like the rest of us. You can speak into a camera on a livestream like the rest of us. You don't have to have all of the skills. You just have to start sharing and listening to our responses. Don't look for the fluff of your friends telling you "great job!" Ignore that stuff. Instead, look for the ones who call you out. Look for those who point out something missing. Take the criticism and refine your idea. We want to help you make it better. We want to feel like we are a part of something bigger than us and you are building that thing, so tell us about it!

Also, consume as much info about this as you can. Read and listen to people like Simon Sinek,  Seth Godin, Brene Brown, Gary Vee and Tim Ferris. Follow the people they follow. Learn and grow.

While you learn and grow, start sharing today. Share your Identity with us and let us tell you what your brand is and we can go from there.

Have a wonderful day and I can't wait to see you out there in the world!

Jesse Barney

November 27, 2019

Changing the World with Cannabis

Many people are rushing to get in on the Cannabis Industry. It has been referred to often as the "Green Rush." For illustration, in a matter of days, the largest cannabis trade show in the world will flood Las Vegas, Nevada. Out of the thirty thousand or more people there, most will know very little about the history and legacy of the cannabis plant or its potential yet they will be seeking financial gain from the plant. Meanwhile, there is a concurrent movement happening. A movement referred to by Skunk Magazine as the "Green Renaissance" A movement to change the face of the world for the better by living closer to nature and the natural processes of the earth.

I am not here to belittle those who are here for the Green Rush. Quite the opposite. I think it is up to us, the veterans of Cannabis, to teach the "noobs" what's up. And it is up to those who are new to humble themselves and start reading and asking a lot of questions before they decide how to be involved. If you want to make money with cannabis, you first need to understand what cannabis wants to do to help you.

For starters let's ask this. Have you read the Emperor Wears no Clothes by Jack Herer? By the way, it's Herer like Terror, just so ya know... Is your brain full of the information contained within that book? If so, why are you so focused on the "cannabis industry" when you should be thinking about the hemp industry?

The information contained within that book alone is enough to start tens of thousands of entrepreneurial efforts in biodegradable plastics, cosmetics, papers, fabrics, adhesives, building materials, and more. Basically, all of the products that we use in modern society can be made from the hemp plant. Yet, for the last seventy years we have been infatuated mostly with the medicinal effects of the plant. This is one of the fundamental shift points we need to focus on.

We need to focus our efforts on supporting businesses that are working in these areas. I have mentioned before that we should be replacing our swag at trade shows with hemp products. How about packaging? I have been looking for hemp plastic packaging for some time, and I have only found one company doing it. Sana Packaging out of Colorado. Kind of unacceptable when Henry Ford was making hemp plastic panels for cars 90 years ago. If you know of more companies doing this, please let me know. Especially a mylar like plastic that is hemp-based and biodegradable, is anyone even trying?

How about paper? My friend Erica Halverson has been working on commercial hemp paper products for quite some time and has everything needed to launch a company with the potential to disrupt the entire paper industry. Where are the investors crawling out of the woodwork to help her do it? I hear about so many investors that want to get involved in cannabis throwing their money into a dispensary or a grow operation when they could start a whole new line of manufacturing processes that could singlehandedly take on tree paper... That's like buying a dive bar in a small town when you have the opportunity to make the bottles that every drink company on the planet needs and wants for the same investment.

The point is this. We are at a flux point in human history. Some very bad people have been making very bad decisions for quite some time. We have the opportunity right now to be at the ground level of a real renaissance. We are trying to eject ourselves from oil, and plastics, and cutting down forests and we have the answer in our hands. The question is what are YOU going to do? What product switch are you going to make? What product are you going to design? It is up to YOU to have no compromise. Set a standard. Be a leader. Show the rest of the world how it can be done. Please, for all of our sakes.

Jesse Barney

November 26, 2019

Designing the Free Ounce

Yesterday I wrote a post about the industry's need to race to the top when it comes to craft cannabis and the small grower.

My dear friend Richard Eastman reminded me about the other side of the spectrum. Free Weed and the end of Corporate Greed.

I am also very passionate about this subject, as I have seen first hand the impact cannabis has on so many medical conditions. I have also seen the impact cannabis has on the health and wellness of people who are not ill, if used properly.

