Disclaimer: The application/product so developed is solely for the purpose of reasonable trial/experimental purpose only.
While to most of us weddings mean a delicious meal, lots of fun and frolic, only those who have got married or were closely involved in putting the event together will understand the backstory behind every one of them. From the menu to the return gifts, from as huge as picking the clothes for the occasion to deciding who buys the varmaala, a lot of decisions have to be made. No wonder, many go for simpler and less complicated ceremonies today. But whichever way one chooses to get married, the one tiny thing that is inescapable is the money envelope, or shagun envelope as we know it.
Even when you state clearly that you seek ‘blessings only’ at your wedding, a good number of loving friends and family are bound to sneakily thrust into your hands a envelopes lined with cash to ‘begin the new life’. And there’s no way you can deny this politely (Also, who in their right minds will reject a wad of cash?!) So, we can safely say that shagun envelopes are a staple of every wedding as much as the two people getting married.
In 2015, the Wedding Industry in India alone was $40-50 billion in size and growing. It is a recession free market that functions solidly, despite tremors like demonetization. This simple fact excited us. While there were so many packaging solutions we could create for this industry, we decided to start at the basic level and design a shagun envelope.
While shagun envelopes are a part of almost every Indian festival, weddings are where they feature the most. For the uninitiated, these are cash envelopes which are given as gifts in a wedding from the bride and groom’s families to the extended family. At the same time, these envelopes are layered with cash and gifted by the attendees to bless the new couple too.
While we initiated our work on the envelopes with weddings in mind, our final design turned out quirky and kitschy enough to be used as a cash envelope for practically any purpose.
Design Thinking and Research
A visit to Crawford market revealed a whole street dedicated to money envelopes in every way envisionable. The colours of these envelopes ranged from blinding gold to a pleasant peach, some had elephants block printed on the surface, others had flower patterns running across their surface. Shops are inundated with designs that have silver skeins running across, embossed god images and the like. The common thread running through all of them was that they were traditional.
We quite liked the idea of our design being rooted to Indian culture, but we wanted to go hatke and try out a more modern representation. The idea was to design a unique money envelope that would sturdily enclose wads of cash (Why not?), be aesthetically appealing and not have the typical problems that we face with existing designs.
When we studied all the money envelopes people received during weddings, we noticed that many scribbled little notes of blessing in any space they could find on the cover. Most of this tore when we opened it. Some of them were barely visible since both the envelopes and the text were in black or blue. A rare few smartly inserted a paper and used it to write. Others simply had the names of the couple and the names of the gifter.
At around the same time we were working on this project, we were hearing about February being termed the International Correspondence Writing Month, or incowrimo, in short. People were picking up their pens and papers and writing actual letters – a feat we have not seen in a long time in the digital age. While many were puzzled and asked if postboxes still existed (what kind of rock do you live under?!), we were reminiscing about the days of aerogrammes (or par avion, if you insist!) and inland letters. That was when the two ideas – of money envelopes and inland letters beautifully conjoined in our heads.
But before we get there, let me explain what an inland letter card (or ILC) is to those unaware. It is an in-land or a postal communication issued by the Indian postal department that could be delivered only within India that is “contained on a sheet of paper with prescribed size & folding”. There were two types of these inland letters that the Government produced, one that would fold horizontally and the other vertically. Favoured by those who loved writing a nice long mail, the inland letter was sold for INR 2 back in the day. Whenever its cost spiked, one could still use it by affixing extra postage stamps. If postcards were too public or short, one generally bought an inland letter.
So, what was our big idea? We decided to combine the ample space and old-world charm of the inland letter with a kitschy design and create a shagun envelope that let you write and gift money.
The Final Product
We started out with regular patterns like stripes. While we liked it, something seemed missing. It did not represent the festivity generally associated with shagun envelopes.
Shagun envelopes are normally given away during auspicious occasions in India. In our culture, motifs play a significant role in anything and everything celebratory. Thus, they had to translate into the designs and reflect the festivity of every occasion. The colour palate was a vibrant mix of warm and cool colours, making it more feasible to lend to different kinds of events. A few motifs that symbolised our idea best were shortlisted – A kalash, the rangoli, laddoos and the namaskaram motifs being part and parcel of any celebration here, be it a wedding or a birthday. The joy of making a rangoli, the tradition of having something sweet for everything we’ve been blessed with, the warmth of a namaskaram, all hold emotions that we wanted to get into and so made the envelopes very relevant to any Indian festival/occasion.
Incorporating the inland letter idea was not easy. How does one insert money into an inland letter? Wouldn’t it fall out? Or accidentally tear?
That was when we brought in the pocket. We attached this pocket right at the bottom so one could tuck in the cash after penning a nice note or letter. We retained the flaps but used resealable glue that would avoid nasty tears.
So what we got was a graft of an inland letter and an envelope that ticked all our checkboxes. Now you can have your money envelope and write in it too!
Design by Soniya Bhase; Text by Sandhya Ramachandran
The Money Envelope Project is the fourth in the series of innovative packaging designs produced by the Bizongo Design Labs.