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Could The Design Of The Umbrella Be About To Change?

Umbrellas have been around for thousands of years, but it’s fair to say that the design has stayed the same - could this be about to change?

Not only that, the design does have a number of flaws that still frustrate people today - umbrellas have a tendency to poke people in the eye, they’re also clumsy to open and generally useless on a windy day.

That said, the humble umbrella dates back thousands of years and could be considered one of the design classic of modern times. Their appearance has been documented throughout history and popular culture, and their popularity shows no signs of abating - Amazon currently stocks over 5,000 individual umbrella models and in China, one city has the capability to manufacture 500 million umbrellas in a year thanks to more than 1,000 dedicated factories.

So their popularity is higher than ever, but are umbrellas set for a design upgrade?

Several designers and creatives around the world think so. Justin Nagelberg from New York believes we’ll be using completely different umbrella styles in 20 years’ time. He has created a unique design for his brand of umbrellas labelled ‘Sa’ - a structure that takes its ideas from origami. Nagelberg believes the biggest change in umbrella design will be in materials however, making brollies generally easier to carry and close.

Other new umbrella designs include the ‘Drop’ from UK designer Ayca Dundar. Her umbrella is made from just six parts and is therefore much easier to repair if something breaks; an attempt to move us away from the ‘disposable’ attitude of so many in the modern world. She comments that the durability of modern umbrellas needs to be the defining factor in any redesign.

Size is also a key component however, with many commuters struggling to carry a large clumsy umbrella on public transport for example. "Nobody wants to carry a really big umbrella when they're handling their baggage," Dundar says. "They don't want to carry large items when they are in bars or on public transport. That's why they're making the mechanical structures on modern umbrellas really portable and small."

One Japanese company has gone so far as to completely remove the material element of the umbrella - the ‘Air Umbrella’ shoots up a jet of warm air that deflects rain before it can hit the user’s head. A fantastic and unique approach to the problem, the Air Umbrella is still in development at this time.

Despite all these new options coming through the pipeline, is there still a place for the classic umbrella design? Justin Nagelberg thinks so. "The standard umbrella is a really good design and I love it," says Nagelberg. "People are very attached to it. But there is a kind of re-imagining going on."

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