The Psychedelic Podcast by Third Wave
Dose of Inspiration: Psychedelics Meet Design Thinking
James Ravenhall of NewTerritory joins Paul F. Austin to discuss how design thinking can be used to bring innovation to psychedelics & vice versa.
James Ravenhall is Creative Director of NewTerritory design studios. He talks about the studio’s visionary microdosing platform concept, “Human Nature,” and how products like it might shift cultural perceptions of psychedelics. Paul and James envision new approaches to psychedelic experiences through the lens of design thinking.
Originally a trained chef, James spent a number of years working in kitchens in London and Paris before earning his Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Product Design. Now, he has over thirteen years’ experience leading engagements in brand strategy, product, spatial, service, and digital for some of the world’s most impactful brands across the automotive, aviation, and space travel industries. James has an innate passion to work alongside people who see design not just as a tool, but as a platform to make a positive impact and effect real change for people, planet. and profit.
Instagram – @newterritorydesign
Website – www.newterritory.io
- James shares about his human-centered approach to design and how psychedelics are influencing his work.
- The triple bottom line, “People-Planet-Profit,” and the guiding principles of James’s work.
- James unpacks his creative process and what inspires new projects in his studio.
“Human Nature” — a tailored microdosing platform concept that aims to shift public perception and influence legislation.
- Using design thinking to envision how microdosing can be integrated into daily life.
- Applying James’s approach to rethinking high-dose psychedelic experiences and ways to personalize experiences.
- Gourmet dining in space and other projects James is working on.
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0:00:00.6 Paul Austin: Welcome back to the psychedelic podcast by Third Wave. Today I am speaking with James Ravenhall, the creative director at NewTerritory.
0:00:09.8 James Ravenhall: So what would happen if we were to create a product that amplified or shone a light on this area that helped people perhaps microdose in the comfort of their own home in a near future world where Psychedelics might become available to the masses and might become legalized. What could that look and feel like? And that’s really where the project began. It’s something that is now become actually a real passion point of mine is looking at opportunities where design has the ability to actually change the law.
0:00:42.9 PA: Welcome to the psychedelic podcast by Third Wave. Audio mycelium connecting you to the luminaries and thought leaders of the psychedelic Renaissance. We bring you illuminating conversations with scientists, therapists, entrepreneurs, coaches, doctors, and shamanic practitioners. Exploring how we can best use psychedelic medicine to accelerate personal healing and peak performance in collective transformation.
0:01:19.7 PA: Hey listeners, I am so excited to have James Ravenhall on the podcast today. I first heard about James because of a really interesting news piece that had been published about his work, where the studio, NewTerritory, that he is the creative director of came out with a visionary microdosing platform concept called Human Nature which we will link to in the show notes. And so I reached out to James just to get to know him at first and then to do a podcast episode to talk about the overlap of design thinking in psychedelics. And how the way that we design consumer packaged goods or products that we sell for psychedelics, particularly from microdosing. With high dosing, it’s going to be much more to go to a service center that way but first low doses from microdosing, how might the way we design, the way that we imbibe these medicines influence legislation, influence policy, influence the very way in which they are utilized and integrated into the culture.
0:02:16.9 PA: And so it really was a unique opportunity, James has done a little bit of psychedelics himself, but is relatively new to the space, and yet by jumping into this episode with us, you really hear quite a bit about how we can apply design thinking to really think about the cultural integration of Psychedelics, which is, of course, everything that Third Wave supports and is about. Some key highlights and takeaways for this conversation are again design thinking psychedelics and legalization. Just constantly throughout this episode have that thread going in your mind about how these three things will overlap to help ensure that these medicines can become accessible to anyone who wishes to use them. However, before we dive into today’s episode a word from our sponsors.
0:03:01.9 PA: Hey listeners, today’s podcast is brought to you by the Apollo wearable. I first started wearing the Apollo in the midst of the COVID quarantine over two years ago. It helped my body to regulate itself to calm down, to stay more focused, and to meditate in the morning. And I use it to really regulate my nervous system in a time of incredible stress. And I’ve continued to use it on a day-to-day basis. So, it is indispensable in my daily routine. Here’s the thing, the Apollo is a wearable that improves your body’s resilience to stress by helping you to sleep better, stay calm and stay more focused. Developed by neuroscientists and physicians, the Apollo wearable delivers gentle soothing vibrations that condition your nervous system to recover and rebalance after stress. I tell folks that it’s like a microdose on your wrist that helps you to feel more present and connected. Especially when in the midst of a psychedelic experience.
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0:04:47.6 PA: Hey listeners. I am excited to announce that we are now taking applications for the next round of the Third Wave’s coaching certification program. This is the highest level and most impactful program that we’ve developed at Third Wave over the last five years. In fact, it is one of the only programs in the world that focuses on leveraging psychedelics to achieve non-clinical outcomes in a one-on-one coaching context. We developed this in collaboration with high-profile executive coaches as well as psychedelic clinicians, to ensure that you have the tools that you need to create accelerated transformation in the lives of your clients. So, if you’re looking to incorporate psychedelic work into your existing coaching practice, or you just want to gain high-quality training from the forefront of human potential, peak performance, executive training, and leadership development go to thethirdwave.co/coaching-certification, thethirdwave.co/coaching-certification. You can fill out our application form and put down your deposit to ensure that you can secure a spot in our next program. Okay, that’s it for now. Let’s go ahead and dive into this episode. I hope you enjoy my conversation with James Ravenhall.
