Transforming Art into NFTs with Toni López of Retoka


Thinking about the future is without a doubt a risky endeavor.

It foretells the passing of time and reminds us of our eventual demise. Surely this is a combination of both our personal and mental states, but mostly, this may come from recent observations on the direction the world is taking.

At times, it helps to dig into our past to figure out where we’re coming from. We might find comfort thinking about the days before the internet became essential, back when socializing required us to leave the house or the time before we realized that Y2K would evolve into nothing more than just a booming fashion trend.

While it’s strange to think that a fast-paced environment can narrow our creative vision, lo and behold, the uncertainty that the future promises lead the way to something new: new realities, new opportunities, and new possibilities. Sometimes it takes a serendipitous turn of events for our lives to head in the direction they were meant to.

“Well, I got into design almost without realizing it,” admits Toni López, a designer and digital artist from Barcelona. “My previous work was not related to design, but this has always interested me. I started studying and preparing on my own, and over time I started doing small jobs and gaining clients. [Ultimately] I decided to change my life and started dedicating myself 100% to design. Then I met Zara, my partner. She came from working in advertising agencies and this made us form a more solid team, where we could achieve more projects.”

Together, Toni and Zara Castellanos make Retoka – an art direction, graphic design, and digital art studio based in Granollers, Barcelona. Retoka delivers a bold, unique stroke in design by way of a mix of color, light effects, shapes, and movement. Outlined in playful futuristic ideals, from blockchains and barcodes, to photo manipulations and NFTs, the result is nothing short of effortless and mind-blowing.

RADIOGRAFIKA – Digital Minds, Print and Digital NFT Collection. Retoka, 2022.

Prompted by advanced technologies, Retoka looks after outbursts of inspiration: “I always try to look for a futuristic and even retro-futuristic style, being inspired by many things. Inspiration can come from a song, a good science fiction movie or book, an idea, a news article… I admire and follow many artists—and not only from the world of design—but I am not obsessed with them either. I think it is necessary to observe the world around us without falling into the error of looking for a style similar to that of another artist.”

Color Waves. Retoka, 2021.

Transmuting their original visual language into the digital age is what characterizes the work of this visionary pair. “Our personal taste is what represents our essence as artists. Sometimes we have rejected projects in which our style did not fit or our opinions were not heard. Artists and designers have to always meet the expectations of our clients, but we also have to give free rein to our ideas, which in the end, will be our hallmark. Today we are lucky to be commissioned based on our style and this greatly facilitates the creative process.”

But Retoka’s success comes not without risk. “Taking risks implies being able to make mistakes, but it also implies innovation, creativity, moving forward, getting out of the “ordinary”, being different… Of course, risk-taking is easier to carry out with personal projects, so it is always good to allocate time for clients and personal projects.”

One of Retoka’s personal projects involves RADIOGRAFIKA by RETOKA, an ongoing collection of X-ray prints that explores the proximity between the virtual and digital worlds. The project’s first installment is titled “Digital Minds” —available in both print and NFT—the digitalization of human beings and our desire to humanize technologies.

Big Data – Server A. Print and Digital NFT Collection. Retoka, 2021.

Perhaps, what’s most fascinating about the future is that it hasn’t happened yet. Yes, this might be a given, but in deep thought, such uncertainty grants us the chance to design and mold the future based on our singular vision—with the future in our hands, the possibilities are endless.

For those of you who love finding beauty in unexpected places—those who prefer expanding their minds without the constraint of a thinking box—do yourself a favor and discover why we selected Retoka’s CLIENT ERROR 4XX v02 for the ‘Future Is Now’ style as seen in Style Cards Vol. 2.

CLIENT ERROR 4XX. Retoka, 2015.
CLIENT ERROR 4XX v02. Retoka, 2021. As featured in the ‘Future Is Now’ style of Style Cards Vol. 2

The first version of the project, CLIENT ERROR 4XX was created back in 2015, using only Photoshop as its medium, and was ultimately chosen as the corporate identity for the 2016 Adobe Summit held in Las Vegas. Five years later, Retoka reworked the original concept, using new digital techniques into the final images now refined by their creative evolution. “CLIENT ERROR 4XX v02 is a clear example of what we talked about before. It is the second version of a project that started as a personal job—where I let my creative freedom run. Thanks to this project, many doors opened for me as a digital artist.” The artwork is available in both print and NFT.

Retoka’s CLIENT ERROR 4XX v02 sparks a dialogue around human fragility and technological themes. The project is based on HTTP status codes, divided into 4xx client errors: 401/Unauthorized, 403/Forbidden, 404/Not Found, and 409/Conflict. 4xx status codes are errors often made by a client that indicate an unexisting web page, restricted access or rights, or an unreachable target.

These anomalies represent a portal in which both technology and reality interact and move in space. Each client error is personified by a metacharacter built upon the female form. Eluding to an alternative universe, these magnetic fictive personas are composed of rhythmic glitches of prismatic glimmer that are only visible by error.

Their code-like existence and humanoid appearance decode the relationship between man and the metaverse. “I wanted to work with two concepts: humanity and technology, and with the obsession of man to want to “humanize” technology, to make it the most similar to us. This is why I created these digital errors with human face shapes.”

Retoka’s creative freedom and strong rebellious principles push their work beyond the limits of their comfort zone. So how does a studio with one step into the future and endless sources of inspiration on hand overcome personal 4xx errors?

Toni reminds us of a basic human principle: “We must be clear that we are not machines nor computers; we do not have a “Create” button. The creative blocks are there and I think we each have our own ways of dealing with them.”

Stepping away from the future is perhaps our best bet to evaluate the role we play in it. “For me, it is the best solution; to completely disconnect from that blockage and then, without knowing it, everything flows again.”

And that’s what creativity is all about, isn’t it? The creative process is full of ups and downs, trials, and 4xx client errors. It is precisely then, when we cut out the noise and break out of normative structures, that we set creativity free, let it take its own course, and allow the magic to happen.

* *

Retoka’s CLIENT ERROR 4XX v02 is featured in the “Future Is Now” style of Style Cards Vol. 2. Visit Retoka’s website or head on over to Retoka’s Behance portfolio to learn more about their digital artwork, prints, and NFT collections.


    Style Cards Vol. 2

    Use this set of 135 design cards to explore visual trends, define a brand’s look and feel, gamify design workshops, and enhance moodboards. These cards contain works of modern designers and are curated into 10 themes that reflect the world’s visual trends.