Who’s the New Guy?

Everything on the walls of the austere new MoMA has been carefully considered—down to the signage for finding basic amenities. Dresser Johnson was commissioned to design 17 icons for the museum’s renovation, several of which gently make over the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 1974 symbols, transforming those ubiquitous cucumber-limbed robots into characters with a pulse.

“The classic wheelchair icon is this drab, sad person connected to the chair,” designer Kevin Dresser says of one of the icons. “Their back could be the back of the chair as well. So I thought, let’s break him from the chair—not necessarily make the person a wheelchair athlete, but definitely in that direction—where it’s a little more exciting.”

Dresser’s figures are recognizably human—they actually look like they have to find a toilet fast. And the cool new designs are a surprising find amid the institution’s collection of greatest hits from the last century. They can be seen just around the corner from Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.