In the comments to my whiny rain post this morning, commenter Super Chundy mentioned a Susan Orlean New Yorker article about umbrella design:

Hollinger's umbrella project [....] was set in motion in november of 2004, on a particularly lousy, wet day in Boston. Hollinger was walking through downtown on his way to the Chase Gallery to install his sculptures for a solo show. Ahead of him on the sidewalk was a man fighting with a tattered umbrella, which was funnelling rain onto the man's back rather than shearing it away from him. The futility and anguish of humankind's relationship with the umbrella stuck in Hollinger's mind. Later that afternoon, at the gallery, he watched as the wind punched umbrellas sideways and then bounced them off cars parked along Newbury Street. He had always liked umbrellas, and often sketched them, because he found them aesthetically interesting, but this was the first time that he considered them as dysfunctional objects that might benefit from being reinvented. Stephanie Walker, who was then the director of the gallery, was watching the umbrella massacre with him. Knowing the way Hollinger's mind works, she wasn't surprised when he emerged a month later with a new vision for an umbrella and a patent application covering dozens of mechanical improvements.

It's about the history of the umbrella and an inventor attempting to improve its design, which sort of makes it the quintessential Susan Orlean article. Read it. And now I want one of these.