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.

    This species of IA tends to start out on consumer focussed sites, and never really moves away from this. They don’t really want to think about doing an intranet, and a project title that includes the term ‘enterprise’ sends them screaming from the room (not that they couldn’t have a good crack at it, they’d just rather thrust bamboo skewers under their fingernails). Because, when it comes down to it, they’re a bunch of show offs. And they know that, deep down, all the other species are a little bit jealous.
  • producer/project manager/product manager – if your project has a tight timeframe, this is probably a species you’d want to consider. This ex-’jack of all trades’ has finally escaped from budgets and timelines and gotten to focus on the *best* part of a project. The design phase.The advantage of this species is that they tend to have a well rounded view of a project, from the creative to technical, content to business aspects, and they’ve no doubt had a bit of exposure to user centric design methodologies and various kinds of testing. Usually they’re great (and safe) client facing, having been in positions of accountability for past projects.To follow the old saying though, jack of all trades, master of none. That’s the potential risk for this species, unless they work hard to hone their craft and build up their expertise in areas where they might be a bit light on.
  • reformed developer/techie – its a safe bet that the majority of these species have paid for, downloaded and read the Getting Real methodology. These are also the IAs that didn’t freak out when the 37 Signals guys said that they’d never hire someone to do a pure IA role. This is because this species already thought that… they just never thought about publishing it. They’ve been doing a rough sketch then a prototype for years. Although they do tend to do their controlled vocabularies in XML now… having *finally* given up whichever archaic database they’d clung to for ages (no, it wasn’t SQL).Deep down they know that if we don’t like what they do we can all go and get stuffed, because they could just go code up some cool new application, sell it to Google and become web 2.0 millionaires. Ah, but I exaggerate.This species tends to be highly methodical in their approach and can rationalise every decision that they make. They do, sometimes, have to be reminded of the importance, indeed the existence of the user. These guys love intranets and enterprise work, because it means they’re unlikely to be bothered by the graphic design species. :)
  • information sciences/library dudes – these are the guys that love the big words. They bang on about taxonomies and clustering and semantics forever (which I know sounds dismissive, but that’s just because I’m not one of these guys and I found them scary and intimidating for a long time.)They’re usually pretty smart, but they’re a relatively low-tech species, and possible part of the reason that they use such big words is to scare of the more tech-savvy species who are capable of intimidating the IS types with their techy smarts.These guys think they are the *real* information architects and can be a little snobby about it. They don’t mind the developer/tech species though, because they’re both kind of nerdy in the same way.For all that bollocking, this species are also incredibly comfortably in the midst of the most enormous intranet in the world. The bigger and dryer and more complex the problem the happy these guys are. The graphic designer species are very happy that these guys exist, otherwise they’d all be doing the bamboo stuffing routine.
  • writer/copywriter/content types – Jessie James Garrett was one of these kinds of IAs (I don’t think he calls himself an IA these days, does he?). He reckoned there weren’t too many who had made the transition from content person to IA. Personally, I’ve seen a few of them about the place. Here’s what Jesse says about this species: “Throughout human history, the people most concerned with effective communication have been those who worked with language. Predating hypertext, predating plain old text itself, language is the original toolkit for “architecting information”. Which kind of makes sense, but Jesse goes on to talk more about editors than writers, and I think that’s an important distinction. It’s about the methodical approach again. Editors are methodical, and detail oriented (without losing sight of the big picture, of course). And they’re good communicators. That, combined with their understanding of using words to communicate, all very good building genetics for an IA species.Writers… not so much with the methodical. And also, perhaps problems with the subjective? Of course, this is an enormous generalisation (to match the ones above!). There are lots of really methodical writers. Not many of them become IAs.
  • usability IA - these guys started off testing everyone elses bodgy work and got so frustrated that they decided to do it themselves. Fair enough too.Not surprisingly, these guys love to research and test. They love talking about Human Factors, and quite fancy themselves as anthropologists. Their favourite conversations include the words ‘ethnography’, ‘mental model’, and ‘metaphor’.These guys can spend more budget before doing a sitemap than any other species. But we love them for it.They’re also more responsible for the validity of the profession than any other species. Because they did the research and wrote the papers. Then they started the conferences to speak at so they could present their papers.(Although, don’t tell the Information Science species that, because they think *they* started the conferences).
  • nouveau IA (fresh skin graduate types) – there are just a few out and about now who have graduated with some kind of qualification that makes them feel that they’re now an Information Architect. (If you had any of the above past lives, then you’re not allowed in this species. This is only for newskins. Undergraduates. These kids are young.I think that at the moment the universities tend to turn out nouveau IAs who tend towards the Usability IA species.I haven’t actually had the pleasure of working with, or even really talking with any of this species. Although, I have studied with a few prior to them being released into the wide wide world… I wonder what their survival rate is.

