An alternative to metal handcuffs for use in mental health institutions. The design focuses on comfort and dignity, originating from the realisation that, although restraint of patients is necessary in some situations, traditional handcuffs are harmful to people’s mental and physical wellbeing.

I aimed to prevent cuts and self-harm while providing a secure restraint, also setting the goal or removing the implications associated to traditional handcuffs used by police officers, such as patients feeling like they are being put at the same level as criminals.


MEng Design Engineering


User Research/Testing

Brand Identity, Prototyping


Design Engineering, Branding





Although Soft Cuffs was developed as an individual concept, they are part of a bigger team project which consisted in creating a brand and designing concepts which could fit within its scope.

Qualm is a brand that aims to reduce the risk of authorities using excessive force, while improving people’s perception of police officers and other authorities to create a safer environment and increase trust between them. Therefore, the products to be developed focused on the dignity of the person being arrested and the perception of the people witnessing the arrest.


We carried out research by meeting with police officers and guards. This allowed us to gain valuable insights based on real experiences on the issues that arise during communication between authorities and citizens. For Soft Cuffs, I focused on the following issues that arose from my research around the use of mechanical restraints in mental health institutions.


Metal handcuffs cause injuries and leave room for self-harm.


Traditional restraints often cause patients to relive trauma.


Surveys show patients often feel they are being treated as criminals.


Taking these insights as my starting point, I decided to explore how to make mechanical restraints in hospitals less intimidating and aggressive.

Ideation exploring more human restraints

Final product concept to be prototyped

The final result was a zip-tie based mechanical restraint with a soft lining and neutral colours. The mechanism would make it easy and quick to restrain the patient as one would only have to pull from the straps, while the soft materials would greatly reduce the risk of cuts or self-harm. The less intimidating design aims to make the experience more human and less humiliating or triggering for the patient.


This is the final prototype of Soft Cuffs, mainly focused on the visual design as it is the most important aspect of the product. Apart from improving my rapid prototyping skills, this project allowed me to learn sewing!

Read the full design proposal document below to find out about validation feedback, business model and other technical things!

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