Sofia Pashaei’s animation for Adult Swim teaches us how to shake bad habits

As part of the Off the Air series on Patterns, the New York-based animator focuses in on a family and their individual bad habits.

12 March 2020
Reading Time
3 minutes


Following our recent article on Milo Targett’s contribution to Adult Swim’s Off the Air series, Patterns, animator Sofia Pashaei reached out with her film, How to Stop – a very different but equally brilliant rendition. While Milo’s film concentrated on a literal interpretation of patterns, Sofia’s on the other hand, relates more to personal patterns, namely repeating a bad habit over and over.

Initially, Sofia’s work with Adult Swim began with a totally different series, based on trash. Dave – Off the Air’s creator at Adult Swim – first replied saying he wasn’t sure it was quite the right fit. “I remember reading half of the mail and being so bummed out,” Sofia recalls to us, “only to continue reading the mail and realising that I had to help him a solve a problem and that was what the last episode of the season would be, which was Pattern.”

She began reworking her initial concept of “trash habits” to “not only visually work for the theme, since Pattern is such a visually driven topic, but instead look at it from a habitual standpoint and how bad habits, at their core, are just everyday patterns.” To demonstrate this, Sofia dreamt up characters, specifically a family, within which she could reference different kind of habits, both serious and a little lighter too. “I wanted to focus on it being within a smaller unit and their everyday habits,” she tells us on this narrative decision. “A family seemed an interesting place to start.”

Led by Sofia’s illustration style and an overarching narration throughout, which has a podcast or audiobook-like feel with its instructional fact-based narrative, the visuals juxtapose the plot. “The narration was important to me since the concept focused on how the brain creates habitual patterns in the form of routines and how it prefers to stay in that lane,” Sofia tells It’s Nice That. She also points out how “the narration emphasises that on-going dialogue we have in our brains and the little white lies we tell ourselves to make life easier.”


Sofia Pashei: How to Stop (still)

The animator’s illustration style and transitions throughout How to Stop emphasise this too. Almost like editorial spots, they depict a woman hooked on social media, a man who likes a drink or two, and a younger who’s child fond of sweets. The stylised nature of her animation then allows viewers to clearly join the dots. With the concept of habitual patterns in mind when developing the short, “I played with the notion of creating abstractions of interior and figures,” she tells us. “Compositionally, I explored tangents to flatten space and, through that, making an image appear like a pattern in itself.”

As a result, Sofia points out how the animation was slightly limited, but how this adds to the overall effect and helped with her busy schedule too: “I’m full time at Buck in New York and was doing this project in the evenings and weekends. I was honestly trying to come up with efficient ways of working and this so happened to work. It made me think of other ways to animate, that might not be correct, but that work in the world of this illustration style because of the design rules created for it, and it liberated my process a lot.”

With How to Stop now out in the world, despite her full-time role, Sofia is not slowing down. She’s now interested in the medium of AR, its possibilities for storytelling, and is currently figuring out an idea for an AR exhibition too. With Sofia’s approach to finding creative solutions as well as her use of narrative and illustration style, we’d love to see how this could come to life in a three-dimensional digital setting.

GallerySofia Pashei: How to Stop (stills)

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.

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