Now, before you all go berko and abuse me for sterotyping your ‘species’… I don’t think that anyone who works as an IA for any period of time can actually remain strictly within the confines of their species. I think you’re always coloured by it, but I think the more you do and the better you get, the more you respect the other species and what they bring to the collective table. And the more you tend to extend your skills and refine your approach to take in some of these traits and build them into your personal repertoire.

The ultimate IA is probably a combination of all of these things.

Just think. Then we could design and build the entire thing ourselves and everything would be perfect.(Oh, come on. You know I’m kidding).

So. Which species are you? Have I missed a species? Have I mis-represented a species? Let’s hear it.

(Prediction: I *bet* I end up going back and updating this post with numerous edits, disclaimers and retractions!)

Photo Credit: The Flying Kamikaze Brothers by Scragz

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42 Responses to “The six species of Information Architect”

  1. Jorge Arango April 12, 2006 at 2:49 am #

    Thanks Leisa, this is an interesting post. Here are some other species that have been well-represented in IA circles:

    * Anthropologists (and other social scientists)
    * Architects (brick and mortar)

  2. leisa.reichelt April 12, 2006 at 11:43 am #

    hey Jorge, thanks for stopping by.

    bricks and mortar architects become information architects? wow, that’s new to me. I’ve never met one but I if I ever did, I’d be intrigued to hear why they moved from their past life to this one!

    any one there an ex-bricks and mortar architect turned IA who can tell us their story?

    so quiet today. I wonder if this means:
    a) you all agree with me
    b) you’re offended and you want nothing more to do with this post
    c) you think this is frivolous fluff
    d) it was too long and you didn’t get to the bottom
    e) you’re all very busy.

    :)

    • justinteractive October 14, 2009 at 10:59 am #

      I’ve worked with a couple with varying degrees of success. If you remember back when the web was young, the late 90′s had a few flash design superstars and many of them came from bricks & mortar architecture. It makes sense, interaction design is as much about navigating spaces as bricks & mortar design. The UX is the Architect and the Visual designer does the interior? (prepares self for scathing abuse)

  3. Eric April 12, 2006 at 1:00 pm #

    I’m miffed because you left out my category — I’m from a database background, dealing with structures of massive piles of information, controlled vocabularies for data entry, coding and indexing columns of data. I share some aspects with the coder/techie crowd and the library science crowd, but then again don’t fit within those boxes.

    There’s another group who consider themselves the *real* information architects and can be more than a little snobby about it … those Enterprise IT/CTO types that wank on about Zachman Frameworks and big technology deployments and Service Level Agreements and Object Modelling and Messaging Standards and J2EE and SDLC and more and gag and more.

  4. lucy April 12, 2006 at 6:15 pm #

    Actually I think you’ve got it pretty much spot on! I would tend to agree that Eric has identified a couple more in the wild as well, but I’ve definitely met all of your species. Also, I have met a bricks-and-mortar Architect turned IA – Kit Lewis from Framfab UK, who spoke at the Euro-IA conference, is one. (http://www.euroia.org/speakers.html)

  5. Gordon April 12, 2006 at 7:47 pm #

    Lemme think, I’m a Technical Author, so that would make me….

    Mind you the “jack of all trades” comment sings nicely with a recent post of mine so there is always that…

  6. James Mc Parlane April 12, 2006 at 8:21 pm #

    Strangely enough, my role at APL in 1996 was “Information Architect” (I think I still have an old box of business cards with that on it)

    We move in strange circles :)

  7. Jorge Arango April 13, 2006 at 8:45 am #

    I’ve met a some in the IA Summits, so I know there are others (besides me ;-)). Interestingly, Richard Saul Wurman — who coined the phrase “Information Architect” — has a background in brick-and-mortar architecture as well.

