Umbrella Possibilities

No doubt, the umbrella has evolved over time into a successful, functional personal accessory that works well in keeping rain off. In a driving rain accompanied by a powerful wind, an umbrella may turn inside out, or fail to keep one’s dress or pants dry. But it generally works well, and the latest compact designs – small enough to fit in a large jacket pocket – may cost as little as $10. Yet it is my hobby to think up alternative ways of solving problems, and this may lead me to propose strange plausible designs or to come up with elaborately-detailed, flawed concepts intended merely as jokes.

I like to feel that even though a product has locked into a specific shape and form, and become stylish and traditional over time, other design possibilities may exist “out there” that could fill an empty niche. Some of my designs might be impractical under circumstances of normal usage. While my necktie which doubles as a screw-off umbrella is a possible product, it would feel heavy when worn around the neck.

Two of my designs, published in 1983, became products many years later. One can now purchase a colorful umbrella hat, and in 2005 BusinessWeek magazine awarded a Bronze Design Award for an inflatable umbrella with a hand pump that looks similar to my design published 22 years earlier.

Visit Steven M. Johnson at his website.


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The man who introduced the umbrella from Europe to England started a fashion trend and quickly became the enemy of cabbies, who had fewer customers ducking into cabs to escape the rain. He was eventually run over by a hansom cab and killed.
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Frau: You asked if I claimed that I designed the original Umbrella Hat. I need to be careful in how I word my posts, thanks! What I meant to say was that working alone in the 1970s and 80s, long before Internet search engines were available, I came up with a comical and ludicrous design for an awkward hat that is an umbrella and it was published in a book 1983. Later on, I saw a commercial product that was a colorful hat that folded out as an umbrella. In fact only last week I noticed our post office delivery person wearing such a hat to keep the sun off her head.
My work should perhaps be called INVENTING CAN BE FUN. It is a process that I pursue for no commercial purpose, and so I am not competing with anyone, nor searching files of the U.S. Patent Office nor scouring Google Images to get ideas. Occasionally, of course, I will come up with something others have thought of, as you point out, many years in the past! Thanks!
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