Emerging Design Trends in Marijuana Dispensaries
by Ryan Noone
The design, layout, and overall consumer experience across various retail stores has almost become predictable thanks to big box retail store giants commonly distributing groceries, convenience items, clothing, and alcohol. Upon entry to a traditional retail store, a consumer is immediately surrounded by products which they can typically view, touch, feel, smell, and even wear. So, how does one translate a similar user experience when the merchandise happens to be medical or adult-use (recreational) marijuana?
With new Registered Marijuana Dispensaries (RMDs) opening locally, regionally, and nationally, the careful and tactful design practices of these facilities have become an emerging specialty with design and construction firms.
Blending Security with User Comfort
While a heightened sense of security, often both physical and digital, is necessary at any RMD, design sensibility of the overall space and layout can help balance security and user comfort. All too often, the design of the entry becomes utilitarian at best; however, it is the first impression we as designers can leave on a consumer. Instead of a security desk hiding behind a sliding sheet of glass, reminiscent of a bank teller or ticket booth, proper design allows the entry experience to be personable, approachable, and less intimidating. A low security desk, designed as an elegant piece of furniture rather than a fortified enclosure, properly respects the required physical boundary between security staff and the consumer. At the same time, it sets the tone for the retail experience to follow.
Making a Visual Impact
The visual display of products is perhaps the single most important design decision to be made at a dispensary. Much like one would shop for jewelry or other secure goods, the consumer relies on look but not touch or feel – or even smell – in order to make decisions about which products to inquire about or purchase. The focus is, of course, meant to be on the product. However, as designers we subliminally have an opportunity to portray the quality of the products based on the design of the display cases. Product displays which are designed with clean lines, simple materials, and lack of clutter put the focus on the goods and therefore provide the consumer with the most holistic view of the products available for purchase. Product displays which lack proper scale, materiality, or elegance can often convey clutter and distraction and will not as effectively showcase merchandise.
Eliminating Ambiguity Through Design
Nothing promotes user comfort and experience more than a properly laid out floorplan and cohesive design. For example, design often has to try to predict consumer thought patterns such as “where do I pay” or “is this the line.” Simply stated, the more user-friendly a space becomes, the more likely a consumer is to return to that location as a repeat customer. Very often, a simply arranged open floorplan with proper signage and clear display of product is the most successful prototype for dispensary design. Rooms adjacent to the sales floor should not create confusion, rather they should be designed to promote a range of user experience. For example, a lounge located off the main retail sales area creates a comfortable place for a less educated consumer to read material or pamphlets about certain products but does not distract from those ultimately trying to make a purchase.
With consumers now more than ever able to choose from a variety of different dispensaries, the user experience often becomes the deciding factor as to whether or not a consumer will be a repeat customer. The proper design can create a revenue-generating environment and experience for consumers.
Ryan Noone is an architect and principal with EMBARC.