Bringing To Life A “Swole” Boll Weevil

01.31.2017

We’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of higher education clients including, The University of South Alabama, The University of Mobile and Bishop State Community College.

Our agency, and our people love the category. But, the opportunity that presented itself with Enterprise State Community College (ESCC) was truly unique.

One of the oldest community colleges in the State of Alabama, ESCC was looking to completely update their brand identity packages for ESCC as an academic institution, Alabama Aviation College (which is a unit of ESCC), and the ESCC athletics program.

However, the athletics program presented a truly fun and unique opportunity–bring to life the cotton-pillaging and history-making Boll Weevil insect.

But, let’s go back in history just a bit.

The Boll Weevil, is an insect, and yes like a minor league baseball team (here’s a list) the mascot itself is as out there as you might imagine. But, the Boll Weevil has very important significance to the people residing in Alabama’s wiregrass region and the South—but, specifically Coffee County Alabama (home of ESCC).

You see, cotton had always been king, until the Boll Weevil arrived. It was THE cash crop. So, why would a town and an area so dependent on cotton as a cash crop, erect a statue in downtown Enterprise in honor of the cotton-pillaging, pinky fingernail-sized Boll Weevil?

Essentially, it forced farmers to look for crops that could survive the Boll Weevil infestation, forcing them to diversify their crop. So, they did, and they landed primarily on peanuts.

“By 1919, when the Boll Weevil scourge was reaching it’s peak elsewhere in the South—Coffee County was the largest producer of peanuts in the country, and shortly thereafter became the first in the region to produce peanut oil,”  explains Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian.com.

So, in actuality, the statue in downtown Enterprise wasn’t to revere an insect that destroyed an area’s cash crop, it was more to honor an insect that had forced local farmers hands in finding a replacement—thus, saving their livelihoods.

We don’t have the time to go through the whole, amazingly interesting story. But, you can do so by reading Lorraine Boissoneault’s very enlightening article at Smithsonian.com. Highly encouraged.

Let’s get to the fun part. We got the gig. Traveled three hours east to Enterprise, Ala., and dove right into the research process. This process was meant to help us gather information, insight and eventually it helped to formulate our direction for the academic and athletic sides of the project.

But, it really got fun when we got to the student interviews—specifically, when the entire ESCC baseball team showed up to a Q&A with a group of about seven other students. We had just about started the Q&A, when the door opened, in walked one ballplayer, then two, three, and before you knew it we were out of chairs and we had kids sitting on the floor. All told, we were now hosting a Q&A with about 40 ESCC students, with about 30 of them being ballplayers.

Things got fun.

We could go through all the questions, but the one question that stuck and continued to stick with our team when we began work, and to this day was, “what do you envision your new Boll Weevil mascot looking like?”

One ballplayer anxiously raised his hand, “Swole. Like, Jacked.” Another chimed in, “Yeah, fierce, angry, one badass bug.” Okay, and you? “Yeah, swole, like extra ‘smedium’ shirt swole.” Alright, thank you guys.

Remember, this is a BUG. An insect smaller than a pinky fingernail. Fierce in action? Maybe? But, how could something so tiny be presented fiercely? Or, more specifically—swole?

You see, that’s the beauty of this project, it challenged our designer to think outside of the box. And, trust us, we did a lot of research on minor league baseball teams, small college mascots and comic books illustrations for inspiration. What we found was that we could do a really cool illustration of a Boll Weevil that translated well to all athletics applications, while also addressing the general feeling we got from reading stories about the Boll Weevil causing so much devastation—this thing was indeed “fierce.”

It didn’t need to have giant “swollen” arms or legs, but it could be drawn and positioned in a way that made it look extremely menacing—as one might imagine it did haunting the dreams of farmers back in the late 1800s and throughout the 20th Century. A creepy crawly, menacing insect, that demanded and received respect.

Click here to view our Boll Weevil mascot, the sketches, and the entire ESCC and AAC brand identity project.

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