  8. Dmitry April 14, 2006 at 3:11 am #

    This is a fun post. I fall somewhere between the reformed developer/techie and fresh skin graduate species – a chameleon, I suppose…

    I do think you have given the reformed dev subspecies a bit of a short shrift. Many of us with tech backgrounds chose the path of the IA precisely because of our awareness of the plight of people using (and being abused by) products we helped develop. The part about avoiding the visual subspecies does ring true though. :)

  9. leisa.reichelt April 18, 2006 at 3:21 pm #

    yeah, i agree. I have been a bit tough on the developer/techie types, and I’ve really lumped a few different types into one group. (Eric, I didn’t mean to leave out your category, I just kind of generalised it I think!)

    I’m really surprised re: the ‘bricks and mortar’ species. I’m still fascinated to know how/why they make the transition from construction in the ‘real world’ to data construction (so to speak).

    Funny that we don’t seem to have had any visual or content type species drop by and comment… I wonder if that means that they are:

    a) fewer in number
    b) not into blogs so much
    c) shy and don’t like to comment.

    :)

  10. PerttuT April 20, 2006 at 9:52 pm #

    Very cool post. Im a “nouveau IA (fresh skin graduate type)” definately since I dont have that “old life” and Im doing my master thesis about web content management at the moment. Its very nice that you also mentioned us.

    Graduate IAs best strenght might be that they usually have a pretty solid basic information about the field of digital media. For example, I have quite good knowledge of all those areas which you mentioned in your post – even though the knowledge is more or less university-knowledge, not practical know-how.

    So, I would say that “nouveau IAs” are atleast equipped to handle the upcoming future challenges pretty well since they have been equipped for example with content management theory, database design skills, programming skills, usability know-how and search technology basics.

    (My opinion is that to survive the “nouveau IA” must choose 1-2 skills and put the best effort into them. “Jack-of-all-trades-IA” -style is not an option for junior IA.)

  11. Beth April 21, 2006 at 9:47 pm #

    How about instructional designers? I find that instructional design and IA go hand in hand in so many ways…

  12. William April 23, 2006 at 10:42 am #

    Reading all this, I fit the mould of Bricks and Mortar Architect turned IA, (and then turned again). So read on if you’re interested by stories. I think it’s quite relevant and yes there is a point to it all at the end.

    Career paths can be really weird things. I did my undergrad in English at a liberal arts college (with art classes on the side) then I began the bricks and mortar architecture path by working at a major architecture firm in their division that did work for Science buildings and research labs. Learned CAD, did layouts for lab spaces, punchlisted HVAC units and drywall specs. At the same time I also began helping do internal system stuff because I “had a knack for organizing things. Well, the architecture thing got really boring (see HVAC) and just as I was about to head out the door, the Director of Communications approached me and said that they were about to redo their website and would I please join a team as the “content manager” guy. Sure I said, and I worked on that project. Then they handed me a leads tracking software system to customize. Sure I said, and I worked on that project.

    Well, I did this for a bit and one day a guy came up to me and said “You know, you’re an Information Architect” and I shrugged my shoulders and said “What a preposterous title, but okay, whatever.”

    Skip forward a little bit and after taking a course in Information Design at the Rhode Island School of Design (and discovering that I liked it), I then found a hybrid Masters in Design program between the English department and School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University and took that for two years. During the summers, I did internships with weird titles like “User Interface Architect” at web design firms. I graduated and immediately got slammed by the Dot.com crash, resulting in my having to freelance a meager existence for a year.

    Well, then I went out to Vail, Colorado to visit a friend at his software firm. Wandered around the place, asked questions, was curious, wrote, doodled trying to figure out what the software firm did. Approached the head of marketing and said “Its kinda funny, I tried to figure out what you guys do and, well, here’s my sketch diagram.” The guy said “Great! Can we hire you.” So I became an “Information Design Contractor” whose job it was to be curious and find ways to visually explain what all the software guys were doing, and also to serve as an Information Architect for redesigning the company’s website. Did that.

    After six months I quit (because they couldn’t make a permanent position) and after some job searching I landed at a traditional graphic design firm in Philadelphia, where I am still at after 3 years. The work I do there falls officially into two categories: 1. “Information Design”, which involves organizing information through both written content and visual means and 2.) Environmental Graphic Design”, which involves developing signage systems and physical forms that relate to the environment they are in. To date, in the past three years I’ve developed websites, signage for cities and retail, annual reports, brochures, presentations, sushi wrappers, etc. AND at the same time I continue to freelance for the software firm I used to work at. AND I just finished a personal project to visualize the federal fuel economy ratings for all 2006 vehicles.

