The six species of Information Architect

The Flying Karamazov Brothers

From time to time I have the pleasure of talking to others who do Information Architecture as a part of their work. Sometimes as *all* of their work, although usually as a part. (Of course, there’s lots of debate and confusion over where Information Architecture starts and ends, but I’ve posted about that already).

Given that IA as a profession is really only about 10yrs old (or at least, that’s the figure I hear bandied about), it makes sense that *most* IAs have a ‘past life’ of one kind or another. This has got me to thinking that there are probably about six different species of Information Architect, based on the kind of professional past life they’ve had (nor not).

I’m going to make some wild sweeping generalisations here… bear with me :)

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • graphic designer/visual artist – there are graphic designers who have a particular gift for organising information. These guys do the nicest looking wireframes you’ll ever see. It’s pretty easy to bag this species IA because they often don’t bother learning all the big words that other IAs like to throw around, and they tend not to be into reading research papers and books. Seminars also bore them. But they *do* tend to be quite user centric. That combined with their pretty wireframes and their creative ‘presence’ means that they’re generally pretty popular with clients.
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links for 11 April 2006

enjoying analogue wireframing (pencil rules, ok?)

Pencils

So, I’ve been doing a whole bunch of wireframing lately.

I have to admit that, in the last little while, I’d gotten into the habit of wireframing straight into Visio, maybe after a quick thumbnail sketch on a notepad somewhere.

The site I’m working on at the moment has quite a bit of application type functionality in it, as well as a whole bunch of content, and offers the opportunity to be a little bit creative with the interaction design.

Out of habit, I pretty much launched straight into Visio (after a couple of quick sketches), but the further I got into it, the less satisfied I was with the output.

So, just for a while, I dumped Visio, got a whole pile of paper, some pencils and a sharpener, and just played around with ideas.

Ahhh. That’s just *soooo* much better.

It’s a little bit 37 Signals/Getting Real (although, these *will* end up as Visio wireframes in a functional specification – the size and dispersal of the team on this project demands that kind of documentation), but it does seem to be a popular approach to documenting RIAs. (Jeffry Veen was saying the other day that he’s going from pencil sketch to build these days).

So, what’s so good about pencil sketching your wireframes?

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