0:06:10.4 PA: Welcome back to the psychedelic podcast. Today we have James Ravenhall, who is the creative director of NewTerritory. Independent creative studio that’s based in Clerk & Well, London. James, thanks for taking some time today to join us on the podcast.
0:06:27.6 JR: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be a part of what you’re doing here. And I’m looking forward to our discussion today.
0:06:33.9 PA: So in some ways, you’re a bit of an outlier for the podcast. In that you’ve had an experience with psychedelics, you’re still getting your feet wet when it comes to the broader landscape and yet you’ve been working on some incredibly innovative ideas, particularly when it comes to the delivery of microdosing psychedelic substances. And just so the audience can get a feel for you and your interests in this space. I’d love it if you could just open up by telling us about the one trip, the one experience that you’ve had with psychedelics. What it was like, what maybe it lacked or didn’t lack, just kind of brings us into that story into that moment for setting the scene for today’s conversation.
0:07:24.9 JR: Absolutely. Yeah, I mean when I looked at your roster of people that had spoken, I was… I kind of felt very much out of my depth in that spectrum. But yeah, very much an outlier but with a real interest and passion for what design can do in this space. But having said that, let me tell you about my first and only experience and it’s not a bad one, but it’s quite a funny one. So it was at a festival in London with some friends, and I have a group of friends that are… That partake in microdosing psychedelics and taking psychedelics quite regularly and I thought you know what I’ve never tried this before, I feel like I’m with a group of friends I really trust. And the sun was out, we’re having a great time. And so I was taking mushrooms throughout the day and it started to come towards the end of the day and I’ve got two little children, a four-year-old and a two-year-old, and at the time the four-year-old had chickenpox and so he was at home with my partner. And she was looking after him. So, there was already a start that I was kind of a music festival when I should be at home looking after my kids, but it was all good at home. And I started to get these text messages from my partner and she was saying “Oh, he’s got a temperature. His temperature’s going up. It’s nearing 40 degrees Celsius.”
0:08:48.1 JR: This is the time when you tend to take your kids to an emergency room. And at this point, I’ve taken quite a lot in my opinion, I’ve taken quite a lot and I think in my friends’ opinion I had as well. So the music was you know, it was coming to a climax. The final set was on and I said, “You know what? I’m gonna have to go guys because I need to get home. I need to go and look after my kids.” So I left the festival, exited out the side gate and you know the festival environment. There’s loads of energy. There’s a lot of sounds. It’s very sensory overload. And then suddenly I’m stood outside the front gates of this festival. And I ordered an Uber, I jumped in the cab and I suddenly sat there and I was like, I am super high. And it was one of those moments where I was suddenly had this overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t sure exactly what was gonna happen. And I had this sudden realization that okay this is perhaps the beginning of the trip. So I’m wind the window down and I started to… I put my hand out the window, and I could feel this, the air almost had a viscosity to it.
0:09:58.0 JR: It was almost made of ribbons. They were a lovely feeling. Anyway, I got home. I went straight upstairs and fortunately, my son had fallen asleep and everything was fine. And my partner was breastfeeding my other little one. And she said, “You know, I haven’t eaten anything. I need to spout at 12 o’clock at night.” So I said, “You know, I’m gonna sort you out. I’m gonna go and make you a cheese sandwich.” And honestly, I didn’t come back for about 45 minutes. And when I did, this cheese sandwich was probably the most basic cheese sandwich you’ve ever seen in your life. And I don’t quite know what I did downstairs in the kitchen. But I know I had a good time and I just curled up on the end of the bed and went straight to sleep. So that’s my first experience of psychedelics and I feel a little bit of a newbie here telling you that. But in the spirit of being open, that was my experience.
0:10:51.7 PA: Did you have any let’s say learnings or takeaways or insights or aha moments? Was there any anything that the mushrooms did to amplify or help you discern, or there’s often… Even when it is “recreational” or not in a medical therapeutic context, there’s often like, oh wow, like you said you placed your hand outside. And it felt like ribbons were going through it. Were there any experiential elements that you thought were really interesting or unique or anything like that?
0:11:23.0 JR: Absolutely, I mean the world that I operate in a creative world is that one of building amazing experiences, particularly ones that are incredibly sensory. When we’re talking about haptics, and we’re talking about the sonics of brands or products or whatever. And I’m a very touchy-feely person. I’m very tactile and that’s how I express my emotions. And for me actually, I felt that that was almost heightened, and not like I said the kind of the touch sensation was so much more heightened for me. And I think, I remember actually, thinking back actually leaving the festival, and saying bye to my friends, and hugging people, and touching the fabric of their shirts, and skin and all this kind of stuff. And actually feeling quite amazed in how tactile they felt. And for me actually, that’s something that is part of who I am. And I think that it maybe it amplified that part for me. And it’s definitely something that I would love to try again in the right setting and perhaps in a slightly more controlled environment.
0:12:32.5 PA: The tactileness, the sort of aesthetic awareness. Time slowing down. It’s also interesting that that happens to overlap with design thinking from your lens, from your perspective in terms of how you approach maybe a project or a brand or an experience and so. Just to… We’ll come back to the psychedelic angle and element because that will be central to our conversation. But just to set that aside for a second. Who are you? Let’s say on a day-to-day basis. Who are you as a creative director? Who are you in terms of a professional work environment? What is the work that you do in the world, and tell us just a little bit about particularly your career path? How you’ve landed as a creative director at this really futuristic agency that’s based in London.