The question is, how to get there? How do we get free weed without eliminating the craft market I spoke about yesterday? I think the answer is simple. Maybe.

Treat raw cannabis as a vegetable. #acannabisplantineverygarden

Our cultural understanding of cannabis needs to shift. Juicing raw cannabis leaves and flowers everyday is one of the healthiest things anyone can do for themselves and their family. Raw, fresh cannabinoids are non-psychoactive and treat many of the health and wellness issues so many are looking to alleviate and then some.

One of the challenges is that we need a national education campaign on this fact while educating people that if they cook the same cannabis it will change the properties and unless the person cooking the cannabis really knows their stuff, you will get wildly unpredictable results.

If more people in our communities were growing cannabis as a vegetable, then those who need free access could more easily obtain it. And no, I don't think it would compromise the elite, handcrafted cannabis market. If anything, I think it would highlight the difference between master growers and the rest of us and make their skill even more valuable.

Jesse Barney

November 25, 2019

Designing the Thousand Dollar Ounce

Cannabis is in flux. California, the world's leader in legal cannabis flower cultivation, is quickly becoming the leader in how to kill the golden goose.

What is the golden goose? I would contend that it is highly crafted cannabis grown by the best cannabis cultivators at the smallest scale. The challenge is, everyone has been trying to scale up. Grow more cannabis and sell it for cheaper. It's a race to the bottom. A race where nobody wins. The second challenge is, California has made it nearly impossible to get started as a very small grower, as the barrier for entry is very high.

But there are a few companies out there who could start this trend. The race to the thousand dollar ounce. The race to the top.

Here's the trick. In order for an ounce of cannabis flower to be bought at this price, it has to be authentic. It has to be cared for at the highest level from seed to sprout, to location of planting, the food fed to the plant, the music played to it throughout it's life, where the water comes from, the way it I harvested, hung, dried, trimmed (or not), cured, how long it's cured and how well, how it's packaged, shipped, presented and finally sold. Not to mention the sales and distribution pipeline has to be perfect and timely because the customer can't buy this product at the wrong time or they will not get what is intended.

That's just the beginning, because not only do you have to build the processes and presentation and distribution to make the ounce authentically worth a thousand dollars, you have to tell the story of that process in a way that educates the consumer why it's worth that. What would happen if I don't buy this on the right day? What if the cannabis got too warm or too cold or exposed to sunlight for a few hours while it cured or sat in the dispensary? You need to tell us every detail of every little decision. When you cut down this particular plant that is this particular ounce, I want to see photographs of the trichomes on the day that it was cut and an explanation of why you made the decision based on all of the attributes of the flower that day. This level of detailed storytelling has to be done in order for you to distill that volume of words down to simple, clean, brand messaging that educates me without bogging me down.

It's not easy. That's why very few have even tried. But I know one thing, if California legacy cannabis is to survive the next fifteen years, we have to start racing to the top and stop competing with cheaper, scalable cannabis. If there is to be a Steve Jobs or Elon Musk of cannabis who will attempt to take on and disrupt the big world players, then there will only be one, and if you are reading this, more power to you, I hope you win. The rest of us have to think like Seth Godin and design for scarcity, rareness, and make our cannabis unparalleled.

Be the Golden Goose.

Jesse Barney

November 24, 2019

Design Better Holidays

I love this time of year. Growing up in Montana, the holidays have a special magic. The crisp frozen air, snow everywhere, fireplaces raging, comfy wool socks... mmm. Love it.

Then I became an adult. I learned that people beat each other up for pieces of plastic fabric shaped as Sesame Street characters. I learned that elderly women have been trampled to death in the biggest yearly craze in the nation. Holiday shopping.

It's hotter than baseball in October. It's more popular than the Super Bowl (seriously) and you could actually die from it.

I for one have opted out. I don't buy it. Lol. Why do we participate in such a vile venture? Why do we support those who revel in the frenzy and stir it up so they can make even more money on things that end unused in a closet or better yet in the trash or re-gifted? Odd, I just heard some dude say "but I am getting a TV! I use that every day and the cost savings are too much to pass up!" I don't know if I can help you dude, the TV is eating you.

