Cannabis is being progressively recontextualised through innovative design solutions, helping to clean up the heavily stigmatised image of the plant. Volteface’s Katya Kowalski interviewed Danielle Morgan, founder of High Minds, a newly launched Irish cannabis lifestyle brand and online store.
What got you interested in the cannabis space in the first place?
I was brought up in an apple orchard in the North of Ireland in an agricultural family, so from an early age I had an affinity to support independent business and a love for high quality produce.
My father was a hippy in San Francisco in the 70s, something that I didn’t learn about until later in life, as he passed away when I was younger. He came home from the States to take over the family apple orchard business. So I guess you could say he loved all things green, but also had a natural way of paddling against the flow. I feel that has been passed on to me, I’ve always been a little drawn to the counterculture for one reason or another.
I was never a massive ‘stoner’ but I travelled to Portland and Los Angeles a couple of years ago. When I visited, I was taken aback by the independent, cultural atmosphere and incredible design oriented cannabis shops. It compelled me – suddenly all of my world’s collided without even realising it.
From there, the cannabis space drew me in. I hadn’t particularly searched for it but it came to me. I think it was one of those unconscious moments where something really touches you and you want to find out more about it. It was a combination of my desire to create, design and the in turn toward recontextualising cannabis in a different way.
Why did you launch High Minds?
As previously mentioned, my dad was a lover of all things green and obviously I’m super inspired by the learnings of my father putting flower in his camera lens and sneaking it onto planes back in the good old days haha.
But on a little bit more of a serious note, it is to normalise the amazing plant, not only for it’s recreational use but it’s medicinal. My younger sister has had her own journey with epilepsy and the more in everyday culture we talk about it, the more thought provoking it becomes and the more it’s chatted about, it hopefully gains more traction and in turn the more it becomes a social norm.
Aside from my more personal motivations and ripping away all social constructs and external pressures to just create, it’s very freeing. I found when I was looking for products and experiences relating to cannabis it really wasn’t here in Europe never mind Ireland, so I said “heck it, let’s give this a shot”.
Dee Morgan – High Minds Founder
How would you describe High Minds as a brand and as a concept?
I’ve always been into spaces, experiences and pretty much anything well designed. My aim was to create cannabis centered products and experiences, but what is most important to me is to work in collaboration with other amazing designers, artists and makers where it’s a natural way of working, nothing forced and we just do great stuff. High Minds is currently a cannabis lifestyle brand and online store, but who knows what way it will take shape in the future.
Something that was really important to me when creating High Minds was a certain presence of rawness that I wanted it to look and feel like but also refined in certain aspects, you could say wabi-sabi (japanese term for: the beauty in imperfection).
The High Minds logo was drawn with my left hand (my non-dominant hand). I knew that some of my products would be a little bit more on the refined side of things, but I still wanted that balance. My younger sister was forced to write with her non-dominant hand from a very young age, so it’s a little ode to her too.
It’s worth saying that High Minds is not just for cannabis-oriented individuals – it is for people that are in any way interested in any aspect of it whether it be the design, the experiences or the company as a whole. One doesn’t have to ingest it to appreciate it. As I say, high-ness is welcomed but not required.
What are you aiming to highlight about cannabis through your brand?
At the macro level, cannabis is all about connections. Anyone that has consumed it will know there is a deeper connection to creativity, thoughts, emotions and people around you. There is something really special about it; I often would think about how my father would have consumed weed back in the day, the conversations that were had and the memories that would have been made.
Ultimately, I want to highlight connections and how it can make its way into everyday lives just the way they are now. There doesn’t need to be some gigantic shift to bring this giving plant into people’s lives directly or indirectly. And of course how that can be done tastefully and bring something new to the table.
How might design help bring forward a positive perspective toward cannabis use?
In the design industry it is important to provide a vision of what things can be. If there are multiple visions, we can resonate with a broader group of people, allowing more individuals to be drawn to it.
Design helps pave the way by creating products, experiences and spaces for communities within communities. It helps individuals connect with and understand a concept. Seth Rogen’s brand Houseplant is a good example. His whole brand, experience and product bridges that gap for people who otherwise may not have been positively exposed to it before. There needs to be lots of different ways for cannabis businesses to express themselves in order for it to be normalised.
This is what I want to do with High Minds, bring the things that I love most into the same realm as cannabis and allow people to understand it in a different light.
For the launch of High Minds, I always wanted to put on a dinner for my family and friends who have helped along the way. I called in a dear friend of mine Cúán Greene, Founder of Ómós and ex-Noma chef to help with the food side of things. I named the night a High Gathering . It was such a special night and allowed me to show the possibilities of how culturally weed can be thought of in different ways but allow people to draw similarities to sharing a bottle of wine at the dinner table and of course while eating a lot of delicious food!
High Gatherings – High Minds Launch Events 2021 – read more here
What’s next for the High Minds brand?
Big question! I launched on 4/20 of 2021, so the company is still very new. I very easily could have sat on it for a very long time, but it’s not much use behind closed doors. Anytime I would mention to people that I was working on High Minds, no one really understood it until I put it in front of them.
As a small and independent business, I’m excited to see it grow. I’m looking forward to building the lifestyle aspect with some amazing products coming, collaborations and working with some amazing brands which I can hopefully get to stock someday3D
print prototypes – High Minds x Ahmad Fakhry Pipes
High Minds Bongs – thrown by Araucaria Ceramics
J Hill’s Standard x Aldo Bakker pipe collection
I’ve got a big vision and future for High Minds in the form of a dispensary and lifestyle store. But alongside my vision of the store, I would love to give back to the community who have suffered the consequences of prohibition. The repercussions of prohibitions are problems bigger than cannabis and if I can help in any way, I will do everything I can.
This piece was constructed and edited by Katya Kowalski, Head of Strategy at Volteface. Tweets @KowalskiKatya