Currently residing in Matera, Italy, Sean Yoo was born in Seoul and raised in Los Angeles, making him emblematic of the multi-cultural, globally fluent designers of his generation. His first career was as a city planner, but a visit to the Noguchi Museum in New York inspired him to pursue design. "I was particularly attracted to the way Noguchi applied sculptural qualities to common household objects," says Yoo. "It seemed to give meaning and purpose to otherwise meaningless objects."
Yoo immediately enrolled in the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, graduating in 2000 with a degree in industrial design. After a successful debut at the 2001 Salone Satellite in Milan, he and Angela Tarasco launched their studio, Apt 5 Design. Yoo's work embodies versatility, with projects ranging from a compact bed and desk unit designed for a South Central Los Angeles housing project to Opus Shelving, a recyclable shelving unit that was inspired by a repeating pattern he noticed in the ruins of Pompeii. "I don't think I intentionally try to design multifaceted work. It's not that I don't respect traditional typologies, but I've never really been afraid to mix it up a bit," explains Yoo. "I grew up in a rough part of L.A. with mostly other immigrant kids, so it was never a big deal to learn, adapt and incorporate different cultural values as a part of my own. We all spoke at least one other language besides English and had to learn to be flexible and versatile to cope with culture clash at home and in the streets."
That multi-cultural sensibility has continually informed and inspired Yoo's work. Upon relocating to Italy, he found a supportive and open environment for design, one that embraces a global perspective. In 2002, he became the first non-Italian to win the prestigious Concorso Young & Design Award at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, and in 2006, his work was selected by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Affairs and the Design Museum of Milan to be included in the I.DoT (Italian Design on Tour) 2006-2007.