0:13:25.4 JR: So I’ve had a quiet… A slightly alternative way into the creative industry. Some might say that the creative industry particularly design is quite elitist. Because it’s not one of those professions that has a specific job role if you come out of studying and you need to have that support behind you in order to be able to truly make it, I suppose in this industry. Because it’s very competitive. And I actually started training to be a chef. And when I was a kid, I left school quite early and I started to chef in a number of different restaurants working my way up. And I got to a level where I was like, okay, this is what I’m gonna do. And I started working at a particular restaurant. And you can imagine all the stories about the kitchen are true. The kind of the Anthony Bourdain kitchen confidential and all that kind of underbelly. Not so far from the truth.
0:14:24.9 JR: So I found myself as quite a young guy in a quite… In an aggressive environment. I thought you know what, this isn’t particularly, how I want to spend the rest of my life. So I stepped out of that world. I mean, I love cooking. It’s something that I’m incredibly passionate about. It’s an amazing social lubricant. I’ve made great friends, and girlfriends and things like that in the past just by cooking. But I took a step away from that and the only thing that was really attractive to me was actually using that creativity in a slightly different guise. And so I retrained. I did a course in art and design, went to university to study industrial product design. And through that experience had the opportunity to go and work at a number of different studios around the world. And found myself down in London and although being trained in industrial product design, I think it sets you up really well to be able to empathically understand what people want from certain experiences and products and digital experiences, but also what they actually functionally need to try and achieve. And so that ethos that I learned from quite a young age is something that I still champion now. And it comes into the way in which we do a lot of work at NewTerritory.
0:15:48.4 JR: We build Incredible original experiences at NewTerritory. And when I talk about experiences, what I mean is that it’s something that is beyond space, beyond product, beyond service, beyond digital. It’s actually that experience that you take from one moment to the next. Of which there could be many, many different facets to that. But it’s all about understanding how we want people to feel emotionally. And also functionally what they want to achieve. So day to day, there might be work in aviation. There might be work in hospitality. There might be working in FMCG. And other different sectors mobility future mobility, but all of those sectors that we work in at the studio are really focused on solving problems through a really human and empathic lens. But finding really critically functional ways to help people achieve certain things. And I’ll give you an example. If you’re boarding an aircraft, and you’ve come from an incredibly busy airport environment. You’re stressed you’re overwhelmed perhaps there’s this incredible sensory overload. So it’s our role as creatives to design an experience where you decelerate as you board the aircraft. You feel this sense of calm, you feel this sense of serenity. But also let’s not forget that you still need to find your seat, and you still need to put that bag in the overhead bin. So how do we orchestrate that?
0:17:19.0 JR: How do we use senses, sound, touch, scent, the way in which somebody speaks to you, for example? To actually build that experience that feels in a way quite meditative. IN a way sets you up for what you’re about to experience.
0:17:38.4 PA: And I love that as an example because it maps pretty well if we think of that as a metaphor for a psychedelic experience. Right? A lot of people when they come into a psychedelic experience, they’re overwhelmed, they have a lot going on, they’re caught up in the hustle and bustle of city life. And a lot of folks are coming in to a clinic or a retreat or even a one-on-one experience needing to drop a lot of that. Come into a safe and welcoming space. They still need to navigate a few things, but it’s really like, what’s the experience that’s being set up? What’s the context that’s being created? And I love… I also love the dynamic that you set up in terms of how do we want people to feel? And also what do they want to achieve? It sort of speaks to a classic paradox of being versus doing, right? So much of feeling and a user design experience is like you said the experience that they’re going through. It’s the aesthetic, it’s the tactile, it’s the awareness. And yet we’re also, maybe even without them even knowing it directing them towards some outcome. Towards some end goal as a way for them to complete that cycle. So I love that dynamic and that paradox, and I find also that the best art… If you will is encompassing of paradox. It can see the polarities and create solutions that can integrate those polarities.
0:19:12.0 JR: Absolutely, yeah, for me I think that there’s a number of things that we deal with in a day-to-day basis and it really leans into I would call them the visual semantics of the world around us. So that’s for example if you want to open a door, you know exactly that it opens and it’s with a pull and not a push. And it’s exactly the same thing to what you just mentioned Paul is that, when you’re building a brand or when you’re building something that needs this kind of visual stimulus or visual entity to it. You need to really understand what are the semantics that are going to help people feel a certain way. So if something is dangerous or something is designed to entice desire or appetite appeal or whatever that might be, there’s all these kind of physical sensorial triggers that we can pull on as levers to actually build that semantics in your head.
0:20:10.8 JR: And it’s all to do with association and it’s like you said with art, you might look at a piece of artwork and you might feel something. And it’s very personal but the likelihood is that, most people might feel a similar thing. And that’s one of the things that we really dig into in the world of design is, how do we either celebrate or mitigate those known 27 or 29 human emotions to help people have joyful experiences? And a lot of what we do in in the studio is to kind of try and solve for that. Is to try and build joy into what we do. And we do it in a number of different ways. And we do it through a lens always of responsibility and we talk about this thing in the studio called the Triple Bottom Line People Planet Profit.
