How One Designer Gave Herself Superhero Strength


When I first came across Lan Pham’s profile image, it immediately grabbed my attention. Striking and specific, the illustration had me asking the question: Where did this superhero fly in from?

I found out by asking Lan directly on a voice-only app called Anchor. When we talked about her profile image, and I learned that Lan designed it herself in order to feel stronger in a time of need, I wanted to learn more. I sent her the following questions which she answered from her home in Poland.

Me: What was going on in your life when you created your superhero profile image? What made you think of doing it?

Lan: It was sometime at the end of my studies (in art/graphic faculty) a couple of years ago. I had a lot of work ahead of me: finals, projects and my thesis. I’m a total procrastinator so I had so much to do at the end. I was exhausted to the bone, sleep-deprived and kind of hopeless. You could call it an artist’s block.

Like any good procrastinator, instead of working I was browsing the web. In my reading I stumbled upon the studies that analyze how standing like a superhero lowers your level of cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases testosterone which boosts your confidence. Your body language can actually affects you, your brain, your biology, and thus — life.

My work usually is sitting behind a computer. That’s why I express myself with drawings. That’s how I ended up doing a 10 minute sketch of myself late one Sunday night.

Initially I didn’t have the specific idea of boosting my confidence. It basically was just another doodle to help me face another crappy Monday.

Lan notes, " "Poniedzialek" means Monday in Polish :)"

Lan notes, ""Poniedzialek" means Monday in Polish :)"


This was a quick drawing I did at first around at 4am at night.

Me: Did the drawing work? Did it make you feel more powerful? Does it continue to?

Lan: It was really just a doodle. But it’d say it worked! Not exactly the way I imagined it would have. But I put that picture up as my Facebook profile picture the same night. In the morning I received some really flattering, reassuring, and motivational comments.

This little silly sketch of myself made me laugh at myself. It cheered me up! Also it was the first thing in weeks that I created out of some non-commital inspiration. It wasn’t an obligation and that’s what made me feel less cranky and more like myself. It somehow lifted my artist block and boosted my confidence too.

After that I finished some of my projects without as much suffering as before. Then I redrew the sketch into the clean, flat-styled version I’ve been using as my profile image (as pictured under the title of this post). It somehow became my branding. Strangers started to recognize me from it :)

superhero profile shot

It’s always a great pleasure to put up my superhero pose.

It gives me a boost. It works every time! I think: “You go down, but then you go up again. It’s the best feeling.”

I have a couple of ideas for my Super-Alter-Ego-Hero shots that mirror my life. In those, I’d essentially create a series of illustrations. Kind of like a story or Adventure of SuperLan.

This illustration makes me more creative, reminds me to face things head on rather than hide from them, therefore, yes, it makes me powerful. It’s like a butterfly effect I think!

Me: Would you recommend that other people use this approach if they are feeling like they need to channel a feeling of power in their lives? Do you ever do illustrations for people?

Lan: Yes, I do illustrations for people! I’ve yet to start doing illustrations fully commercially but for a long time I’ve been illustrating my friends and family as a birthday gifts etc. Too bad I haven’t gotten around to collecting all of the works and finally updating my portfolio!

Anyway, I think the best approach is “just” this: draw/write/record/create everything and anything that comes to your mind. Don’t keep it in your head, get it out anyway you can. Not only it is cathartic and therapeutic but it’s our great power to create things.

When I create, I feel as confident and powerful as I can ever be.

I feel like conquering the world.

Designer and illustrator Lan Pham lives in Poland. To follow her on your social platform of choice, select from the array found here on her site. To contact her about getting your own superhero, email her at lan [at]