Umbrella reDesign?

Battling all the umbrellas in NYC’s rain this week makes me hate umbrella design (…right down there with the ironing board in my book). Anyone out there design/seen any alternatives?

hooded slickers or a poncho and an urban sombraro, either way both hands would be free to carry things underneath if needed.

Why are they symmetrical? they are also dangerous because it’s easy to poke someone’s eye out.

Definately a good project to put some thinking into when designing a new one. Great student project.

Here are some random thoughts from a resident of the wet coast.

  1. They are symmetrical because it’s cheaper to make 12 spines the same vs 12 different spines.

  2. The poky end on the compact folders are supposed to be small enough to fit inside the hollow handle. Most of the full size umbrellas have some kind of rounded end. Any full size brollys with the small ends are just plain cheap and should be avoided.

  3. There is a Swiss mechanism that will unfurl and close an umbrella by compressing the telescoping handle to pre-load a spring.

  4. Lightweight (and expensive) aluminum spines will snap in slight breeze.

  5. Clear umbrellas allow the user to hold it lower for better coverage, but are more dangerous to passers-by.

  6. The most expensive I’ve seen is almost $100US. The cheapest on sale was $4.99CDN. Most people will spend around $15-20CDN on each of their umbrellas.

  7. Around here, many people have at least one more umbrella at home than the number of residents, as well as a spare at the office. The extra at home is for a guest that might need one. The office brolly is for when the weather changes unexpectedly.

  8. Some umbrellas have a strap for carrying over the shoulder.

  9. Golf umbrellas is rude on a crowded sidewalk. Most people here have some skill at maneuvering their umbrella. Some fools carry their full-size handle forward, with no thought to what the tip is doing. Most bags, daypacks, briefs and attache cases are not equipped to hold a wet umbrella.

  10. The typical nylon-ish fabric is much lighter than vinyl

  11. Handles vary in size and style but I’ve started to see a trend towards handles that are 30mm diamter x 50mm minimum. Curved handles are less common as most people don’t have to hang them up, as are the really small ball-shaped ones.

  12. I haven’t seen yet seen a folder carried light-saber style.

  13. It is currently raining lightly here.


When living in Amsterdam , I learned a new umbrella trick- that is to buy the chapest, smallest one you can get.

Smaller meant that it would be less likely to get caught by the wind, and less likely to poke another person. Cheap meant that it was OK when the wind and the rain trashed it, which it always would.

When I lived on the tropical island 42km north of the equator, we get tropical rain storm just about everyday. You will see it coming and you can literally get chased by it ( I have ). So we need to carry umbrella all the time, if not, a rain coat.

However, it was never a solution, because even the biggest umbrella can only protect your upper body in such situation. My pants will be soaked from knee down, so in a way, it’s not really that useful.

So if you can come out with a solution that will prevent the splashes on the ground from wetting your feet, and yet light and compact enough to be carried around all the time, all powers to you!

Another problem with umbrella is the time it takes to dry. Say if I get into a car from the rain and have to fold the umbrella immediately, you are literally bringing a leaking water bag into the car. So, perhaps there’s a way to help water drain quickly and efficiently. Or perhaps there should be an integrated feature to trap the water until you unfold it again to dry.

Finally, someone attempting to adapt a centuries-old concept to life in the 21st. Keep in mind some never buy umbrellas simply because they’re cumbersome, unreliable contraptions, not to mention most are downright hideous esthetically. Good thing they are cheap though (thanks, China!) because 1/3 of people lose them soon after the purchase, on trains, buses, at school and so on.

The eye-poking bit gets a lot of press but in real life it’s not an issue, more of an ongoing perceived threat. Check injuries statistics first.

Mechanical reliability, wind resistance, drying time, convenience and turning it back again into a fashion accessory should be high on your list. Ensure your employer can quickly patent any worthwhile innovation here as the market is the size we know and dozens of manufacturers are only waiting for someone to show it can be done better - before doing the same. Good luck.

the simple mechanics of an umbrella is just brilliant… only problem i see is that it needs stronger reinforcements.

If you’re so blind and superficial then you probably shouldn’t be a designer.

Here’s one attempt that won the Gold Australian Design Award - not sure how it feels like in real life, handling in the storm etc. It does seem to solve the problem of having the wet flaps dripping around when you want to keep it.

wow, that’s cool (if it works)!!!

i read an article about that lotus umbrella and they said that it’s so light it “flows in the wind” like a real lotus leave…not sure how usefull that makes it.

this brings up the intriguing notion that there are some problems to which there are a limited/finite (not limitless/infinte) number of solutions…do we suppose this to be true? for certain questions, does Design have its limits…no matter how ingenious we are?

it really can be used? used in rainy?