0:21:00.6 JR: A lot of people that are in the design world they talk about design for people, design for planet. And that is great, I don’t dispute that but I also I’m a realist and nothing really truly exists without you being able to in some way shape or form, have a profitable aspect to it. And that doesn’t always need to be money, but that’s what we try and achieve is that people build brands or they build products to help serve a purpose. And where we come in is to help people have joyful experiences with that particular brand. And whether it’s a product, whether it’s a service, whether it’s a space, whether it’s an amazing digitally immersive experience that we build in the studio. But truthfully when it comes back to it, we’re always looking through that lens of responsibility because we have, in the creative industry we have a real need for people to do the right thing. The world of design is often… It’s often slammed for just creating stuff and we have a responsibility to do things in the right way and to do things that are responsible.
0:22:15.7 PA: I love that. Let’s… There’s a couple things that I want to come back to you. You mentioned joyful experiences, you also talked a little bit about visual semantics in terms of those ticks and those tacks that might cue someone to do X, Y or Z. I’d love if you could… We’ve had a lot of other artists on the podcasts. From painters to writers to musicians to designers, and I’d love if you could just sort of as a continuation of what you were just talking about, tell us a little bit about your creative process when it comes to design thinking. So when a new project comes into the agency, you’re sort of getting the lay of the land, orienting towards it. What is that creative process for you to go… For you to essentially take a project from where it is currently, to what it is that wants to be created? How do you bridge that delta between the now and the future?
0:23:18.2 JR: Yeah, that’s such a great question and it takes on many different guises. But one of the things I’m really really passionate about is designing the process in which you go on in order to uncover those new and emergent topics or those really interesting solutions to problems to solve. I remember when I was a junior designer and we were designing, and this sounds like the most boring thing ever. We were designing the back of an air conditioning unit and I looked at the project and I was like, “I don’t think I could have thought of something any more boring than what’s written in this brief.” But the person I was working with at the time said “Do you know what, it’s nothing to do with the brief at all. It’s all to do with how you approach it. It’s all to do with your process.” I was like, “Okay, right. Interesting.” So part of the brief was to develop the grill at the back to allow the air to flow. And we built this story about airflow and what that meant and we went and looked at how air moves across different surfaces. And we went to this amazing place. The place that they kind of shoot jets of air across a car bonnet to see where it’s aerodynamic. And we started to create drawings based on airflow.
0:24:41.7 JR: We started to take rubbings from nature. And all of a sudden we had this incredibly original inspiration that we then started to build patterns from. That we then started to actually 3D print certain surfaces. And then all of a sudden, we had this incredible design language that we could leverage for the back of this air conditioning unit. And on paper that project was something that you probably wanted to pass on to somebody else. But in reality, it’s one of those projects that really stick in my mind because the process was so inspirational that actually the output became something that was truly quite different and truly original. And so when you talk about design thinking and when you ask that question, part of the problem that we have in the creative industry is originality of inspiration. Because it’s very easy to go online to look at Instagram, TikTok. To go on Pinterest or whatever, to see stuff that other people have done. But’s it’s very rare that you get the opportunity to create your own inspiration. And I think when we just think about the world psychedelics and how often it’s seems to unlock creativity, I think that’s one of the areas that actually really interests me, is helping to open that part of my creative side. To generate my own inspiration that I can then feed into the ignition of projects.
0:26:07.6 PA: And you mean psychedelic use itself like in terms of working with psychedelics as as creative amplifiers? Or do you mean more so how, let’s say unique… The sort of, psychedelic landscape in industry is and how there’s a ton of opportunities for innovative techniques to come support the structure and development of the larger ecosystem. Probably both in some ways I imagine.
0:26:30.4 JR: Actually, absolutely both. And that was one of the things that kind of triggered my interest in the world of psychedelics. And I’m somebody that I suppose would regard themself as being… On the edge of being spiritual. I have certain tendencies, I have a love of yoga and breathwork and more recently transcendental meditation that I’m starting to learn more about. And I feel like I’m on this path of kind of creative discovery and using some of these tools and techniques and hacks I suppose to uncover other ways to find inspiration and to find moments of creativity that I can feed into what is relatively traditional creative process of taking the brief, research, design, development in iteration and then final delivery. But for me, I want to see where the opportunities are, to interject, to kind of almost subvert that process. To find really interesting ways to either share stories with clients or actually to create new and exciting ways for the team that I work with on a day-to-day basis.
0:27:48.7 PA: I love that. Let’s get into a few of the brass tacks in terms of this conversation. How we even connected initially, I saw an article that was published. I forget the outlet. But it was about NewTerritory, it was about sort of a futuristic concept around microdosing psychedelics. Obviously it caught my attention. I looked into it. We had a chance to have a call about a month ago or so and just sort of thinking a few things. And so I’d love for you to just kind of provide a little bit of context for our listeners and our audience. What is the product concept that you’ve developed around microdosing through NewTerritory? How did it come about? So what is it? How did it come about? And why is it a project that you wanted to work on? Why is it a project that you find interesting and that you’re investing in?
0:28:37.0 JR: Sure, so I’ve got this kind of preoccupation with looking at what are the almost nascent or emergent provocations that we can start to actually riff on within the studio that help keeps myself and the other creatives that I work with, kind of on the cusp of our industry. So I often read a lot of different papers from different research bodies and one of which that I’m always attracted to is Imperial College London. They have some really interesting reports on different things. And as I’m sure you’re aware, they have the Center for Psychedelic Research there. And I started to read some papers that they were putting out about the benefits of psychedelic therapy and something I’d never really read about before and having people in my family that have suffered from depression, from addiction, and from a number of different other things that have really inhibited their life and their lifestyle. It got me really interested in this space that almost felt like a little bit of a silver bullet, or let’s say it’s almost a kind of a penicillin moment for our generation in a way.