I beg of you, if you participate in this madness, please find an alternative. Cyber Monday is at least safer and more humane, although just as lost in a forest of consumerist, dopamine fueled insanity.

Let's do something better. How about making your gifts? Revive your painting skills, and don't buy the canvases, find something else to paint on. Mechanically inclined? Give your five closest loved ones a handwritten gift certificate for free labor on one free oil change, minus the oil of course, they need to buy that. ;) The point is, we all have skills that people value, and only children complain about money not being spent on them, even if they look like adults, they are still children. The rest of us love genuine heartfelt time and energy put into a handmade gift.

If you must spend money, consider the many alternatives to going shopping or buying things.

Whatever you do, please, do something besides continue to support this insane train we are on. This Black Friday thing has been going on nearly one hundred years and it's time for a change, it's likely the best gift we can give our society and our children.

Jesse Barney

November 23, 2019

Design to the End

Last night I went to a mansion party in LA. It was grand opening for a cool cannabis brand that has been up and coming for some time.

Cool party. Good weed, good drinks, good music, beautiful people...

There I was, finishing a joint we had sparked at this weed party where there were free lighters, grinders, weed, stash jars and more. As I finished the joint, I began looking for a receptacle for the roach. A garbage can? Nope. Ashtray? Nope. Anything like that for putting the remains of our smoking? Nope.

You see, good design is about thinking things all the way through. What happens in the beginning is important. Where do you get the weed? Where do you get the swag? What materials are they made from? What inks and paints were used? Did everyone in the manufacturing process get a good, livable wage? Very important stuff.

What about the end of a product's life? Where does it go when it has been used? How do we deal with it? Is there a process for that? Do we just sweep it under some proverbial rug and ignore it? We seem to tend to ignore it, as I noted that every good party or festival has the same problem. Not enough bathrooms, garbages or ashtrays. I guess we just don't like to deal with our own shit.

I ended up throwing the roach on the ground, as did the hundreds of other people who were lighting up. I am sure that this morning the cleaning crew became hyper aware of the lack of trashes or ashtrays as they scoured the grounds for roaches and butts. With a little thinking, that job would have been easy and much cheaper and the cleaning money could have been used for something else a little more useful and fun than paying humans tohunt for ground roaches.

So the next time you plan an event, here's a tip. Start at the end. Start with visualizing what happens when all the people are gone and you threw a successful (crowded) event. Visualize the two bathrooms you have for 400 people over the course of 5 hours. Visualize what they look like after 400 people have used them for everything that people at parties use bathrooms for. Visualize where the trash is put when people don't have receptacles nearby as they finish their drink. Visualize the containers you chose for the party or event. Red solo cups? They are everywhere. Cans? Yes you did see a couple in the street on the way back to cleanup. Visualize the thousands of cigarette butts and roaches on the ground.

You get the idea. Solve those problems first and then take care of the fun stuff like the collectible swag and the music and the activation area design... Your party will run better and people will know, even if it's subconscious, that you think about them and care about them very deeply. Isn't that what you want people to think about your brand?

Jesse Barney

November 22, 2019

Design for Money

When we design for money, we think short-term. We lack empathy, well at least long term empathy. We get an aha. We think to ourselves, "that's how I can make my millions this year!"

It's easy to make a lot of money, if that's all that matters. I mean, watch Gary Vee, he gives you a new way to make money almost everyday and you don't need much to start. People launch small products everyday that sell in the millions and last for a year or two and then the product stops selling. If you do it right, you can launch a cheap plastic product, make a ton of money and walk away in a year or two and no one's the wiser. Except for that fish choking on the little piece of plastic that ended up in the ocean after some kid threw your little product off the pier, the fish knows what you did.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have Design for Good. When we design for good, we solve real problems regardless of money. We start a clothing company making only products that are from hemp, organic cotton, and leather, rather than polyester or nylon. We start a company devoted to making 3D printing filament out of biodegradable hemp plastic. We make products designed to last and be used for a lifetime or more, rather than something designed to last a month or a year and purchased again. Sorry, but the Gillette model has to go.

If you really want to see where this plays out, think about promotional products. Every year, we have more than 13,000 trade shows in the US alone. At every trade show, there are hundreds of booths packed with thousands of junk plastic products they are handing out as a marketing tool for you to remember them by. Isn't that sweet?

