Interview: Adriana Kertzer, Design Entrepreneur, Lawyer & Author

Interview with Adriana Kertzer

It just might be an understatement to say Adriana Kertzer is one of the most accomplished persons we know.

She has held more positions than we would have imagined possible for one lifetime: Senior Advisor to the Senior Deputy Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts under the Obama Administration, Curatorial Assistant & Digital Strategist at the Museum of Arts and Design, Acting Assistant General Counsel at the Guggenheim Museum, and published author. (And those are just a few!)

Still, she found time to briefly chat with us about her current research project, Rebranding Pot. As a bonus, she shares with us which design-forward cannabis-related products make her holiday gift list this year.

Tell me about your Rebranding Pot project.

Rebranding Pot is structured around the central assumption that aesthetics will play a significant role in how cannabis products are marketed to and perceived by society as cannabis becomes increasingly legal in North America.

In the U.S. and Canada, cannapreneurs — entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry — are employing increasingly sophisticated design strategies to position their brands. They are targeting a range of potential consumers, including, perhaps most interesting, those who have never used cannabis before.Rebranding Pot will feature the cannapreneurs who are responsible for the green revolution’s exciting examples of innovative branding and reveal how certain cannabis companies attract new consumers and position themselves in a burgeoning industry.

How did the idea for a project about rebranding cannabis come about?

I’m a design historian who is interested in the intersection between design, politics, sociology, law, and business. I believe there are two interesting conversations that need to be had. One about the politics of cannabis, and the second about the modern rebranding of cannabis but also keeping in mind its context in American history. For example, we must discuss how cannabis is connected to the disproportionate rates of search and arrest of certain demographic segments of the population (mainly men of color).I also wanted to explore the rebranding of cannabis through the lens of gender and the role of women in the cannabis industry. There’s a lot of exciting stuff going as cannabis becomes legalized and more prevalent in “normal” life. But we also have to address the political context. The goal is to not to ignore the statistics that connects cannabis to race and gender.

What do you think are the most exciting or interesting trends in branding for pot products?

Celebrity-founded and -funded business. For example, Snoop Dogg is the founder and CEO of Leafs by Snoop, a Denver, CO-based cannabis flower and edibles company that offers Snoop’s favorite strains. The company began sales in Colorado and expanded to Canada through a partnership with Ontario-based company Canopy Growth Corp.Other celebrity-related projects I want to explore include Willie Nelson of Willie’s Reserve, Whoopi Goldberg of Whoopi and Maya, Tommy Chong of Chong’s Choice, and Rihanna of RIHANNAxMANOLO’s “So Stoned.”

How have you curated the brands that are a part of your research?

My first thought is, “Is it sexy enough?” I have up to 75 cannabis companies on my radar that have made the cut for my book. All feature aesthetics and branding that are interesting and poetic to me for some reason — from hardware such as vape pens to nutrients.

What are your favorite design-forward, cannabis-related holiday gift recommendations?

Queue Stick Lighter by Tsubota Pearl, $30
When I think, “How would Tom Ford light up?” This is the answer. This would also look gorgeous next to scented candles in my living room. Available on the most beautiful site: Tetra.

I would love to co-host an edibles pajamas party with The Hemponair. This would be my look! I discovered this brand through EstroHaze, an online platform started by three African American women who split their time between Brooklyn and Colorado and focus on changing how women of color who use cannabis are portrayed and perceived.


Designer and artist Laurene Leon Boym designed a palm-sized 3D-printed ceramic bowl intended to hold marijuana buds, or nugs for the exhibit New York Silver: Then and Now at the City Museum of New York, curated by my friend Jeannine Falino.


Sensory-Deprivation Floating With Cannabis
I am big on gifting and receiving experiences in lieu of tangible presents. I want to follow Seibo Shen’s recommendation and visit a sensory-deprivation floating facility after vaping the cannabis strain Trainwreck.

Safari Sofa by Archizoom Associati, price available upon request
I would love to have this in the center of my living room, for obvious reasons.Thank you, Adriana!Happy holidays, everyone!