Study: Conceiving a Design that Feels Contemporary Yet Old School


Delta 9 Joint Rolling Guide Cover

From humble beginnings, Delta 9 was launched in 2013 by a father and son team. All they had were a few types of cannabis seeds, a handful of cannabis clones, a small nursery and a couple of grow rooms in a large, sparse warehouse in an industrial site in Winnipeg.

Today, the company has an 80,000 square foot, state-of-the-art production facility, a network of retail cannabis stores in Manitoba and Alberta and more than 250 employees.

As one of the original Licensed Producers in Canada, Delta 9 is now one of Western Canada’s most established and successful cannabis brands.

At UpHouse, we’ve plugged into Delta 9’s in-house marketing team on a number of projects over the last few years, and in early 2020, they came to us with an interesting design task—create a joint-rolling handbook based on a vintage one they had come across.

Delta 9 Joint Rolling Guide Storage

Understanding the Challenge


With this project, we were asked to take an existing idea and translate it into a new product that would resonate with today’s audience. We asked ourselves one big question: how do we transform a product that was created at a time when joint-rolling was taboo and make it feel relevant and trendy today? This handbook needed to feel both contemporary and old school at the same time.

Delta 9 Joint Rolling Guide Secret Agent

Finding the Concept

To bring out a vintage vibe, we dug into old magazines and instruction manuals for historical research on typography, colours and illustration styles and then chose fonts and colours that matched that feel. Delta 9’s joint-rolling master sent us a series of pictures of himself crafting beautiful joints, and we transformed each of those pictures into unique, vintage-style illustrations with step-by-step rolling instructions. We illustrated 10 joints in total, from the beginner-friendly pinner to a signature ∆9 joint. Once complete, the handbook set readers on their way to becoming joint-rolling aficionados.


What Happened Next?

Delta 9 launched the free handbook both online and in retail stores on 4/20, 2020. While many retailers saw sales slump in the wake of the pandemic and the subsequent economic slowdown, Delta 9 actually saw sales increase in the spring. The handbook was a welcomed addition to curbside pick-up and delivery orders, and it has been well-received by both customers and staff.

Delta 9 Joint Rolling Guide The Delta

Marketing Tips for In-House and Agency Teams

Need to breath new life into an old idea?

  1. Research offline. Going to the library or taking a stroll through a used book store is a really under-utilized way to find inspiration and conduct research. Everything is so fast-paced these days; it’s so easy to find something on-trend that's been algorithmically picked for you by Pinterest or Instagram. But dialling it back a little and taking a closer look at the rich history of design can help inspire unexpected, fresh and meaningful work. Give yourself permission to go as deep as possible though. Taking time to read as much about the topic and its history will inspire the best ideas and most meaningful solutions.

  2. Break away from the traditional brand standards. We decided not to use the Delta 9 brand fonts in this project. Instead, we sourced fonts with psychedelic-70s-headshop vibe that would inspire a reader's inner stoner. While you wouldn’t want to introduce a distinctive new font in every design project, doing so on passion projects like this one can help the creative stand out.

  3. Take your timeline and double it. One of the executive officers at Delta 9 had been waiting a long time to produce this piece, and as such, he didn't want it to be rush, he wanted it to feel right. It’s great to have that level of support from a client. When working on a passion project, give yourself extra time to gather feedback and fine-tune the details. The time you take now may help make your final project timeless.

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