So, every year, we dump somewhere in the tens to hundreds of millions of promotional products into our economy for them to be processed and shit into the ground or the ocean or wherever they eventually end up. Sad, right? It doesn't have to end here.

We have technologies and design solutions for issues like this. The challenge is, there is no short or longterm "money" in it. At least it doesn't seem like it. But look at the organic food movement in the US. Consumers were educated on the ground level. They went to the store demanding organic products even if it cost twice as much. How did it start? Advocates and activists. People who cared more about spending their time educating others and making the food reality than they did about making money in the short term.

So the question is, what can you do today?

Maybe today you were thinking about printing some shirts for your business or something like that. Consider where the material comes from, and consider where it ends up. Finding a source for ethical organic cotton shirts or even better, a good hemp fabric... that's hard. I know. I look all the time. Then you realize that the cost is a lot higher than your $5 t-shirt you normally buy, maybe even three times higher. Then you realize that the fabric isn't as soft. Now you are thinking about just buying those cheap shirts and getting it over with. Besides, who has time for this?

This is how bad design choices are made. The thought process should be this:

I know the fabric isn't as soft, so I am going to buy it anyways and get to know the maker of the fabric and talk to them to see if they are working on improving it. If so, I want to help, what can I do? Not to mention that, maybe I know some people who are good at engineering business systems and they can help us bring the cost of the shirts down so that others might be more inclined to support this business and cause. In fact, I should start a facebook group and link all the people I can find who work in ethical fabrics and get all the heads together. After all, aren't we all trying to change the face of textiles in general?

Do you see what I mean? The simplest thing like ordering shirts for your business can become a nexus point of major cultural change. The question is, are you willing? Will you care that extra amount that it takes to see it through? Will you do it, not just because it will make money, but more importantly, because it is the right thing to do?

I think so. I believe in you.

Peace and Love,

Jesse Barney

November 21, 2019

It's All About How You Start

It happens to everyone. You are mid project and you realize that you didn't start correctly and as a result your project isn't quite up to snuff.

This is why design matters so much. Even more, this is why a proper understanding of design is paramount.

The problem arises because we consume so much design everyday. From our house, to our car, to the bowl we eat from, our screens, not to mention the never ending stream of content on our screens... On and on and on it goes, where it stops, nobody knows.

Because we are such great consumers of design, most of us have an experiential understanding of what good design is. But we can't explain it. We definitely could not teach a class on design. Most of us have a hard time actually defining the word.

We are lost in a sea of design, and yet few of us have any real insight into the underpinnings of it all.

The truth is, what we design, designs us in return. The shape of a floor plan in a rail station determines how people walk through that space. The shape of a page, what you put on it and where determines the readers actions as they follow you through your story.

So you might ask, "Why does this matter? It sounds like you are rambling." Here's why it matters.

The world is full of people executing design without even understanding what it is. This is why there is so much bad design. That bad design is LITERALLY affecting all of us, everyday, helping us to continue to make the same choices that we have been making for quite sometime.

It's like a home builder who is an everyday Joe who knows how to build a house because "he's seen a lot of them and he knows what a good house looks like."

Yeah? What about Japanese design and woodcrafting? Know anything about that? How about the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century? The Greene Brothers? Do you know WHY the Japanese built houses the way they did for hundreds of years? On top of that, could you build a house by yourself with no ones help, from start to finish?

The questions aren't meant to make one feel stupid or ignorant. What they are meant to do is point out that if you want to build houses, first you really need to understand not only the proper how, but even more important, the proper why.

It comes down to the little things. Installing the dishwasher two more steps away from the silverware than was necessary means that every time you go from the dishwasher to the silverware drawer you walk an extra four steps. So, if you are super efficient, and you never forget anything on your first trip, you only tally up four extra steps a day. After ten years of living in the home, that little design flaw cost 6 miles of walking or a full day from your life.

You might say, so what? It's not that much. Who cares?

Well, if it is possible that one little flaw that small is robbing you of your precious life one drip at a time, how many other things in your home are that way? What if there are over one hundred flaws like this in the design of your home? Maybe even hundreds? What about your car? What about the supermarket? What about your job? Your phone? Your email? Your social media accounts? Your family? Your vacations?

