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I selected a problem area we all deal with: rain. People have been dealing with it for eons, but it can still ruin your day. There is much to be desired that a product could solve.
Step one: fill the wall with ideas. Then find the good ones.
We’re selling on campus so I decided to focus on a female college student as a specific target market. My friend Hayley let me shadow her for a few days: observing, taking notes and trying to empathize with her needs. I soon found that her hands were always working at their limit. She often employed elbows and shoulders to get things done. This became my inspiration to design an ergonomic umbrella that wouldn’t occupy either of her hands.
A hands free umbrella became the focus of my efforts. Keeping the standard use of an umbrella is important. I tried many diverse solutions but this concept made the most sense. A simple ergonomic form.
With an adjustable PVC model and several rounds of foam models, I began to hone in on the perfect ergonomic handle. Testing across all heights, I was able to precisely measure the ideal form that compromises and fits anyone.
You can securely hold an umbrella by fitting the two orange curves between ones underarm and elbow crook. Curving the contact points, allow minor adjustment which means anyone can find a comfortable placement.
With the ergonomic constraints in place, I coaxed out a form that complements the function. Closing off the two arms helped people understand how to hold it greatly.
Using a Shopbot, I cut out the profile of the cork and plywood to build 30 units. I assembled the parts and then used a table router to apply a full round and then everything is sealed with danish oil. Two steel pins secure the handle to the umbrella.
A kraft paper tube forms the packaging for all 30 umbrellas. It is screen printed with a lively and youthful logo and a simple infographic showing the methods of use.
This position appears unorthodox at first, but the same method is employed naturally by women everyday, just like I saw with Hayley.
The unique handle design allows the umbrella 4 main functions

1 Hands free getting it from A to B
2 Standard umbrella; no harm done
3 Hands free in the rain.
4 Hangs on any table edge to dry
The ASU Design Store was held on a warm rainy day in December (I got lucky) and I made a little chunk of change selling off my entire stock.
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Hands Free Umbrella

By studying and working closely with my target market, I designed an ergonomic hands free umbrella. Using elbow grease, I built and sold 30 units at the student Design Store at Appalachian State University.

Nate McCracken
Industrial Designer at Revision Raleigh, NC