DESIGNER and inventor John Cornock, 50, is the creator of an anti-stab safety knife which was praised in a Sunday Times interview given by Dr John Crichton, chairman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland. The R-shaped tip of the knife hampers penetration of clothing and flesh. John, who is also a product design manager, lives in West Swindon and is married to Elizabeth, a market researcher. The couple have three children and two grandchildren.

THE advice of an inspirational teacher is at least partly responsible for the creation of the knife recently hailed by an eminent psychiatrist as a potential life-saver.

John Cornock grew up in Chester, the son of a housewife and a businessman who repaired and restored cars.

“I inherited strong artistic skills from my father,” said John, “and it was actually my art teacher who gave me the idea to get into product design, because I was at school and didn’t really know what I wanted to do.”

John had been considering training as a commercial illustrator, but the art teacher’s suggestion, coupled with his own knowledge of his father’s business and love of innovation, changed his mind.

The teacher told him a story of product designer friend who came up with an idea to improve the efficiency of scaffolding. The patent proved so successful that the man was effectively able to retire.

“I can never forget my art teacher saying that in product design you can have an idea for something you can licence for somebody else to make – and if you get it right you can live off the proceeds," he said.

There are other motives for John in addition to commercial ones, though.

He acknowledges that if the products he designs have something in common, it is that they are intended to improve people’s lives and ward off the risk of chaos.

Kitchen items he has designed, for example, include a multi-purpose device incorporating chopping boards and places to keep equipment, herbs and spices to hand and in order.

Another device prevents pans from boiling over and also makes the contents easier to inspect: “Some pans have vents that don’t really work, and also kitchens are becoming smaller.”

The ultimate aim of the devices is to reduce the risk of injury and inconvenience.

Then there’s another idea, not long out of the design stage – a new kind of baby bottle. Details have yet to be announced.

“It’s something that nobody has ever done before. I’ve got two grandchildren now, and it was seeing my daughter struggling with a particular aspect of a feeding bottle that gave me the idea. It’s something I’m just writing a patent for at the moment,” he said.

John’s three daughters can also take some of the credit for the knife design which put him in the national news recently.

He created it in 2005 and it has been selling steadily, especially to educational and healthcare organisations, ever since.

The genesis of the New Point knife came when his wife, worrying about the presence of so many potentially lethal blades in a house where children lived, challenged him to come up with something safer.

The resulting design is intended to be all but useless as a weapon and far less likely than an ordinary blade to cause injury or worse in an accident. The knives are used in a variety of environments, including school cookery classes where the risk of injury through carelessness must be minimised, and among healthcare providers helping people who might otherwise be a danger to themselves and others.

“There have been some comments from people saying how happy they are with the design.”

John recalls an especially heartening one from an organisation which helped patients learn life skills, but which had had to abandon cookery classes because the conventional knives meant accidents were too much of a risk.

Thanks to the blade John designed, the classes could resume.

There are critics, but according to John they fail to understand the main purpose of the blades.

“We’ve had a lot of people saying it’s ridiculous because if people wanted to cause damage they’d just have to grind a point back, but that’s missing the point – forgive the pun," he said.

“The whole design principle is to prevent accidents from happening – and also spontaneous attacks by people who have temper, drug or medical issues.

“If somebody is going to take the time to find whatever is needed to grind a point, then by that time most people would have calmed down.

“If you’re going to go to that trouble, you’ll find another type of weapon.”

John believes in designing each of his products from the ground up, starting with physical sketches and progressing to computer-aided design.

He would like to see more people become involved in product design – and for there to be greater awareness, including among certain manufacturing and marketing companies, of what product design entails.

For John, it means being directly involved from the earliest stages to the final detailing.

“Even now, most people see it as creating pretty products – as taking a product which already works and making it look nice," he said.

“The true definition is taking a product from its very initial concept and looking at every aspect.”