Pygg to Pig

A brief history of moneyboxes and the English language.

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Pyggy Bank, an elegant design by Nendo for Design Tide Tokyo 2010, specifically for the Piggy Bank Collection. Upon first sighting Pyggy Bank, it appears to be a minimalistic work, drawing upon the similarities between a pig’s snout, and a coin slot. The two shapes work beautifully in unison, yet are exquisitely unsophisticated. Note the resemblance between the shape of a pig and the bottle is more realistic than the cartoonish piggy banks often seen today.

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The modern day piggy bank is cute and zany, but to the point where it becomes so over the top it is unpleasant. Nendo has removed the ‘fabulous’ element from his Pyggy Bank seemingly winding back the clock, and honing in on the pigs defining snout and pale pink complexion. Here he creates an object that is function driven (storing coins), whilst also keeping to the conventions of what a ‘piggybank’ should look like; pink and round. Nendo’s Pyggy Bank is simple yet beautiful, it would be difficult to ever bring yourself to smash such a well-designed object.

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Pyggy Bank is simplistic and stunning, but extraordinary amounts of depth are added to its design upon understanding its history.

As we empty spare coins out of a wallet into an old jam jar (or something similar), how little do we realise we are taking part in a household ritual dating back hundreds of years? The oldest reference we have to a money box is in the Bible in the book of 2 Kings;

“Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hole in its lid … put into the chest all the money that was brought to the temple of the Lord.” 2 Kings 12:9 (NIV 2011)

Todays oldest physical moneybox dates back to Asia Minor, in the 2nd century BCE, although through history moneyboxes have come a long way. Nendo in his design took this into consideration, and draws the link between the 15th century moneyboxes and today’s piggybanks.

 

Six hundred years ago money wasn’t stored in carefully crafted and hand painted hollow pigs, but in the kitchen within spare clay jars. The unglazed orangey-pink clay used within the common kitchen was called pygg. Naturally it seems simple to form a connection between pygg and pig, although in the 1400’s pygg was pronounced ‘pug’. Over two hundred years the English language evolved and pygg began to sound like pig.

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With the progression of language and pronunciation, the modern day piggybank emerged. Nendo in his design leans on the origins of the piggy bank, and its emergence through time. He has brought together the old and the new in a delightful object, and worked with the natural affordances of the coin and pig snout. Simply by naming his design ‘Pyggy Bank’ Nendo subtly informs the audience that his piggybank concerns history and origin, beyond the round and cutesy and glamorous pigs that find their homes is children’s bedrooms today.

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