Well-intended, but Misinformed Designers

Interesting to find this exhibited at MoMA.

A product that is intended to …

provide its wearer with confidence
and a subtle tool for self-defense

"When not used for defense, the ring folds in on itself, taking the form of an elegant stack of

three shapes. By Amanda Knox, Kim Hoffmann and Sara Shaughnessy."

The Subtle Safetyâ„¢ Defensive Ring (patent pending)*


*> The Subtle Safetyâ„¢ Defensive Ring Disclaimer
Our Subtle Safetyâ„¢ jewelry is not intended to be used as a weapon or as an aggressive device; rather it is meant to provide its wearer with confidence and a subtle tool for self-defense. Any other use of our Subtle Safetyâ„¢ jewelry is not recommended and can cause harm to its wearer or any third-party. RedStart Design LLC disclaims all other warranties and will not be liable for any injuries or damages resulting from improper use of our Subtle Safetyâ„¢ jewelry. By purchasing our products, you agree to these limitations.

Call them what you like; by any other name they are still Brass Knuckles. and are patently (no pun intended) illegal. And if by “subtle tool”, the implication is that they are not visibly, or obviously, a weapon, then the are considered a concealed weapon.

The marketing of this product is misleading in that, by itself, this ‘ring’ is not going to ward off an attack unless the wearer is properly trained to respond to one, may (as disclaimed) actually injure the wearer, and more dangerously, may instill a false sense of secuity.

While this product is well-intentioned, and would seem to have some merit with regard to added personal safety (for women), these designers have unwittingly set up their themselves, a manufacturer, and all subsequent purchasers of this product to break the law.

In the State of California, the manufacture, and sale of “metal knuckles” is illegal.

State of California
SECTION 12020-12040

  1. (a) Any person in this state who does > any of the following
    is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year
    or in the state prison:
    (1) Manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the
    state, keeps for sale, or offers or exposes for sale, or who gives,
    lends, or possesses any cane gun or wallet gun, any undetectable
    firearm, any firearm which is not immediately recognizable as a
    firearm, any camouflaging firearm container, any ammunition which
    contains or consists of any flechette dart, any bullet containing or
    carrying an explosive agent, any ballistic knife, any multiburst
    trigger activator, any nunchaku, any short-barreled shotgun, any
    short-barreled rifle, > any metal knuckles > …

State of California
SECTION 12020-12040

(7) As used in this section, “metal knuckles” means any device or
instrument made wholly or partially of metal which is worn for
purposes of offense or defense in or on the hand and which either
protects the wearer’s hand while striking a blow or increases the
force of impact from the blow or injury to the individual receiving
the blow. The metal contained in the device may help support the
hand or fist, provide a shield to protect it, or consist of
projections or studs which would contact the individual receiving a

Not only is it illegal, it’s a frou frou one-liner for frou frou “discussion” and exhibition. That’s why the designers couldn’t distill the reality that this has already been done before, can be bought in the hood, and is illegal. When you surround yourself with people who think, look, act, talk, walk and design like you, “critical thinking,” is a token phrase.

so the only thing that makes brass knuckles illegal is the fact that they are made entirely or partially out of metal? whats to keep some one from making the same thing out of a plastic or carbon. by this definition those would be legal.

I think they’re rather nifty. Just one problem, someting so small will break the fingers they’re on before any substantial damage or distraction can be inflicted.

That being said…nice false sense of security. I’d rather see you throw a handfull of pennies at someone, scream bloddy hell, kick 'em in the ding-ding and run away.

Oh, I forgot about the law breaking part. Substantial felony. Even the potential use is a felony.

If you were to hit someone with those on, I suspect you’d break your metacarpal bones - they seem very thin, like they would simply dig in.

You’d definitely rip the skin on your knuckles, and just piss off your attacker if you have no fight training and then you’ll seriously get effed up. Nothing like a fake weapon to make someone bold enough to lose all common sense and get hurt.
Brass knuckles work well because of the part that sits in your palm, that’s where you are taking the brunt of the blow, in the heel of your hand. The fingers rest loosely in the rings, no pressure is going directly to your fingers. The heel of your hand is a “safe” place to hit someone with, go for the nose if you’re in danger and run like hell right after. You won’t risk breaking anything in your hands. An untrained fighter trying to hit hard with a closed fist is just asking for a shattered hand and sprained wrist. I don’t think they consulted with any martial artists for this concept at all or actually put it on and hit something with it. Sounds more like one of those “last minute” add-in features someone saw during crit and then they said…uh yeah…I meant for it to do that.
Test: Interlock your straightend fingers with a buddy next to you then squeeze them together using your thumb for the external pressure and see what type of pain they’ll be in (you too most likely). That’s what those things will do to you upon impact and worse.

interesting discussion.

because they look so much like the real thing (albeit the pretty version), they almost invite problems. that subway shot is like, “try me, sucker, and i’ll f you up.” yeah right. it makes the wearer look like a punk ass.

anyway, they’re ugly; punk rock leftovers. speaking of which, ten years ago, my rebelling younger sister tried to get on a plane with all her metal jewelery, including a spiked color and studded belt, and she couldn’t make it through the metal detector. they made her leave everything in the bin. i bet you couldn’t take this “ring” onto a plane.