    I’m aying all this isn’t to toot my own horn (except maybe the last one, since visualizing all 2006 vehicle fuel statistics was killer and I’m a glutton for punishment), ANYWAY, really I’m stating it all because HERE IS MY POINT:

    Much as there is an inherent desire in all of us to codify and quantify things with labels like genus and species in the attempt to understand them, there is something problematic with that, especially with Information Architect. For the record, I call myself an Information Designer now because the term Information Architect has been so badly co-opted by “web design” that the original meaning that Ricky Wurman came up when he coined the phrase with has been somewhat lost (and as you can see, web is a fraction of what I do now, so it doesn’t really fit). However, as I continue to grow older and more mature as a designer, and gain more experiences as I’ve listed, I get the growing feeling that the whole notion of titles is patch of semantic quicksand. The more you struggle, the harder it is to feel sure about what you come up with.

    Ultimately it is the work that you do that defines what type of worker that you are. My blindingly obvious theory perhaps it is better and clearer to others (especially outside the industry) to say what products you produce (or can produce) rather than use titles that are still quite young and subject to wide interpretation. “I design signage systems, annual reports, charts and diagrams that help explain things” may be long, but is a hell of a lot clearer than “I’m a user interface information architect/designer.”

    If we suscribe to designer titles too much we might as well don the black rim glasses, head-to-toe black clothing, grab a latte and assume the annoying persona of the “creative” who I think prefers to hide behind the language of his profession because he/she wants the illusion of being smugly superior to others (and deep down isnt). I know I’ll get in trouble for saying that, but it’s really a pet peeve of mine.

    I’m curious to see how everyone responds to this. If you want more on me, see http://www.bardel.info for what I do and the basic definitions I’ve come up for these job titles.

    Peace,

    -William

  13. William April 23, 2006 at 10:50 am #

    …oh, and sorry for all the spelling and grammatical errors. I may have been an english major, but it was late and my typing skills suffered a bit.

    W

  14. leisa.reichelt April 24, 2006 at 9:56 am #

    hey Beth, I completely agree.

    I’ve actually done a bunch of eLearning over the years and I think there are *really* strong relationships between Instructional Design and Information Architecture. In fact, I think all information architects should learn Instructional Design principles and we’d all be better off :)

  15. leisa.reichelt April 24, 2006 at 10:13 am #

    hey William,

    thanks for writing all of that down! It was really interesting to hear your story, how you got into information design and the wide range of work you’ve been doing.

    don’t even mention grammar and spelling! Fortunately I seem to have found a bunch of people to read this blog who aren’t overly fussed at haphazard use of the English language… I’m not a big fan of copy-editing, and tend to press the Publish button rather than check for typos and poorly formed sentences… they’ve mostly let me get away with it so far!

    [thank you!]

    I’m glad you picked me up on the quantifying and codifying and counting thing, because this post actually had two purposes.

    the first, obviously, was to explore the different histories that people had and how they came into to do IA, and how their experience coloured the way they worked now (if at all).

    but for the second – I’ve been reading Christina Wodtke’s book Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web in which she talks about IA ‘rules’ and how so many of them use numbers. (Three clicks, Seven nav items, etc. etc.) and how it is the fact that someone takes a stand and give and idea a quantity that makes people pick up on it and take it seriously (that’s my very poor paraphrasing of her great writing!). So I thought I’d test it out and, rather than just asking ‘how does an IA’s previous work experience colour their work today’, I thought I’d make a statement re: the Six Species.

    It is an experiment that sees to have worked and quite a few people have picked up on this post. (More than usual, anyways).

    To get back to your comment re: spelling/grammar. This is how forgiving my readers are… they didn’t even tell me that my maths is so bad that I actually have SEVEN species here, not six! Now, that’s a little embarrassing. :)

  16. akf April 24, 2006 at 9:52 pm #

    I trained in interior architecture so could qualify as an ex-bricks and mortar architect, (not the decorative frilly kind you get, more to do with functional changes to the shell of a building).

    When I branched in to new media in the 1990s I had a few recruitment agencies ask me why so many ‘building’ architects were getting in to new media as it appeared to be a common thing. They were surprised and couldn’t understand the change of direction, but for me it felt like a pretty natural change, (I did consider going in to town planning but couldn’t imagine myself spending 10 spend years on one project). I didn’t take architecture and design any further than university though, although I did work in the industry for my placement year.

