Creator of Colorado’s Vice Finder Talks Website, Logo, and Pot Shot
Rick Griffith is the type of entrepreneur Colorado says it wants to support. Then again, maybe the home of the Mile High City doesn’t want to be associated with people like Griffith. It’s hard to tell, as the governor himself is sending mixed signals.
Griffith and his team won the Hack4Colorado Hackathon in June, taking home $4,000 for winning the prizes in the best in show and tourism categories. Griffith also owns and is the creative director of Matter, a small graphic design firm in Denver.
Griffith’s Hack4Colorado team created DeVice, a website and eventual app that told users how close they are to places to get a caffeine or craft beer fix. But in addition to cafés, taprooms, distilleries, parks (Colorado is one of the healthiest and most active states in the country), the DeVice app also was designed to tell you where the closest marijuana dispensary is.
Colorado’s soon-to-be liberalized marijuana laws have created a lot of consternation for politicians who opposed the measure, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. Many legalization advocates felt Hickenlooper ridiculed the 2012 ballot initiative that made Colorado’s marijuana laws some of the most liberal in the world.
Griffith was at last week’s Colorado Innovation Network Summit in Denver, representing Hack4Colorado. Coincidentally, Hickenlooper also released the new state brand at the summit, featuring the official new logo and slogan the state will use for government departments, tourism campaigns, and to promote Colorado products.
I checked in with Griffith at the summit to learn more about the status of DeVice Colorado and to get his thoughts about the new brand. I also asked him about Hickenlooper’s “pot shot”—sorry, bad puns abound whenever anyone discusses the marijuana industry—Hickenlooper took at what could be labeled Colorado’s vice industry, which included a specific comment linking marijuana retailers and medical marijuana dispensaries to prostitution.
Finding a Fix
When DeVice won the hackathon, it was very much a work in progress. Since then, the focus has evolved, as has its name.
The company narrowed its focus to “consumable craft,” with an emphasis on products produced locally. The website features a map with craft breweries and distilleries, locally owned coffee shops, and wineries. Parts of the site remain in development, but the map already has dozens of locations.
Griffith said it will add marijuana to the map in January, when retail sales become legal and dispensaries and clubs will be open.
When it comes to marijuana, Craft-Boom will limit its site to clubs or shops that allow on premises consumption.
“It’s much more environmental, it’s much more focused on tourism, and it’s also consumable on premises, which has a lot to do with the (cannabis) culture,” Griffith said about the types of places CraftedHere will include. “We’re not considering dispensaries part of the crafted mix, no more than we consider liquor stores part of the crafted mix.”
Pot Shots and the New Logo
The marijuana industry could bud in Colorado and also could be a source of tourism dollars.
But state lawmakers aren’t happy about the voters’ decision, the new regulations, and the “Mile High State” being linked with the industry.
Opponents are especially galled by the way many dispensaries have repurposed the iconic C in Colorado’s state flag in their logos and promotional material.
Creative uses of the logo are very common around Colorado. Some images, like wildfire relief and civil unions, work visually to effectively promote local causes. Others are absolute graphic messes, Griffith said.
Hickenlooper’s push for a new brand is largely an effort to regain the state’s brand strategy. He’s a former entrepreneur and one of the fathers of Colorado’s craft beer industry, so he knows marketing. While he only addressed marijuana in a brief comment, it was enough to make his feelings clear.
“The problem is we don’t control (the state flag), and it’s on a lot of things, escort services and marijuana shops, that the state doesn’t want to be identified with,” Hickenlooper said when unveiling the brand.
The new brand is a green and white image of a mountain the resembles Colorado’s license plate, while the slogan is “It’s Our Nature.” The brand and the process to create it have taken a beating in the media and online.
As a graphic designer, Griffith said he likes the logo and thinks it was the best choice of the three finalists. He also noted the logo recalls the logo Hickenlooper used when campaigning for governor.
Griffith understands why the state wanted a brand and wanted to move away from the flag’s iconography and its many reuses.
“It’s not a brand as much as it is a live hack of the flag. We own the flag, therefore we own the attributes of the flag,” Griffith said. “The way the brand is working is different than the way the flag is working as an everyday personal hack.”
Griffith also approved of the process.
“The open and public process that was engaged is this was perfect, it was fantastic. I think it was totally necessary. Being made in Colorado, by Colorado also was very important,” Griffith said.