0:29:49.8 JR: So I started to think okay, well, maybe this is a really interesting area to dig into as an area for provocation. It’s rife with stigma, but there’s all these different movements of people making interesting raises. It’s starting to become legalized in different parts of the world. So what would happen if we were to create a product that amplified or shone a light on this area that helped people perhaps microdose in the comfort of their own home. In a near future world where psychedelics might become available to the masses and might become legalized, what could that look and feel like? And that’s really where the project began. It’s something that is now become actually a real passion point of mine is, looking at opportunities where design has the ability to actually change the law. All too often we work in the kind of blue sky space, but this feels like one of those areas in which… Do you know what actually with my skill set, I can actually make a positive difference for loads of different people that is beyond me just talking about it, but actually about me being able to shine a light on this really exciting emergent category albeit ancient in its origin.
0:31:07.2 PA: I love that. I love that deeper why. I think that’s something that’s often motivated the work that I’ve done through Third Wave, the work that we’re doing with psychedelic education is… Because it is as you said such a sort of nascent emergent industry, it’s very provocative. Because of what psychedelics potentially do and represent and yet for a lot of folks the experience that psychedelics engender offers a glimmer of hope or optimism in a world where a lot of people feel like things don’t make sense or things are really off, or things are really wrong where there’s not much to be hopeful about. And so having that that why of how could design thinking actually be informative around legislation, especially as we’re starting to come into this is huge. So I’d love for you to just unpack that a lot more. When we’re looking at legislation as it relates to psychedelics, when we’re looking at the medical therapeutic versus maybe legalization of all psychedelics from a “recreational” lens or perspective. How has that context informed the design that you’ve created with this microdosing inhaler?
0:32:27.9 JR: So we need stories to tell, right? We need to be able to have the tools to have a dialogue with people that are going to be able to help us change the legislation, reschedule psilocybin. And that’s not going to happen if a lot of this stays in long form written essays. For sure that’s going to give us the background and the detail, but design has this ability to make people feel things and to communicate things really quickly in a way that is incredibly emotive. And I’m sure when you saw the the visuals and the renders and some of the stories that we built for Human Nature, which is the name of the project of the microdosing unit. It starts to entice you in and starts to make you wonder, okay, what is this thing? And why is it interesting? And what’s going on there? And the visuals look cool. The story’s quite interesting, there’s a brand attached to it. And all of a sudden you start to want to know more. And through this piece of work I actually met a really interesting person called Tara Austin. She’s somebody you should actually get in, she’s fantastic and she’s actually championing a kind of initiative to lobby the British government.
0:33:48.7 JR: It’s called PAR. It’s an acronym for Psilocybin Access Right. And working alongside her to actually start to build a whole campaign and a brand and a look and feel for PAR, was something that led off the back of this Human Nature piece. Because it’s all about being able to give people the tools to have the conversations, and to tell those really important stories. Those people that are sat in the British government who can’t even spell a psilocybin, is a barrier. So actually being able to crush that down into you know the acronym of PAR and being able to use that as a mechanism to have these conversations in white hauler and government whatever, is the way in which people are going to change the law. To be able to have the visuals next to them so that they can actually see what this future world might look and feel like, is one of those ways in which people can start to imagine and make that leap, across that delta and to be able to say okay, it’s not that far afield and this is what it could look and feel like. And it’s not all tie-dye patterns and it’s actually something that’s rooted in science and could have an amazing benefit for the populace.
0:35:01.4 PA: Just for reference, there are some days that I can hardly spell psilocybin as well, in fact, it probably took me at least two years to like spell psilocybin correctly before I got it. Psychedelics as well, these are tough and difficult words. So we won’t be too harsh on the the esteemed members of the the UK parliament, but I do agree that having that context to point to, having a visual for people to step into, to have a clear understanding of this isn’t just a bunch of hippies doing drugs at rave festivals even though that’s clearly what you did, as we heard in the beginning of the story. These are people who, there’s a certain level of responsibility that they’re taking when they step into this. There’s a certain level of intention that they have and having been involved in this space for quite some time, I find a lot of the “objections” to full widespread legalization are well, if anyone and everyone can do this then that’s chaos. That’s craziness, that’s going to lead to anarchy and all these other things. And this is why we’ve focused on microdosing so much, because microdosing for a lot of folks could be all they need. They just need that little blip. They just need a little bit on a day-to-day basis.
0:36:23.2 PA: They don’t need to melt their face off necessarily with 5 grams of psilocybin. So even having that context of a microdosing inhaler to point to as context for, let’s say the UK parliament and whatnot I think is is phenomenally innovative and because… And this even dovetails I told you a little bit about a new non-profit that I’ve helped to start called the microdosing collective and the focus of the microdosing collective is how do we get microdosing of psychedelics legalized over the counter, so you don’t necessarily need a facilitator or guide present if you’re just planning a microdose. And I think having a product concept that can speak to that that can help to find that middle way where you can work with psychedelics, but you don’t need to do it with a guide present, is a phenomenally helpful tool to point donors to or to point investors to. So my next question is sort of off the back of that. You talked about bottom line, triple bottom line. People, purpose, profits. When you’re looking at these product concepts as it relates to microdosing, when you’re looking at product concepts as it relates to psychedelics, are you then selling these to specific companies?
0:37:38.6 PA: How do you approach sort of the more tactical or commodification elements of the product concepts that you’re developing? Are these just purely futuristic as sort of a visual image for people to root into or do you also want to potentially sell these and have companies look at how they can start producing them or prototype them for use at large?