    A lot of design principles for digital media from the construction industry. Christopher Alexander came out with a book ‘The Pattern Language’ in the late 1970s, covering good design practices for the built environment, yet it is often referenced today in the digital media industry. Also the term ‘form follows function’, taken from the modern architectural movement and industrial design industry seams to be commonly used.

    When working on an urban landscape, building, interior or product you would cover a combination of ‘user experience’ tasks, the obvious ones being: business requirements, use case scenarios, accessibility, usability, way finding and of course some project management.

    I think someone who has worked on architectural projects for commercial buildings such as galleries, theatres, restaurants, hospitals and etc would feel more at home designing online applications and portals than they would working with databases, which is far too abstract. And it is becoming more and more focused on data management.

    When I started out the work was mostly companies wanting to get an online presence and with then with First Direct banking there came online applications. For brochure ware sites it took one person to do the design, front end code, production, project management, information architecture and site marketing. Now we have got to the stage where the title Information Architect doesn’t actually say what you do, the term IA has been applied to so many roles. My title currently is IA but I’ve come the conclusion I would sit best with the title of ‘User Experience Architect’ as this would explain more of what I do and enjoy doing. Maybe more of a generalist that would encompass the species ‘usability IA’, ‘visual artist’, ‘producer’, possibly ‘content types’, but could even include strategy.

    … may worth pointing out that architecture (the building kind) has one of the lowest satisfaction rates as an industry goes, possibly even more so than dentistry? Surprising to hear maybe, but if you consider that you have 7 years training, get paid pretty badly, work stupidly long hours, end up with a wardrobe of cord jackets and grow a beard and with the highlight of your career would be having working on detailing the toilets to a prison outside Hull you may consider a career change. Unless you break out on your own or start a new partnership which is a completely different story.

    So glad I came across this blog.

    akf

  17. Nick Hoh April 25, 2006 at 12:11 am #

    Hi Leisa,

    Well you got my type (usability IA) nailed down. Nice article!

  18. leisa.reichelt April 25, 2006 at 1:02 pm #

    hey akf

    thanks for your message. how amazing that there are so many bricks & mortar turned information architects out there and this is the first time I’m getting to ‘meet’ some!

    i guess it does make perfect sense. I know I (and many others) use all kinds of building & construction metaphors all throughout the interactive media production process. Marrying a builder and getting to know that industry even more has actually been quite helpful for me in having more specific & detailed metaphors that I can use with clients – and it’s the only way I can explain my work to my family! (it helps, I guess, that Sydneysiders are rampant renovators!)

    are you kidding re: architects having lower job satisfaction than dentists! I’d never heard that before.

    you make information architecture sound so much more appealing that building architecture! (I did building architecture for work experience when I was in high school… it wasn’t half as glamorous as I’d imagined!)

    Finally, I agree. Although the contract I’m currently working on calls me an Information Architect, that’s only one of the things I do. I’m also currently calling myself a User Experience Architect. Not sure about the architect bit tho, but I’m also not quite ready to call myself a designer!

  19. leisa.reichelt April 25, 2006 at 1:06 pm #

    hey nick,

    thanks for stopping by and leaving a note :)

    I really like your Yahoo page!

  20. Marianne April 25, 2006 at 10:31 pm #

    Hello Leisa,

    And thank you for trying to get all of the IA kittens in the box. While your IA archtypes are spot on, I had to lauch as it is about time for another thread on “defining the d*** thing” to pop up on one of the listservs with the regularity of an Old Faithful blast. The only correction/suggestion that I would make is to have the “nouveau IA (fresh skin graduate types)” a subset of the others as that is usually the case. In the end, as has been discussed during each of the “defining the d*** thing” conversations, IA is about all of these and more…as folks have commented…It’s a little bit of cognitive science, computer science, library science, information science, wordsmithing, with, I believe, a dollop of obscessive compulsion.

  21. scottbp May 15, 2006 at 3:18 pm #

    I liked your list of alternatives… I think I belong in about half the categories!
    I studied philosophy at university, then film school. Followed by 5 years making short films, directing plays, writing etc…
    Then came the boom times and I suddenly became a “web designer,” you know top to bottom from concept to delivery. Then over the course of a few years little bits fell out of my job description as I focused more and more on IA.

    But here at work we have a former marine biologist, a PM, 2 grads, a usability grrl, me, and Ken (who is inexplicable).

