Interview: Cheecable Founder, Alicia Navarrette, On The Intersection Of Cannabis And Design

During Design Week Portland 2019 held in early April, several cannabis ventures offered workshops and open houses that explored the intersection of cannabis and design.
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Alicia Navarrette, founder of Cheecable, a platform to encourage inclusive and sustainable cannabis futures through speculative design, sponsored an open house SESH as part of Design Week Portland 2019. During this event visitors had the opportunity to view a range of images and artifacts while consuming any cannabis they brought with them. Also, Grasse was on hand doing live demos on rosin pressing and providing dabbing education for those who are curious about incorporating extracts and concentrates. Later, I emailed Navarrette to discuss her work further. Following are the highlights of our conversation.

SESH Open House

SESH Open House

What prompted you to participate in Design Week Portland?

I am a designer by trade, and have clients in utilities, transportation, tech start-ups and now cannabis. Design Week is an event and organization that is close to my heart. When I was starting my independent practice, Design Week was a way for me to meet new peers/contractors and see what kind of work the market was responding to. After years of attending and designing client events for the festival, I wanted to get more involved personally. This year, I contributed several articles to the Design Week Journal, and in that process was inspired to open up the CHEECHABLE studio for an open house SESH.

How do you see cannabis intersecting with design?

Cheechable the brand is a platform to encourage inclusive and sustainable cannabis futures through speculative design. We ask what is going to be next for humans and cannabis to help people prepare for an attainable future through research, concept development, and design. Cheechable actually started as an independent experimental art practice for me, early 2018. Now it has grown into a community of activists, advocates and entrepreneurs and opened the doors to Cheechable Studios, a full service design agency. That is where cannabis intersects with design; they catalyze within the professional and enthusiast communities. We share the mission to liberate stigmatized or biased points of view and level the playing field for access and personal wellbeing. Cannabis needs design right now, not just for marketing and branding, but also to create sustainable foundations and systems in business practices, education, and consumer protection.

SESH Open House 

SESH Open House 

What can the cannabis and design communities learn from each other?

Design and cannabis are harmonizing elements. Design is highly structured, always operating within a framework of some sort. While cannabis is organic, dependent upon the physiology of the interaction and individual; both can neutralize or elevate dependent upon the desired outcome. I see these communities in a similar light, balancing one another. 

I teach Design Thinking at Portland State University, and see a lot of opportunity for cannabis to take this approach in such an early stage of the industry's development. This is especially the case in the context of small business owners who may not have investors and a giant valuation, but still want to make an impact. Prototyping is key, testing your market, and identifying insights for growth, opportunity, and better serving your mission are all ways the cannabis industry can benefit from learning the design process. As a designer, I personally have learned a lot from the cannabis industry. You can be scrappy and still have fun, love, and support one another. 

I have also learned that wellness matters. Agency life can have a kid feeling like they need to perform beyond their means and it tends to burn a lot of people out. Cannabis, for me, is a good teacher for the reflective pause; the break that I need mentally and physically to be able to perform optimally. (end interview)

Ladies of Paradise & Coalition Brewing CBD beer 

Ladies of Paradise & Coalition Brewing CBD beer 

Other Cannabis-Focused Events At Design Week Portland

Other events held during Design Week Portland with a cannabis focus included a workshop hosted by Ladies of Paradise, a women-owned and women-run creative agency titled “Women Creating Paradise: Redesigning Cannabis in a Man's World.” As an added bonus, this event served Pineapple Upside Down CBD beer from Coalition Brewing. Those desiring a hands on approach to design could partake a session on how to design a pipe that was sponsored by Overcup Press.

As reported last year in Magnetic, Design Week Portland 2018, marked the first time I noticed the cannabis and design cultures coming together, a trend that I expect will expand even further during Design Week Portland 2020.

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