0:38:03.3 JR: Yeah, I mean full disclosure when we started this project, it was in the provocative space. Because we believed that this was something that everybody needed to know about. So we used our capabilities to draw attention to it through creating beautiful things that people wanted to know more about. But as we’ve kind of gone on this journey and started to dig into it more and more and and speak to people like yourself and a number of other different people who are interested, we have the capabilities within the studio, typically you’d call us a full service agency where you go all the way from research, brand strategy all the way through to the actual kind of manufacturing and engineering of something. And when we started to develop this one of the reasons why it actually looks the way that it looks is because we were looking at a near-field technology where you can actually take a substance and you can atomize it and you can essentially make it an inhalant.
0:39:00.3 JR: And the reason why we wanted to move it into kind of an inhalant space was to help us overcome some of that stigma that is attached to microdosing psychedelics, that it’s not addictive that it’s not harmful but it’s actually in this case we wanted to align it more with the kind of meditative breath work of Pranayama or something like that, that actually allows you to kind of have a moment to microdose, to kind of sit, relax and do something with intention. And that’s why it kind of started to move into this space of inhalation and why the product looks the way that it looks.
0:39:38.2 JR: And because of that, it makes the actual concept actually quite functionally viable because we’re starting to leverage tools, techniques and technologies that already exist. And because we can start to look at it through that kind of lens of realism, through that lens of kind of manufacture, through that lens of actually producing a product and getting it on the shelf or getting it through IP, we can actually start to think that this is something that is not too far away. All that we need is for it to be legalized and then we can start to test. So it shifted quite quickly from something that it was a provocative piece, into now something that has real legs and potentially could help support, whether it’s in the technology or in the product itself, somebody actually wanting to build or further this space.
0:40:34.2 PA: Well, and it makes me think of like vaporizers, like a cannabis vaporizer, and I’d love just to clarify kind of a difference. What would be a difference between let’s say an inhaler or an inhalation device like this for microdosing and a vaporizer like we have for cannabis?
0:40:51.6 JR: So typically with the vaporizer there’s a heating element to it that actually helps to create that vapor. In this case here, it would be a pressurized recyclable canister, if you will, albeit the canister is made from a material something like a foamed glass, or even looking at certain substrates that are compostable but they can hold a certain PSI. So as you take this little pod or this capsule and use the mouthpiece the inhalant, the spacer to actually puncture that, that’s where you can start to actively breathe in that inhalant. And so through that, makes it very different in terms of a electronic device and actually something that is just a very simple analog device and again kind of leaning more into that world of something that feels more connected to nature, something that feels less techy, but actually something that kind of works or could work incredibly well.
0:41:56.2 PA: Just taking some notes. These dosist weed pens kind of… It’s different obviously, but it does remind me somewhat of that where you press a button, you hold it and then it buzzes and it tells you hey that inhalation is done. And I’ve always thought about how cool would it be if we can microdose little hits, inhale little hits of psilocybin throughout the day, equivalent to like a 100 milligrams once an hour as we go throughout the day just to help us with a creative project or do that for LSD. I’m even now microdosing Huachuma San Pedro, so how could we do that with these other substances as well? It’s a really unique sort of way of developing a pharmacological relationship with these substances that is quite futuristic and nothing like we’ve really known before.
0:42:53.1 JR: And I think what’s really exciting about this world is that we can guide people through it with real authority and real kind of scientific backing and starting to blend these two worlds together, one that’s rooted in kind of nature and history that’s kind of eons old, but also looking at how potentially can we guide people through this intentional process, this microdosing schedule, if you will, through digital tools. The quantified self is something that we are very aware of. People wearing aura rings or whoop bands or whatever it is. People want to know what’s going on inside their body, they want to kind of have that peak behind the curtain to make the invisible visible. And I think that there’s amazing opportunity to show people that the benefits of microdosing psychedelics are real and they are tangible and we can do that now through diagnostic tools. Today it might be something that’s in an inhaler, tomorrow it’s something that’s akin to some of the technology that’s being used for diabetics where they have the kind of micro-needle…
0:44:01.5 PA: Subcutaneous.
0:44:01.6 JR: In the arm and… Exactly. Yeah, it’s actually, you know microdoses things through a trigger on the app or another kind of digital function. So I think there’s a whole host of opportunity in this space that’s untapped, but could have an amazing benefits to help people regulate, to help people monitor. And I think for me personally and something that I used to work a lot in Asia you start to see… You know medicine over there is very different. Medicine is preventative, for want of a better term. In the western world, it’s reactive. We have a headache, we take a paracetamol or Tylenol or whatever. But what if we can start to shift that, and what if we can start to help people understand, “Okay. Well, if I’m doing this now then later down the line I’m going to feel better and therefore I don’t need to rely on other drugs or other substances or things to get me through my day.” And then we can start to make really informed decisions about our life, we start to understand things that affect us positively and negatively. And I think the world of psychedelics has a role to play in that, particularly understanding how we react in certain situations, how we amplify ourselves in certain situations. And I think that’s really exciting world for the creative world, but also the world of, and startups as well.