Hmmm. It's starts to pile up, doesn't it?

Speaking of flaws, why are we currently spending resources globally cleaning up our natural environment?

Bad design.

What if the scientists who were making fuels out of peanuts and hemp oil 150 years ago had won? What if all of our plastics were made from hemp as Henry Ford imagined almost 100 years ago? What if all of these things were biodegradable and more integrated into the way the planet works? It's been possible for a long time. We have the technology. We have everything in our grasp to build the most amazing future for our kids, but it seems so hard to get out of this spiral we have put ourselves in.

Shit. How do we get out? 

Start learning how to start. Learn about the the foundations of everything you interact with. Don't just learn about it, put the knowledge to use. Extract the wisdom and meaning from everything in your life and you will start building an excellent foundation. An excellent foundation for what, you might ask. An excellent foundation foundation for being an excellent designer of an excellent future.

Jesse Barney

November 19, 2019

Education and Differentiation

In the Cannabis Industry today we have a myriad of problems affecting our marketplace. These problems are trickling down to every area of the industry to the point where many of the largest companies in California have announced serious layoffs and deep budget cuts as we prepare to go into 2020.

Everyone knows that there are many reasons for this:

  1. State Regulation is very expensive and difficult to deal with, almost impossible for a small business.
  2. Depending on the municipality or county, the State Regulation difficulty can be multiplied by a large factor.
  3. The State is cracking down hard on operations in the black market making the supply more scarce.
  4. Prices have risen on the legacy market. The pound price this harvest is in many cases a couple hundred dollars higher than last year at the same time.
  5. People are rushing to capitalize on this legacy market opportunity while it is so difficult to enter the regulated market.
  6. There are many more reasons... etc. etc. etc...

For those of us who are still fighting on, believing that we can fix the problems created by the state, there is hope, if you can hunker down and hang on. Not only that, this is your opportunity to really see longterm and work to shape the next 40 or more years.

One major way to do that is through branding. Storytelling. How are people going to understand how fragile the flowering and harvesting and curing process is if we don't figure out how to tell them? How will they know that it matters that you let your flowers mature to get those trichomes nice and amber while your neighbor harvested the same genetic early while the trichomes are still clear? How are they going to see that you care so much about the details?

I will tell you how. YOU have to tell them. YOU have to do the writing. YOU have to publish articles on your site and share them to social media. YOU have to talk about your experiences and create new words and terms and share them with the community so we can all learn to use them. YOU have to devote a small portion of your day everyday to telling the story and pushing it to the world. YOU have to hear the feedback and refine the way you tell people so that you get better and better. No one is coming to save you. There is no secret formula. This is it.

As you educate people to your passion and knowledge, your branding will emerge. Who you are will become very clear, to them, to you, to everyone. What makes you different will become nearly impossible to miss. You will continue to gain market differentiation if you stay true to your core values and passions and you strive to communicate that to your customers daily.

I know it's hard. I know it seems like it's more than you can handle. I know you already put in 16 hour days. I know that you used to take off December to April and then work your Spring Summer and Fall relentlessly. I know that now, you don't get to take the winter off because that's how you stay ahead.

Keep going. It's worth it because we only have one life to live and spending it making sure the lives that come after us have a better world because of Cannabis, well, isn't that why we are all fighting so hard?

Jesse Barney

November 16, 2019

Tension by Design

Yesterday I had the time and fortunate luck to stumble onto Seth Godin's Instagram Live about tension.

He riffed on the fact that creating tension is the process that pulls a person forward toward change. Marketers have used this for a long time to help you make decisions about life. Generally they use it to sell you more and make more money.

Here is an example put forward on the show Brain Games:

You walk into a movie theater, you go through the line and get your ticket. Then you proceed to the ever-expensive concession stand. You want popcorn and you see that the small quart size container is $4 and the gallon size large is $12. If you are like most people, you see the better deal in the small container as you don't want to spend drastically that much more for the large than the small.

The next day you go to see another new movie, only this time you walk in, get your ticket and go to the concession stand and now there is a medium that is exactly a split size between the small and the large and it is $9. Suddenly, your frame of reference for pricing on the small and large is very different. Now, if you are most people, you perceive that the large is now the best deal because you perceive a large savings in the jump from small to medium to large. You buy the large.

