Piggy banks teach kids lessons about savings, spending, delayed gratification, and responsibility. But they’re also increasingly obsolete, as allowances increasingly get paid out in ATM cards and Bitcoin, not cash and coin. How do you transfer the lessons of the old-fashioned piggy bank to the digital age?
Ernit is a cute cyber-piggy that aims to teach kids to give, save, and spend money wisely, even if that money’s all virtual. Instead of plunking coins into his belly, family members contribute money to Ernit by app. But the money isn’t invisible once it’s inside Ernit. Instead, it’s linked to concrete goals–a new bike, maybe, or a birthday gift for Grandma, or even a gift to charity. Kids can check how far along they are to their goal just by looking at how full the ring of LED lights is on their piggy bank’s snout.
Ernit is the brainchild of Søren Nielsen (previously the editor of Denmark’s largest financial magazine, Penge & Privatøkonomi), Lars Larsen (owner of the award-winning design bureau Kilo) and Thomas Bjerring and Mads Tagel, previously of ad agency DDB and design bureau Thank You. According to Nielsen, the impetus of all four cofounders uniting to make Ernit a reality was the fact that they shared fatherhood in common. The discussion about Ernit started three years ago between Bjerring and Nielsen as they contemplated the impending birth of their first children.
“We talked about parenting and how to give your children good habits,” says Nielsen. “Both Thomas and I had had a piggy bank as children and we loved to put money into it, save for different things, and pour the money out to count it. Even three years ago, Thomas and I were mostly digital when it came to money: none of us ever had cash. So how were we going to teach our children about this intangible object?”
According to Nielsen, the piggy bank is a valuable tool to teach children lessons that will serve them well for the rest of their life about their finances. As money becomes an increasingly abstract concept, Nielsen says it’s important for children to feel like they can experience money physically, through sight, sound, and even touch. So the Ernit piggy bank has been designed to be a sensory experience. When you deposit money in the piggy bank, it lights up and makes a sound. It’s also made of organic silicone to give it a soft, cuddly feeling, inviting a child to caress the piggy bank, even if money is only put into it digitally. Although the industrial design of Ernit is reminiscent of a classic piggy bank, it is a decidedly 21st century take on one. That’s a concerted effort to use industrial design as a way to connect generations. “It’s supposed to awaken nostalgia in parents about their own childhood,” says Nielsen, even as it looks new and high-tech to kids raised in the iPhone age.