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The Designers Working on Improving Umbrellas

Umbrella design is one of the most recognisable shapes in the world. We’ve all had countless numbers of brollies throughout our lives, yet there’s not many that we actually remember. More than 5,000 models are on sale on Amazon and now young designers are trying to use new technology to reinvent them.


They in come in many sizes, colours and price brackets from cheap to expensive but the key thing we think we know about the umbrella is that they don't change. We think about an umbrella and only one image pops to our mind.

The most typical brolly with foldable steel ribs under the canopy, was first designed in 1852. The smaller compact models are on sale since the 1930s and the larger golf  umbrella since the 1970s.

Plastic cheap umbrellas, sometimes see-through, are available in most convenience shops in the UK.  We see big umbrellas sheltering heads of government and state, while beaches are full of large parasols in the summer.

Brollies have their classic shapes and most things that could be done to improve them have already been thought of. But designers are looking at evolving the umbrella further to create the best umbrella ever.

Creator of Sa umbrellas, Justin Nagelberg, thinks that the right materials are the key. His umbrella was inspired by the cheap disposable umbrellas for sale in Tokyo, where Nagelberg spent time studying. It is designed to be able to return to its original shape if blown inside out by the wind.

UK based designer Ayca Dundar invented the Drop, a pop-up canopy version made from just six parts. She had the environmental impact of all the cheap umbrellas thrown away each year in mind. The Drop brolly is easy to repair, meaning that when a single component breaks the whole thing does not necessarily have to be replaced.

Dundar agrees with Nagelberg that "durability" will continue to be the most important consideration when re-inventing umbrellas.

There’s also the Senz umbrella designed by Gerwin Hoogendoorn. It has a lop-sided shape which means it is more aerodynamic.

Let’s also not forget about one of the best examples of innovation: the Blunt Umbrella.

Kiwi engineer Greig Brebner, while living in the UK, got fed up with being poked in the eye by umbrella spikes ( he’s very tall) so he set out to re-designing the mechanisms and create a soft edged, strong product that can handle seriously wild weather. And he succeeded. Blunt umbrellas seem to tick all the boxes- it looks sleek, withholds the strongest winds and is durable.

It seems that even though we thought the cheap umbrella design couldn’t be improved. There’s some success. Some of the umbrellas look a bit strange but the designers are still working and innovating.

"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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