Those don’t look like they’d offer any support for the strike. What’s dangerous about brass knuckles, is the impact is partially absorbed by the device, and not the hand directly.

If you held a roll of pennies in your hand, or put your car keys inbetween your fingers, those seem more dangerous. I don’t get how these are any more dangerous than any other ring you would wear.

This is an interesting thread in that it is a Product Liability case waiting to happen. It also illustrates how we, as designers, can be affected by the users of our ‘creations’ in ways that we can not control.

It is fairly obvious that the women who ‘designed’ this object conceived it as ‘jewelry’ and had never used it for it’s intended purpose; a weapon. Had they done proper product testing they would have, in all probability, sustained an injury to themselves that would have lead them to another iteration of the design.

As noted, by others above, it is the mass and a rigid frame encircling the fingers that increases the force of a blow to an adversary, and protects the user’s hand. This ‘Subtle Safety Defense Ring’ does neither. In fact, the thin material from which it is constructed increases the pressure applied against the fingers.

So, aside from a well-intended, but poorly researched product (we may allow that if the ‘designers’ were aware that the product was illegal to make, or possess, they would neither have produced nor sold it) who is responsible for what here?

The designers; manufacture, export, and sale of an illegal weapon. Misunderstanding of the physics involved in the use and application of the weapon which would (most likely) result in harm to the user.

The Customer; purchase, possession, and use of a prohibited weapon.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York; was not aware, failed to determine, or ignored, the importation, promotion, and sale of an illegal weapon. Did purchasers of this ring, at the MoMA store (where it is offered) believe that it was a legal device BECAUSE it was offered for sale in a ‘legitimate’ venue?

Who owes who, what?
***** Charges should be pressed against the designers and manufacturers?
***** All sales of the SSDR by the manufacture, to MoMA, should be refunded?
***** MoMA should seek out the purchasers of this product, notify them of the ‘status’ of the ring as a weapon, and refund the money?
***** Or, just forget about this whole discussion, say nothing, continue to manufacture and sell the SSDR, and hope that no one gets seriously injured by it?

They contradict themselves in their own quote. It says that it’s “not intended to be used as a weapon or as an aggressive device…” implying it’s not a weapon. Then it says it provide’s it’s wearer with confidence and a subtle tool for self-defense. A tool for self defense becomes a weapon by it’s use. A crobar is just a tool that turns into a weapon when you crack someone over the head with it. But as shown earlier, it isn’t a very effective weapon so it’s providing it’s wearer with a false confidence.
-Do they mean that the user will be more confident thinking that they have a weapon, so that self-confidence will be seen and prevent them from being attacked…and that “increased confidence” IS the subtle tool for self-defense that they speak of? That’s about as close as they could get to try to get away with that statement.

Next they say that any other use is not recommended and can cause harm to it’s wearer. What “any other use” is there? It’s not a weapon, and it is a tool transformable into a weapon for self defense. It’s a pretty vague statement that pretty much covers everything, so how is it possible to be used any other way? They say that you may get hurt using it, not very confidence inspiring in a tool that’s supposed to give you confidence in an attack.

There’s no such thing as a subtle tool for self-defense, it works or it doesn’t. There are makeshift tools for self-defense which you may get away with using if your life is on the line like a belt, pen, high-heeled shoe, etc, but this tool has that intent “pre-meditated” to put in a weird way that you’ll see where I’m going with it. It’s part of the products advertisement + description.

