Design is the art of balancing artistic taste, functionality, and practicality. It’s not only for big things like architecture, automotive, and fashion but also all the little things around us in our daily lives, from kitchenware to stationary. LIOE Design, a standalone design workshop from Seattle, USA, focuses on the latter with its own vision and professionalism, striving to make the ordinary, extraordinary.
“I created LIOE Design so that my designs will never be filtered again.” Founder, John Lioe, says about deciding start up his own studio after working on a few projects for clients. “When I worked as a designer for other people, I felt confined and my ideas were filtered to be safe or cost-effective for production.” At Lioe Design, each product is created based on necessity — something John needs in his daily life but struggles to find in existence. John shared an example: he once kept losing scissors in random drawers, which prompted him to design a pair of functional scissors that look good enough to just leave out in the open to avoid the fuss of losing it somewhere in drawers or cabinets again and again.
Products at LIOE Design carry playful design ideas as well as mechanical aesthetics, making them outstanding. Such uniqueness is based on John’s exposure to airplanes, cars, guns, and futuristic movies seen when he was younger. John’s father was a master technician for a few key automotive manufacturers, as well as all sorts of vintage car projects. His father opened his own workshop in 1990 and John worked there as a mechanic after school and even during college. John started to fall in love with car tuning and later discovered his passion for design in high school before deciding to be an industrial designer.
However, life doesn’t always go according to plan. John attended the University of Washington and intended to apply to the Industrial Design program. Unfortunately, the department shut down as soon as John was qualified to apply, meaning he could only graduate with a BA in Arts. John then moved to San Francisco and enrolled in the Masters program of Industrial Design in the Academy of Art University, which exposed him to different areas. “In school, I was contracted by a few companies and designed a variety of products like kitchenware, gloves, and knee braces; my thesis introduced me to the tactical industry making me want to design product for the military and law enforcement.”
Though John did not start his career in automotive, planes, nor military or law enforcement, his interest in these fields is now stronger than ever, something that is reflected in his products for LIOE Design. The D-Tie Bar, for example, is an unconventionally-styled and shaped tie bar, inspired by the wings of an F-16 fighter jet, and finished in a cool gunmetal grey colour or elegant silver. The Phantom S420 Scissors boast a futuristic geometric configuration that looks more like a stylish modern sculpture. Though they’re at first unrecognizable as scissors, this gadget is still practical and supports both left- and right-handed users.
Aside from the daily-use stationery, LIOE Design also offers a few aeronautical-related products on its online shop as aviation is one of John’s greatest passions. “When I was young, I thought about becoming a fighter pilot,” he says. Such passion inspired John to also created some distinctive items like the 3D-printed skylines of Seattle and Las Vegas, and the Air Squadron Playing Cards.
LIOE Design has a library of designs waiting to be produced, and at the same time is working on some other new developments: “There will be a new version of the Air Squadron Playing Cards, and our first fountain pen,” says John. Hopefully, John’s dream gadget, a different kind of pocket knife, will be born very soon too.