Posted 22 July 2021
Mention Anne Danao
Interview by Lyla Johnston

Find your pace: Art director Anne Danao on career goals and combining your strengths

Anne Danao knows what it takes to make her dreams a reality. Having started off as a graphic design student at Kingston School of Art, Anne began working as a photographer’s assistant in her second year, while reaching out to fellow Kingston alumni. Her networking skills eventually led her to photographer Doh Lee, who in turn introduced her to The WOW – a magazine and digital platform focused on celebrating Asian culture. Today, Anne works as the magazine’s resident art director, overseeing visuals and commissions. We hear from Anne about manifesting her dream gigs, learning to enjoy sharing work and putting together a magazine during a global pandemic.

Anne Danao

Anne Danao

Job Title

Art Director, The WOW Magazine



Previous Employment

Freelance Photographer’s Assistant and Producer (2017-2020)
Junior Designer, Overdue Magazine (2019-2020)
Junior Designer, Making Shapes (2019-2020)
Intern, Beauty Papers Magazine (2018)

Place of Study

BA Graphic Design, Kingston School of Art (2015-2018)

Social Media


What I do

How would you describe what you do at The WOW Magazine?
I’m the art director and executive producer at The WOW – the UK’s first biannual print magazine and digital platform profiling accomplished, powerful, and stylish Asian womxn and celebrating Asian culture. My job involves overseeing all the visuals and commissions – the design, photography, production, casting, moving image and digital contents.

I’d describe myself as an image-maker, working around the realms of photography and graphic design. Working with the magazine is a way for me to realise all of my interests together.

If you could sum up your job in a meme, what would it be and why?
[Below] Always spreading love and support! 🙂

What’s your favourite thing on your desk right now?
The new Port Magazine, it’s their 10th anniversary issue and designed by Matt Willey, who I admire. And a book called Homo Irrealis by Andre Aciman which I’m currently reading.

What recent piece of work at The WOW are you most proud of?
I started at The WOW just 10 months ago and worked on two issues already – both made during the lockdowns.

The fourth issue was published in March 2021 and the magazine started to get more attention internationally. The theme was about beauty, and asked ‘What is beauty to you?’ Asia is a huge continent and community with so many different ethnicities and diverse beauty. We wanted to tell stories of confidence, self-acceptance and creativity within the Asian community. Our aim was to share positivity and empowerment during this most difficult time, at the heights of the pandemic and Covid-related hate crimes toward Asians and AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islanders).

“We wanted to tell stories of confidence, self-acceptance and creativity within the Asian community.”

We produced over twenty shoots and interviews around the world including Tokyo, New York, Paris, Shanghai, Seoul, Thailand and LA. I was art directing the shoots, producing, casting talents and designing for print and the release with our team. We made it happen in just five months – and the result was a great response to what a modern magazine could become. We had print, video content, a great multilingual team, Zoom interviews, 3D renders, fashion, beauty and more.

Although, my favourite project is the next issue we’re working on now!


Kiko Mizuhara by Toki from The WOW Issue 04: Beauty

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Anne Danao artdirector creativelivesinprogress 001

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Anne Danao artdirector creativelivesinprogress 004

How I got here

What kind of skills are needed to do your role?
Attitude, creativity, communication, diligence, tenacity, and kindness. Speaking kindly to people really goes a long way.

My skills were cumulative and I had experience in every step of making an image and a publication. I did BA Graphic Design at Kingston and worked in the photography and magazine industries afterwards. I also studied painting and fine art at six form. I am still learning as I go, because you can never stop learning.

“It’s a small industry and if you make a good enough impression, timing and luck will do the rest of the work.”

How did you land the job?
In 2018, just after I graduated, my photographer boss, Doh Lee, connected me with The WOW as he was shooting for the first issue. I told the editor-in-chief, Wei, on our first meeting, “I am a graphic designer too, let me design the first issue…” I knew the magazine’s goal to showcase Asian womxn in the UK was a unique selling point and personal to me as a British-Filipino. He chose an experienced designer instead. The rejection was situational, it wasn’t personal and so I only took it as a motivation to improve.