The best thing to do in my opinion if you want to do something like this, is to just design the product first to do what it’s supposed to do, then explore ways it can be used as a makeshift weapon and have that potential use mapped out and fully designed. My quick design solution to this particular product:
-Most streetfighters I’ve seen, knowing they’re about to get in a fight will take any rings they have on their fingers off to keep from hurting themselves.
-Use that knowledge to explore why people would take off nice hard diamond tipped knuckles which would make for good weapons. It digs into their fingers making them unable to punch again, hurts themselves, etc…
-Design a set of rings with a rubber inner layer that is designer for “comfort” and flexibility of finger sizes (swelling, etc.). The comfort part is tested to make sure that upon impact, or hand-shaking, etc…that non of the metal will smash against the users fingers. Then you leave it at that. They will be good make-shift self defense tools that won’t damage the user. But you can’t advertise that, that’s when you make it a weapon. Just give promos to prominant martial artists, writers, etc… and let them “discover” it’s hidden potential. You put in your disclaimer that they are just “comfort” rings and are intended for no other purpose… but you test it to make sure it will make for a good defense tool if it’s used for that purpose and get it into the hands of people that will find that out for themselves and let them advertise it.
It’s potential martial use or benefit should be discovered by the user by accident, or be visible to the trained eye, without it being obvious. There are plenty of items like that, roll of quarters, “rat-tail” combs, having every key you’ve ever owned on your keychain, rope belts, Cold Steel’s “survival shovel” with the sharpened edges (that came from it scraping the ground shoveling snow away from your tires of course, wink).

Here’s a freebie to all the core readers. I’ve been on this one way before bourne identity brought it to the big screen. My preferred thumbnail quick sketching pen is an excellent makeshift defense tool that I keep on me at all times. The Sanford Uniball Micro has a nice metal tip good for tight detail sketching and self defense. Hold it in your hand like a handlebar, point facing down, thumb on the back. Use your hand like you’re naturally inclined to do and just block the punches with your closed fist with the penpoint sticking out. Anyone punching at you will punch the sharp point of the pen and it will easily penetrate their skin and go deeply into their fist. After doing that once or twice they absolutely will not try to hit you again and will be in too much pain to want to do much of anything else to you while you make your escape.

I’m heading to Duane Reade RIGHT NOW to pick up a Sanford Uniball Micro!!!

So, do you, fellow designers and designerettes, ever think about your responsibility to the end user(s) of your product(s) be it is a new coffee machine, a computer peripheral, or a tennis shoe?

Every morning in the ‘Business’ section of our local newspaper there is published a ‘ConsumerAlert’ which listed recalled products.

This morning there were several products;

An electric barbeque ‘smoker’ that was manufactured with a double ‘male’ ended power cord; creating an electricla shock hazard if one end is plugged into the wall but the other end isn’t.

An oscillating, electric space-heater that wears through internal wiring, as it swings back and forth, creating a short circuit and potential fire hazard.

A traveler’s ‘Safety Kit’ offered by L.L. Bean which includes a battery-less flashlight which creates electricity by a magnet sliding back and forth through a copper coil, which charges a capacitor. The flashlight functions perfectly; the problem being that the magnet adversely affects the compass included with the kit rendering it unreliable. More insidiously, it is also possible (again, according to the recall notice) that the magnet is powerful enough to affect a heart patient’s implanted defibrillator.

And finally (today anyway), a Hospital-Grade Humidifier used to warm oxygen that patients breath was found to harbor the bacterium ralstonia; three cases of infection, and one unconfirmed death.

So …

As designers, how much research and testing do we do?

As designers, do we become personally involved in elements of testing, or just react when something needs ‘tweeking?’

Should testing be as much of a ‘design function’ as the creative end of product development?

I don’t know about you all, but I would feel pretty bad if someone were injured, or worse, if something that I ‘designed’ was responsible for it.

This was for a conceptual exhibit on safety at the MoMA… CONCEPTUAL being the operating word here. Wow.

Well, there is certainly nothing conceptual or abstract about this product, it is FOR SALE at the MoMA on-line store, in Sterling Silver, no less: $75.

Wow!, would be an understatement. Gotta wonder if MoMA would sell, oh I dunno, let’s say, a zip-gun if it were ‘cute’ enough. Or maybe, Subtle Safety Defensive Ninja Throwing Star Coasters.


I think ideally you would want to test for potential abuses of your designed product to try to fix a problem before it happens. If you don’t, some shady lawyer will when they try to find a way to misuse your design and sue the company for it. Unfortunately, I don’t think the majority of id’ers get to have that type of say and others in the organization will push it through and just have a lawyer come up with the proper verbage to protect them from misuse.
One of the most insane cases I heard of was of a lawnmower company having to put in their literature that it wasn’t to be used overhead for trimming hedges. 2 guys previously did that, got maimed, sued and won. A designer might try to design preventative measures into the next mower but it would probably be cheaper to add words to the disclaimer, so that’s what gets done.

Skinny, good insight. My friend just bought a new cellphone and the manual says, in big letters, “Do not put in microwave.” Too bad that it’s come down to this :cry:

Not sure why this is so shocking. They also sell Tobi Wong’s bullet-proof sweater pin. Are you worried someone might buy that and try to use it in place of a bulletproof vest? It’s called art, relax.

“conceptual” “art” makers probably don’t go for patents.

it’s an absurd project.