Who does not remember the TOIs? Those green dolls, in a rounded shape, with playful antennas and expressive eyes that communicate their mood through posters are part of the long list of objects with which they identify the eighties generation. Three decades after its first appearance, an exhibition ends up in Barcelona to review the genesis and evolution of this character created by the visual communicator, infographist, journalist and university professor Jordi Català.
Children and adolescents discovered TOIs in 1991 in the form of adhesive stickers inside the wrapping of a famous cupcake – the Bollycao -, and there were few who, in order to accumulate the maximum number of cards, came to buy several buns filled for a single snack or displayed in their folders. Such was the success that in the first advertising campaign five million TOIs were distributed, an "absolutely transversal" character, as defined by its creator.
‘ToI happy, TOI studying, Not TOI…’
The chrome-shaped green doll reached its maximum popularity in the early 1990s, but “it is still difficult to find someone who does not know it,” says Català, who attributes the fact that TOIs persist in collective memory to “a series of specificities that make it a very curious character" Designed as a semiotic precedent, a new synthetic form of visual communication that applies intelligible codes to everyone, the TOI usually manages to get a smile at the viewer.
Although Català assures that the recipe for the success of his famous creation continues to be “an unknown”, it highlights the fact that the doll reflects a "permanent" mood almost always with a certain tenderness – "Toi Fadao", "Toi in the Cloud", "No toi", "Toi happy", "Toi Hundío" … -. In this sense, the audiovisual communicator considers that the TOI was a precursor of emoticons: "He began to communicate things in a simple way at a time when this type of communication did not exist."
The TOI reinvented on the paper ideas collected from ancient popular oral and written expressions. "A colloquial language, simple, simple, sometimes irregular and irreverent as long as it does not meet grammar rules, but that gets a close relationship between this language, what the doll expresses and what people want him to express," adds Jordi Català For all this, he maintains that TOI cultivated the emoji and SMS language becoming virtal without the use of the screen or large advertising campaigns.
The mark left by this expressive doll goes much more than being considered a nostalgic reference for eighties. For sample, a button: the TOI language has managed to survive from generation to generation – as denotes the colloquial use of ‘toy’ instead of “I am” -. But how was this endearing character born? TOI was created for a humor section of the newspaper The Newspaper of Catalonia, after what aroused the interest of the communication and graphic arts company Trigrafic, which presented it to Panrico, a company that managed to break its sales records thanks to the TOIs.
Over time, the TOI evolved to be translated into different languages, such as Portuguese, Catalan, English, German, French and Italian. The drawing also underwent some changes, especially due to the eruption of new technologies, since it goes from being drawn with a marker to being done by computer. "Essentially the design is the same, but it has been perfected in terms of lines, and this makes its image is not identical to the one it had at that time," says its creator. Also, the update of the TOIs goes beyond its physical appearance, since there is a mobile application that allows you to photograph yourself next to the doll, which appears in the photo with a text.
The creator of the TOI phenomenon believes that his doll still has a long way to go, so he does not rule out that the market will claim it again. For moments, this emoji precursor will return in a free sample, titled TOI the TOI 30 anys
, which can be visited from this December 12 in the Col • Official leg of Disseny Gràfic de Catalunya, where visitors can discover the new designs in Catalan and other TOI languages and attend scheduled activities, some of which are aimed at children. The exhibition can be visited until February 12, 2020.