George B. K. Soo of FLIQ shares his design inspirations, integrative and curiosity-driven design approach and the importance of flipping things upside down. Olha Romaniuk has the story.
George B. K. Soo, founder of design consultancy FLIQ, has a distinctive way of looking at things around him. Always in search of new perspectives and unique solutions to design challenges, Soo applies this philosophy within his practice, re-imagining brand stories and helping his clients innovate through design.
“I guess you could say that I have always been intrinsically curious about how things work,” describes Soo, on his methodology towards design, “Since I was young, I would pick things up and flip them upside down just to see how and where they were made. In fact, it is this childhood memory of flipping things around that inspired my company name – FLIQ – where the letter ‘q’ is derived by flipping the letter ‘p’ in Flip.”
The combination of curiosity about the way things work and his love of sketching made design a natural choice for Soo – he pursued industrial design as his tertiary education course.
Soo remembers being inspired by a trip to the Vitra Design Museum in Germany during the 90s as a student, “I still remember how excited I was when it came to the furniture exhibit – the variety, the technique, the subtle but distinct adaptations. I was blown away by how furniture could exist in so many forms yet be bound by fundamental elements at the core. The Panton Chair was one of the specific designs that really stood out for me – a chair that could be made to appear standing “without legs.” He attributes the trip to being one of the defining moments of his career as a budding furniture designer.
After working as a furniture designer and holding various positions encompassing service and sales, Soo felt it was time to combine his experiences to establish his own company, offering interior and furniture design services. As a creative strategist for the projects at FLIQ, Soo collaborates with several core external partners in the manufacturing and building components of the company’s work and maintains an extended team of graphic designers, interior designers and craftsmen.
Soo’s lifelong habit of flipping things and looking at objects from different perspectives comes across in FLIQ’s spatial and furniture designs. For example, Soo designed the GROVER&JONES furniture set to have multi-faceted faces, so the furniture pieces can be used from multiple sides, as surfaces to sit on and to lean against for quick discussions.
For The Secret Mermaid, Fliq was involved in the interior, as well as furniture design. Soo’s approach to design always begins with a business purpose and building a story around it. “The story is the essence for all other aspects to follow,” says Soo, “As an example, The Secret Mermaid is a project where the brief was to create a salad bar by day and a hidden whisky bar by night. FLIQ helped create a sense of mystery and a twist in the mermaid myth through our design interpretation.”
To achieve this, Soo and his team designed a closed door frontage at night to emphasise the element of a ‘hidden’ bar and incorporated their own visual representation of the mythical mermaid: the branding for The Secret Mermaid turned the traditional portrait of a female upper body and a fish’s lower body the other way around. The theme was also extended into one of FLIQ’s original furniture pieces, the Trident bar stool that uses a three-prong design for structural support.
Using an integrative approach for all aspects of design, Soo combines components of branding, interior, product and furniture design to tell a story. For many of his projects, he uses bespoke furniture pieces that are customised around a design concept to contribute to the overall experience.
With a number of upcoming projects on his drawing boards, including ventures into new categories of niche custom furniture, Soo remains passionate about solutions-driven and aesthetically inspired design. “My design philosophy is simply that design must not be for design’s sake,” concludes Soo, “FLIQ’s ambition reflects the origins of our name: looking at new perspectives to enhance the experience and functionality in products, and to improve lives sustainably through design.”