Fast-forward to Summer 2020, and I was designing the magazine’s third issue. It’s a small industry and if you make a good enough impression, I think timing and luck will do the rest of the work. I planted the seeds, worked hard to maintain relationships and got recommended a lot – that’s how I got here.

Spreads from The WOW Issue 04: Beauty

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?
I started working as a photography assistant when I was in my second year at university, assisting on shoots for fashion editorials, music videos and celebrity covers. I emailed a few Kingston alumni including photographer Noemi Ottilia Szabo, who became my first photographer boss. It got the ball rolling; she got me my first magazine stint, and it was someone on her team who introduced me to Doh Lee, my now-mentor.

Reaching out to other Kingston alumni was also helpful: Zoe Stott interviewed me for an internship at Beauty Papers Magazine and I assisted Andrew Kimber, a photographer and editor-in-chief at Overdue Magazine who connected me to art director, Tess Savina who I later worked with as a junior.

“I knew I wasn’t going to follow my peers going into graphic design studios; I was the odd one out.”

Manifesting my goals on paper really helped me. Working with Kiko Mizuhara, photographer Charlotte Wales and The WOW were some I’ve ticked off recently. I knew I wasn’t going to follow my peers going into graphic design studios; I was the odd one out, but I didn’t compare myself to other peoples’ journeys. I had no fear of missing out because I had my own goals and dreams.

But I am still starting out, to be honest. I’m always thinking about ways to develop my work – whether it’s photography, graphics, moving image or new technology. I want to have a personal signature and make something no one has done before.

Kiko Mizuhara Cover Film from the fourth issue of The WOW

If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your career, what would they be and why?
I’m really inspired by all the photographers I worked with before and now at The WOW. I’ve surrounded myself with amazing people, pictures and ideas. Pre-pandemic, I was working in photographer Charlotte Wales’ studio with her studio manager, Grace. It was a brief six months gig but I really learnt so much from them. I had to stop from March 2020 because of COVID. I am absolutely inspired by her. Also, knowing so much work and time goes into every pictures and videos she makes gives me goose bumps. I was like “Damn, I need 10 more years to get where she is now”.

I am a big fan of photography and I love photobooks too! A publisher called Loose Joints is a proper dream!

Unit London is a great contemporary art gallery. I’ve discovered a lot of amazing artists since they’ve started back in 2013.

Anisha Sandhu by Jason Kim from The WOW Issue 04: Beauty
Anisha Sandhu by Jason Kim from The WOW Issue 04: Beauty

“It’s a personal battle as a creative; I’m better at promoting others than promoting myself.”

What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
To not be believed in, or listened to. I don’t enjoy sharing my own work; It’s a complex I developed at Kingston. It’s hard to shake off because it’s so ingrained in me: “Good is not great, you have to make great work all the time!” and my personal favourite, “Wow me!”

It made me a perfectionist and a procrastinator at the same time. I’d never share work unless I thought it was good enough. But these days, many people I respect have seen my work and push me to share and make more. It’s a personal battle as a creative; I’m better at promoting others than promoting myself.

What have been your greatest learnings with supporting yourself as a creative?
Save before you spend. My goal is to make enough so I can do creative work all my life. Money really does make the world go round, so I try to have a balanced relationship with it.

Talking about personal finance can be super-awkward, especially for new graduates. I started by asking older friends for advice on things like how much to charge for a job. I’ve had a lot of conversations about money since; the more you talk about it, the more comfortable it will feel. Just do it.

Yoon Young Bae by Hong Jang Hyun from the fourth issue of The WOW on Beauty

My advice

What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Some advice from Mike Bond, a guest tutor I met once. He was critiquing my work and said, “You shouldn’t separate your practice as photography or graphic design; the most successful creatives are the ones who can combine their strengths.”

More advice from Valerie Wickes, the creative director at Beauty Papers, who told me to “do my own things.” I was a fresh grad and felt uplifted by what she said; she didn’t even know me well but gave me this piece of validation – so I started small projects and personal shoots here and there with friends.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Find your own pace. You’re not racing against others, just yourself.

Mention Anne Danao
Interview by Lyla Johnston