Skip to Main Content
of desiGn

Yong Hee Yoo Evolves and Reimagines His Career

By Thaddeus Mast

May 4, 2023

Yong Hee Yoo
Distinct MDes + MBA Dual-Degree Program Positions Industrial Designer For a Future Beyond Product Design, UI, and UX

At each step of his path to the precipice of graduation and the beginning of his career, Yong Hee Yoo (MDes + MBA 2023) found himself asking questions about what direction he wanted to go.

Born in Korea, Yoo and his family moved to Guatemala when he was four years old, where he stayed until coming to the Midwest to study industrial design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. But the longer that Yoo stayed in the program, the more that he didn’t want to design products for a factory floor.

“In my last year [at UIUC], I started talking with my mentor about the perception of what I want to do in the future, but I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing. [My mentor] said that there’s a graduate program at Illinois Institute of Technology—the Institute of Design—with good courses that go toward the path I want to lead into,” Yoo says.

Yoo wanted to work in human-centered design, focusing on user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design at UIUC, Yoo enrolled at ID.

His internship at Yahoo!, where he focused on expanding user experience for an email service, provided him with a glimpse of what UX and UI work entailed. That was also when Yoo began to question if that was the future he wanted.

“I wanted to go toward digital design,” Yoo says. “After a year at ID working on UI and UX, I thought that I didn’t really want to do that.”

I wanted to design strategies and work with people and businesses. It all led to user research.
—Yong Hee Yoo

The decision to switch from digital interfacing to interacting with clients in order to holistically understand user and product interaction came only months before graduation. Yoo trashed job applications and canceled interviews for a career in UI after he realized his new aspiration.

I want to understand what people are really doing in order to improve products in the future. I’m very passionate about public speaking and talking with others—understanding the struggles, thinking, and doing of people in a system.
—Yong Hee Yoo

Yoo is now set on a path to user research—but he wanted to ground his ideas, so he pursued a Master of Business Administration through Illinois Tech’s Stuart School of Business to further understand how his ideas would work in a business environment.

“Having a background in business allows me to understand what’s viable and feasible, adoptable and profitable. It grounds me,” Yoo says.

While Yoo has reset his career path, he plans to stay in Chicago, especially after making connections with professionals through events such as recruitID. “The amount of opportunities in Chicago is pretty much unparalleled, and most of my friends are here. It’s an easy choice,” Yoo says.

Yoo wants to work for a smaller company that is “future-focused, tackling problems going on now that will benefit the future, like promoting sustainability or tackling racism and discrimination.”

He also plans to stay engaged as an alumnus, helping unsure ID students find the future that they want.