A Beach Umbrella that Uses the Sun’s Energy to Cool You Off

I have a fairly large patio behind my house that is in direct sunlight from about 11:00 in the morning until about 6:00 in the evening. It gets a little toasty during the summer months, and while I have a patio umbrella, the umbrella doesn’t do much more than provide shade. Wouldn’t it be great if when the umbrella was extended, it could do more? Something like provide energy that could be used for a variety of things. Apparently Sammontana, Italy’s leading gelato, and frozen treats brand thought the same thing, so they teamed up with the international design and innovation firm CRA-Carla Ratti Associati to design a beach umbrella that uses solar energy to do just that.

The umbrella features an unfolding photovoltaic array that generates electric power which is then used to do things like charging your device, or run a refrigeration system. Designed in collaboration with the proponent of “transformable design” Chuck Hoberman and inspired by aerospace technologies the umbrella strives to transform how we think about products and multifunctional design. The first prototypes of the beach umbrella will be showcased in the city center of Milan, Italy, from June 12th at BAM-Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano Park.

The beach umbrella opens like a work of origami or in a similar fashion to the solar systems on NASA spacecraft. At 2.5 meters high (8.2 feet) and a diameter of 3.2 meters (10.5 feet), the foldable photovoltaic panels on top of the umbrella absorb sunlight from the whole hemisphere and convert it into electricity, powering coolers and nebulizers underneath. In particular, for Sammontana, a mini-refrigerator allows them to keep gelato and drinks cool even during the warmest hours of the day. Electric power from either one or multiple umbrellas can be pooled together to power a large ice-cream refrigerator. The modular system is conceived to be scalable, bringing clean energy to larger public areas.

“Can we use the power of the abundant summer sunshine to make our holiday experience more sustainable?” says Carlo Ratti, founder of CRA and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The design concept of this project starts from using the sun to produce electricity to cool the space under the umbrella – and then scale it up to provide power to any beach resort. We are delighted that Sammontana invited us to develop this project, as both our organizations share a strong commitment to environmental values and human wellbeing.”

Since 2016, Sammontana has initiated a process to reduce the environmental impact of its production activities, inspired by the principles put forward in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The program features an assessment and compensation of the CO2eq of the Sammontana products as well as a choice of the most advanced packaging solutions. 

A prototype of the beach umbrella will be exhibited from June 12th to August 8th, 2021 at BAM-Biblioteca Degli Alberi Milano Park, which is an initiative of the Riccardo Catella Foundation. The installation, located in the fashionable Porta Nuova district of Italy’s design capital, creates a lounge area that can be accessed by the public free of charge, as with all the initiatives of the BAM cultural program. The project is showcased both in the stand-alone mode and in an aggregated form – featuring eleven beach umbrellas powering a refrigerator.

The Milanese test will serve as the first step to evaluate how the innovation process might accelerate and potentially be brought to Italy’s 4,970 miles coastline, promoting a more sustainable approach to summer leisure.

Grommet Doesn’t Sell Boring

Grommet is a company I’ve never heard of, but after watching their brand launch video I definitely intend to check them out. Why? Because according to the video below they don’t sell boring stuff.

The in-house creative team at Grommet approached Tom Allen, co-founder, and CD at design and animation studio Buff Motion in Brighton, England to produce an animated promotional video to launch their new brand. The result is a fun little short that highlights some of the products they sell.

The goal was to develop a piece of content that would promote the platform, widen Grommet’s audience and introduce their current followers to a fresh new look. I think they nailed it. There is a nice use of color, typography, simple animations, and a solid voice-over that brings the entire package together while highlighting some of the product lines. And the shapes used seem to play off of the new Grommet logo. I say “new” because I’m not sure what the old logo looked like. This is a really nice promo that gets the message across without beating you over the head with what they are advertising. OK, time to check out the Grommet online store.

TRIPWIRE Daydream

I often step back when I see an ad and ask myself “What do you think the pitch was like when presenting to the client?” This ad for Tripwire is one of those ads. The 60-second spot takes the viewer on a trippy little adventure, and the payoff doesn’t arrive until the very end.


I’m not saying the ad is bad, in fact, the production value is top-notch, and once you get to the end of the piece and realize what is going on it works. I’m just wondering how the team sold this concept to the marketing department at an IT / Data Security software company, and what the pitch deck would have looked like.

Agency: PMG
ECD: Kyle Kelley
ECD: Andrew Harper
ACD: Lori Wittig – lori.wittig@pmg.com
ACD: Justin Prichard
Writer: Benjy Joung
AD: Kevin Yurasovich

Camp Lucky
Director: Adam Littke
EP: Brandon Tapp
Producer: Elizabeth Spiva
Editor: Logan Hefflefinger
Assistant Editor/Junior VFX: Jake Odgers
Graphic Artist: Seth Olson
Color: Neil Anderson
Audio: Scottie Richardson
Finish: Mark Sullivan
EP: Jessica Berry

Nipponpaint Automotive “LOOP”

Director/animator Kakeru Mizui has created an animated short for the Nippon Paint Automotive Coatings division that develops new paint colors for the company. I’m not going to claim to understand the logic behind this. It’s titled “Loop” and is being presented as a “brand film”. I don’t get the brand part of it, and that’s OK. Maybe it’s something that is getting lost in cultural translation between my American Brain, and his Japanese creativity. None the less it is a wonderful animated short that feels heavily influenced by the late illustrator Charlie Harper. It also has some 1980s color pallets and gradients going on which pair nicely with the illustrative style of the animals and other nature elements. Does it make me want to buy paint from Nippon Paint Automotive Coatings? No. It does however have me watching this for the third time now.