0:45:25.8 PA: So much here. Okay, I have one last question and it’s a further zooming out question, which is we’ve talked a lot about design thinking, we’ve talked about the role of this inhalation device for microdosing, and I’d love to just sort of throw you, not a curveball necessarily, but if you were to pitch a product concept live, right here on the podcast, as it relates to psychedelic assisted psychotherapy or as it relates to higher dose use rather than microdosing, right. Higher dose use. I know you’re somewhat new to this and you know, but I sense you have probably given this some thought. What’s an interesting product concept, I’m going to keep this very broad, what’s an interesting product concept that could help improve the utility or the efficacy of high-dose psychedelic work?
0:46:25.8 JR: So the pitch that I would put back to you is it’s not a product at all, it’s actually an experience, an end-to-end experience. And I think there is a lot of work to be done within the actual physical space in which you would experience a higher dose. Let’s look at brands like The Well in New York city, their wellness center. Some of their spaces are akin to the likes of the artist James Torrell. There are amazing, incredible spaces that bring you better connected to nature, albeit it’s in the center of Manhattan. I think if I was to pitch a concept to you, it would be the world’s first incredibly beautifully designed therapeutic space where we lean on all those sensory cues, the haptics, the sonics, the olfactory senses, to create an environment that is so far beyond that kind of medicalized room of a bed with two chairs for the sitters, and into something that actually felt incredibly tailored for what you’re about to experience. And alongside that, it might not just be the space, it might be what the people are wearing. It might be how you actually accept this higher dose in this beautiful service wear. It might be about the the brand, the collateral outside of it, it becomes about that experience. And I think that would be my pitch to you is a branded space that feels specifically designed for that experience.
0:48:03.1 PA: An end-to-end experience as it relates to psychedelics. Are there any companies in the space right now? I know there’s not a ton, retreats or clinics or anything that you’ve done in your due diligence where you really like the way that they’ve set things up. You really like the aesthetics sort of the overall design elements of what they’re utilizing?
0:48:24.7 JR: Yeah, I think there’s a load of different people out there and and I think just going back to that one I mentioned The Well in New York city, they’re a wellness center. And they are often in the news about using kind of emergent therapies or things that perhaps are slightly more provocative, but they do it in such a beautiful way where the aesthetic of it feels just so far advanced in terms of the responsibility of the materials that they’re using, the design of the space feels something that has incredible architectural merit. And the use of natural light and natural resources is something that I really admire in that space.
0:49:06.5 JR: And I think there are a number of different retreats and space and I know some that you you actually orchestrate yourself. And I wonder what the kind of the future of that might look and feel like if we start to integrate things like digital, or we start to integrate immersive digital experience into that, what that could look and feel like in the future.
0:49:31.1 PA: Yeah, one idea that comes up as well is I love this concept of, like green tunnels or green walls. And I would love if in a place like New York, if there was a space, and I know this would be impossible in kind of cities like New York and London, but let’s say there was like an acre, right, a big huge greenhouse that was then created to be like a forest, right, where you could get lost. There might be a little stream. There might be these other things. Because when a lot of people talk about working with psychedelics, especially higher dose psychedelics, I know on my acid trips I tried to be as inside as little as possible because for me there was nothing more off-putting than straight lines of modern day architecture, right? I wanted the wildness of like an outdoor experience because it felt much more organic and emergent and natural.
0:50:30.2 PA: And so oftentimes when I think about design, and when I think about design spaces for psychedelics in particular there’s a lot of research, or I shouldn’t say a lot… There’s some research that’s been done with Ros Watts and Sam Gandy, through synthesis actually, the retreat center that I helped to start, around the overlap of psilocybin and natural spaces and how doing psilocybin in in the woods in the forest can actually amplify a lot of the benefits. And so there’s also this element of how can we contextualize those primal roots, like you said, our Human Nature, within a psychedelic framework to help us really reconnect to that more primal wild intuitive side of who we are.
0:51:14.8 JR: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, I suppose a challenge is what happens in a world that is, we’re all becoming digitally native? Is there a space in which actually some of those natural elements like being in the woods, like being outside, actually are brought to life in a digital space? What happens if we combine the worlds of VR and AR and psilocybin as a provocation? What would that look and feel? Is that complete blasphemy or could it actually lead to something that is an incredibly heightened sensory experience?
0:52:00.5 PA: It makes me think of like, oftentimes when I talk about psychedelics I talk about modalities that can initiate a mystical experience, right. So we know if you meditate long enough you can have sometimes a mystical experience. If you do breathwork, sometimes you can have this “mystical experience.” There’s other things like fasting and flagellation and a number of other things that… Or sometimes people just have natural spontaneous mystical experiences. However, if you take five grams of mushrooms within a certain context, there’s a very high likelihood that you’re going to have some sort of mystical experience, some sort of breakthrough experience. And so when we’re talking about provocative ideas that kind of reminds me of well, in terms of shaping and guiding these experiences, a friend of mine Mendel Kaelen runs a company called Wavepaths, which you may be familiar with in your research and they’re using bio-sensory along with an algorithmic playlist to on the fly curate music that can help to bring clients into deeper states of sorrow, to have a catharsis or higher states of joy or to release anger or these other emotional experiences.
0:53:12.9 PA: So there’s probably a way in which we can leverage technology to mitigate the potential risks with higher doses of psychedelics. So if you have people who are new to this, maybe you could combine something like VR and AR so they can still have a “psychedelic experience” without necessarily having to ingest a lot of a substance or compound. I think this goes back to what we talked about at the beginning of the podcast, right? How do we balance the being and the doing? How do we balance how people are feeling? Because potentially we could use VR and AR and not psilocybin if someone has a really nasty nauseated reaction to working with high doses of mushrooms, right? And so this is this is all kind of context and what we’re all hitting at and we haven’t spoken explicitly yet, is we’re really looking at the personalization of experiences, right?
