Behind the desk – designer Yesul Woo moved to Finland to learn everything about Nordic design


Yesul Woo from South Korea had a dream that made her move to Finland: she wanted to learn all there was to know about Nordic design. That is how Woo first ended up as a student in Aalto University, began a six-month internship at Design Studio RATIA in autumn 2018, and finally, gained a permanent designer’s position with RATIA.

When living in Asia, Woo mainly got to know Nordic design through the media and trendy Scandinavian boutiques. She visualised Finland as a creative and dynamic leading country in Nordic design, with a range of design events and exhibitions.

“I find the clear and simple colour palette and use of natural materials particularly inspiring. Having arrived in Finland, I realised that these are no passing fashion trend, but integral to the Nordic way of life and part of everyday existence,” she says.

When Woo started working as a designer for RATIA, she wanted to understand what kinds of colours, patterns, materials and cuts Finns favour, because they differ from Asian tastes. In her early days in Finland, Woo walked around the city and its parks with her camera, observing the clothing in which locals feel comfortable.

Woo finds Finnish design more practical and durable than Asian design. “In Asia, looks may be all that matters in design, but here, functionality is important. I think it’s great to design products that people want to use in their everyday lives. That gives me energy.”

During her year with RATIA, Woo has designed printed patterns and clothing, and adapted existing patterns to new products. The first nightwear designed by Woo will become available from Ratiashop before Christmas, and she is also working on a new collection for children.

Living in Finland, Woo has learned to love Northern nature, and likes to spend time outdoors. In her free time, she often goes birdwatching in the forests of Nuuksio, or close to her home in Otaniemi.

“For me, spending time in natural settings is nostalgic, because when I was little, I used to pick a lot of strawberries. In Korea, nature is not appreciated in the same way. There, nature must give way to new houses. In Finland, I have remembered how uniquely important the relationship with nature is. Nature is a source of inspiration for me as a designer, as it conceals many stories,” Woo says.

Woo explains that she is also inspired by the Finnish habit of spending time with friends at summer cottages or out boating. “In their free time, Finnish people completely focus on themselves, enjoying what they do. I too have learned to relax, while discovering a great deal about myself.”

One of Woo’s favourite places for spending free time is the winter garden, where she goes to enjoy the fragrance of roses and recharge mentally. She particularly loves the desert section. “I can relate to the desert plants, because they have a strong will to make it in Finland, far away from home – just like me.”

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