These decisions aren't conscious. We are lead around our modern world by our noses and we rarely are aware.

That is the point of this post.
A: Let's all decide to be more aware of the subtle messaging in our consumer oriented world.
B: Learn to use these techniques of tension in your own world to make the world a better place. These techniques aren't inherently bad, it all depends on the level of intent that we put behind our tension.

Riffing a little more, you can learn to see this tension everywhere. The way we get ready in the morning to get the attention of our boss or girlfriend or coworker that we want to impress, The musical tension in a song that makes it go to that super funky bridge, that art piece that makes you wonder just exactly what the artist is saying, the teacher who gives you just enough information to make you want to learn more on your own...

Tension is all around us, and it is up to us to see it and use it for good or let others see it and use it to direct us to whatever purposes they think are good for us.

Which do you prefer?

Jesse Barney

November 14, 2019

Cannabis and Design

The intersection of cannabis and the world of design and marketing is quite interesting indeed. Traditionally, in recent history, design has served the corporate and industrial needs of the world by creating messaging and communication intended to sell sell sell. That selling has gone down a path towards more and more convenience, luxury and single use items leading to mass pollution.

On the other side, cannabis is a plant that when studied, teaches us that the natural world has much more to offer. Aside from the cannabinoid content, the oils and the nutritional and medicinal aspects of the plant, it can do nearly anything we can imagine it to do. We can use the oils of the plant to make fuel, plastics (biodegradable at that), cosmetics, adhesives, cleaners, food and more. We haven't even talked about the fiber of the plant, which is one of the strongest we have discovered in nature. It can be used to make clothing, building materials, furniture, insulation... Then imagine recombining the properties of the oil and the fiber...plywood and fiberboard, hemp post-it notes, hemp fiberglass... All the modern products that we make with oil, we can make with plants, and make it so those things are more easily absorbed back into the earth. And I have yet to mention terpenes! The chemical possibilities of cannabis are just as astounding!

The world of design is huge. We don't think about it much as we mostly take it for granted. It's like air. It's everywhere. Every screw, every bolt, every structural beam, every frame, every sign, every road, every fit and finish, design is everywhere. Architectural design, industrial design, graphic design, communication design, sound design, fashion design, product design, packaging design, all of these things have the potential to be majorly disrupted and impacted by the cannabis plant. We haven't even begun.

The revolution that is about to happen in the design world impacts all of us. What we design designs us in return, so we would all do well to really think through the consequences of our actions and to focus on our goals and make current decisions based on that. There is no excuse to put out a cannabis product in packaging that isn't 100% hemp. The only reason that hemp packaging isn't meeting the design standards of normal plastics, papers, cardboards and printing processes is because most companies settle. They settle for tree paper products because it looks better and it's cheaper. Remember the old adage, sell sell sell? Well here we are again.

Just like the organic food movement, real change will happen when consumers decide they don't care if the packaging doesn't look as good because the concept of "better" has a new definition. Better means the blacks are not necessarily the blackest when printed (yet), but the ink and paper are compostable and plant based so it returns to the natural earth more easily. It means that having shiny gold foil plastic inside of a box might have to be clear or brown for now and the consistency might not be as good, but again, It's compostable and better for us and our environment. Wouldn't it be great if 100% of our trash could convert directly to compost and mulch for farming and gardening?

We have to make the decision to tell a new story about what better is. Our concept of comfort and convenience has to change, and we have to make the demand with our dollars. If you are a consumer, look for products made from partial or 100% hemp and buy them even if the quality isn't there yet. It's a tiny sacrifice in the longterm. If you are a business, look for packaging that is hemp based and use it, even if the look and feel isn't there yet. Better yet, if you have a business that is currently in fabrics or plastics or any kind of product manufacturing, you ought to be creating your own sources or processes for more and more hemp in your products. First movers are going to win in the long run with this strategy. Use it as a story to promote your corporate responsibility. Publicly shame companies and competition not doing the same. Show your customer that their dollars are making real demonstrable change.

Tell others about why you are making these decisions and encourage them to do the same. This is how revolutions happen friends so let's stay on target.

Love and Peace,

Jesse Barney

November 1, 2019