0:54:04.0 PA: We’re saying with technology, with medicine with aura rings, with coaches or guides or whatever, we can really start to create a context for every individual that is specific for what they need for their goals, for their desire, for their background, for their history. And that I think more than anything is what psychedelics are unlocking, is that capacity to recognize that life is so personal and that each and every one of us has choice about how we want to create our existence.
0:54:41.2 JR: Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. I think we are in a world where we demand experiences that are inherently personalized and it’s part of our role, particularly part of my role as a creative to find opportunities where we can tailor people’s experiences so that they can have joyful experiences or they can have sorrowful experiences, whatever that might be. And it’s really interesting how that might start to weave its way into the world of psychedelics.
0:55:11.8 PA: So final question before we wrap, we’ve talked a lot about psychedelic product concepts, we’ve talked about experiential design, we’ve talked about NewTerritory and some of the work that you’re doing, you gave a couple examples, for you right now what are outside of the psychedelic landscape? And I’m not sure how much you can disclose because of NDAs or other things, but if you had to give us sort of a brief look, what are some projects that you’re really excited about? What are other industries that you’re potentially really excited about? Just give us a little bit more context outside of the psychedelic space what it is that you’re working on and what it is that’s really exciting you at this point in time?
0:55:52.6 JR: Sure. Yeah, I’ve got two things that I’m super excited about. The first is the future of food in space. So with the rise of kind of suborbital space travel and where that’s going, the likelihood is that people are going to be up in this kind of suborbital space for longer than 10 minutes, but they’re paying three quarters of a million or a quarter of a million dollars to get up there, what does actually the kind of food and beverage experience look and feel like that’s beyond the kind of package stuff? So we’re doing some really interesting work within that space about the future of food nutrition, gut and brain health, and how that’s affected by zero gravity. So that’s something that we’re really excited about and something that we’re working into.
0:56:42.6 JR: And the second space, and this is actually another provocation that we’re looking at at the moment is, more and more recently there’s been a number of different documents released about the rise in aging population and I can’t remember the exact source, but by 2050 the likelihood is is that 60% of the population will be over the age of 65, and there will be people that have been born already that by 2050 will be at the age of 120 plus. So we’ve got this incredibly kind of aging population, but with this ultra aging kind of group. And what does that mean for design? What does that mean for exercise, gaming? What does it mean for socializing? What does it mean for kind of food, health, nutrition well-being when you’re 120 years old? What do you do with all of a sudden you’ve got extra 20 years of your life to live and what happens? So that’s a really interesting topic that way that we’re wrestling with at the moment of how we can actually start to solve and provide some solutions and some thoughts, some thought leadership in that space.
0:57:56.0 PA: And that’s combining two interesting aspects. Right? One is there is an unfortunate decline in population. People, especially in wealthier countries are having less children. I think part of that is the responsibilities of a professional life, part of that is just not wanting the responsibility of taking care of kids. And I think another big part of it is this sort of fear and anxiety around climate crisis and do I want to raise my kids in a world that’s collapsing? I think that that’s one thing that we’re speaking to which is a whole nother angle and element. My perspective on that is it provides even more motivation for me to want to have kids, to want to raise them. I feel like I’m capable of protecting them. I am optimistic about the future. And yet we can’t deny that this is certainly true in wealthier countries. There’s fewer and fewer kids.
0:58:49.4 PA: And yet because of all the things that we talked about today because of technology, because of stem cells, because of better education around diet, nutrition, lifestyle, because of things like fasting, you name it. There’s so many Companies that are working on extending lifespan so to say. And while I’m very opposed to living forever so to say, I don’t agree with that at all. I do think inevitably people will extend lifespan and we will have more 120-year-olds, as you mentioned, And that’s a really interesting context than for, you know, so does that mean we work until we’re 80 or 90 or 100? Instead of retiring at 65? How does that change Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid? How does that change? Even like the the way that we now approach “elderly people” is we stick them in nursing homes and say, “We’ll see you later, we’ll visit you here and there?” How might we want to change that if we know they’re going into nursing homes for 30 years, right? How might we actually reframe our relationships so we’re continuing to engage in relationship with those who are elders and those who potentially have a lot of wisdom? And this is like a whole nother podcast that we could go into but it’s definitely a rich and interesting topic.
1:00:02.5 JR: Absolutely. Yeah, and something that hopefully we’ll be able to provide you with some thoughts on in the coming weeks.
1:00:09.3 PA: Nice. I can’t wait for that. Well, James, it’s been an honor I’m really grateful that you took the time today. I know it’s late in London to hop on and do this podcast with us, to talk about design thinking, to talk about the inhaler that you’ve developed, the Human Nature microdosing inhaler, to talk a little bit about your work at NewTerritory. If folks want to learn more about kind of some of the ideas, some of the concepts that you’re working on, website, what’s the best place to look into, to check out, to reach out?
1:00:41.1 JR: Yeah, so if you want to know more you can go to newterritory.io, it’s our website, relatively clandestine. You’ll see a wonderful video with me with a giant beard. So you might not recognize me. Or you can just reach out to us at [email protected] We’ll get back to you because we’d love to hear from you.
1:01:00.4 PA: Beautiful. Well James, thanks again for joining us. It was fun. It was a real blast to have you on the show today and to go back and forth.
1:01:07.8 JR: It really was. Thank you so much Paul.
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