5 Questions With… Hannah Tak, Senior Design Editor

Hannah Tak

Shortly after graduating from college with a degree in graphic design, Hannah Tak started working at National Geographic.

“I didn’t know much about journalism or storytelling, so working for a big media company like National Geographic was an eye-opening experience for me,” Hannah says.

During her time working in the design department, Hannah has held numerous roles and is currently a senior design editor for National Geographic magazine. In this position, Hannah works closely with photo editors and the editors of graphics and maps to create and design visual narratives for feature stories.

“My ultimate goal in designing stories is to help readers engage and resonate with the story more effectively and deeply,” Hannah says.

Looking back at her time with National Geographic, Hannah feels a strong sense of accomplishment.

“It’s been a wonderful journey filled with lots of learning, growing, and developing—both personally and professionally,” she says.

1. Throughout your time working for National Geographic, what has been the most memorable article or project you’ve worked on?

The most memorable article I’ve designed was “The Wildlife We See, the Suffering We Don’t” in the June 2019 issue. Photographer Kirsten Luce and writer Natasha Daly traveled around the globe to investigate the dark side of wildlife tourism. The story reveals what goes on behind tourists’ once-in-a-lifetime experiences and how animals are suffering to satisfy human vanity and curiosity.

There is so much in this story that a lot of us—and most people—didn’t known about, and it was crucial for us to get the right messages out to our readers in the most powerful way. To have that shocking and surprising “reveal” effect, we utilized the double gatefolds in the magazine. We put photos with exotic animals that people have  posted on social media on the flap, and then we showed images of the cruel reality of the animals’ treatment inside the flaps. This interaction with the gatefold was a strong way to guide readers into the story and relate somewhat to their own encounters as well-meaning tourists.

Since working on this story, I’ve become more conscious about the places I visit while traveling and learned how my actions could result in measurable harm to animals. It all starts with one.

2. May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. What does this month mean to you?

As a first-generation immigrant, I always felt like I wasn’t “enough” and didn’t fit in anywhere. I wasn’t loud or confident enough, and I didn’t understand puns or know pop-culture references. I tried to be someone else so I would blend in with those around me. It wasn’t until recently that I came across the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, which helped me notice and appreciate the unique culture and background I came from. To me, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month means relearning the long history we may have forgotten and celebrating the diversity of many cultures. It’s also the time to honor our own values and beliefs.

3. Who is your AAPI hero or inspiration?

My mom—she is the most incredible and determined person I’ve ever known. My parents went through many hardships in order to succeed in a new country with little experience of the culture. Starting a whole new life in a place where you have no family or friends, where you don’t speak the language, could be a terrifying thing, but that didn’t stop my mom. She worked really hard to break that language barrier and sacrificed so much for the family. She constantly inspires and encourages me to follow my dreams and never give up.

4. What’s your favorite dish from the Asia-Pacific region?

Korean BBQ. I love the food, but the way family and friends gather around the table and grill meats together for hours while talking and sharing memories is what I enjoy the most about Korean BBQ. I’m looking forward to having another feast with friends and family once the pandemic is over!

5. After working from home for the past year due to the pandemic, what has been the silver lining for you?

The biggest silver lining is saving a couple of hours in commuting every day. Commuting to work has never been so easy—just a few steps into my home office. I don’t have to sit in traffic every morning and do it all over again at the end of the day. This extra time allowed me to plan my day a bit differently and work when I’m most productive.