    This is actually one of the reasons I love IA (and also the web in general) there are SO many varied backgrounds. Even if it does make it, interesting, at times

  22. Scott May 19, 2006 at 2:02 pm #

    Leisa,
    I just discovered this posting and I know by now the comment thread might’ve gone a little cold, but I’m interesting…what species do you emanate from?… or have you redefined yourself as Digital Experience Architect? even though you conduct what many would call IA activities?

    I also wondered if you’d come across Toni Robertson’s research in the area:

    Robertson, T. (2004) Doing technology design and being an Information Architect. Proceedings of USTA2004, Understanding Sociotechnical Action, June, Edinburgh, Scotland, pp. 40-44.
    http://research.it.uts.edu.au/idwop/downloads/RobertsonSociotechnical.pdf

    Robertson, T. and Hewlett, C. (2004) HCI Practices and the Work of Information Architects. Proceedings of APCHI 2004, the Australian Pacific Conference on Computer Human Interaction, June 2004, Rotorua, New Zealand, pp. 369-378.
    http://research.it.uts.edu.au/idwop/downloads/RobertsonAPCHI2004.pdf

  23. leisa.reichelt May 20, 2006 at 5:46 pm #

    hey Scottbp – yep, I agree. When I used to be a producer it was kind of the same. I’ve worked with ex-lawyers, writers, marketers, event managers, scientists, and jewellers (and probably many more I can’t think of yet). The diversity of experience is amazing. It’s going to be a little sad, I think, when IAs will all be people who have done IA and nothing else (although, given the nature of the X, Y etc. generations, perhaps this won’t be the case).

  24. leisa.reichelt May 20, 2006 at 5:48 pm #

    hey the other Scott :)

    a comment thread is never cold in my opinion :) (particularly not this one for some reason, but who’s complaining?!)

    without going back too far, I’m an ex-producer IA (so, jack of all etc.) I’ve kind of re-branded a little as a User Experience Architect because I think that the work that I does goes outside the bounds of strictly IA, and also because I think it better describes the kinds of outcomes that I try to achieve with my work… but there are probably half a dozen vigorous debates going on at any moment of the day about what and IA actually is and does… I’m staying out of that ;)

    meanwhile, I certainly do know Toni Roberton’s work. I’ve had the pleasure of doing her Interaction Design subject at UTS and doing a little research work with her as well. It’s been a while since I read those papers though, so perhaps I’ll go back and do a little refresh :)

    thanks for the links & your note :)

  25. Harry Max July 30, 2006 at 12:10 am #

    The first Information Architects I worked with came out of IBM (on-line technical reference & parts manuals for the aerospace industry), the UNIX on-line documentation and SGML worlds, database-driven catalog development, and the early CD-ROM titles developed for the Mac.

    Each of these areas involved high-utility user experience design of information spaces, although some were more beautiful than others…which set the bar very high us non-visual artist/graphic designer types ;-)

    My most excellent friend Mark Interrante, once again, sent me the pointer to another interesting conversation. Thanks Mark (check out his photography at Flickr).

    ..
    Harry Max

  26. KayZee April 8, 2007 at 8:22 pm #

    Before we get our collective knickers in a twist about what species of IA we are or indeed if we agree with the categorization porposed here, the point or this post (I think) is not so much what the species are but becuase this is a relatively new field we are influenced by the work and training we did before we started do this work.

    I was a biologist. When we started talking about taxonomies we talked about “lumpers” and “splitters”, i.e. people who liked to group species and people who preferred to separate secies. I am a lumper.

    To me we are not talking about species so much as varieties of the same species. There are such a wide variety of backgrounds for all IAs. I am currently working with a newly minted IA who has formal design training as well as experience in film. I know another who will graduate next year from an interactive design program who will be working as an IA this summer with a background and degree in commerce.

    We all come to the table with our collective experiences, whatever they may be. Isn’t it time to put away the snobbery (in whatever flavor that comes in) and start to collaborate?

  27. leisa.reichelt April 10, 2007 at 12:50 pm #

    hey KayZee. I hope no one is getting their knickers in a twist! The intention of this post was always to celebrate what I think is unique about working in a field that is as young and growing as ours is – that is that we have so many people with so many different backgrounds involved. I love the fact that I now work with everyone from psychologists to furniture makers – the different perspectives make it all the richer.

    There are some definitely similarities amongst the groups though. I thought it would be fun to make some sweeping statements and see what other people thought! (I reckon there’s a bit of snobbery within some of the segments I suggest, but even that seems to be dying away as time passes).

    I’m no biologist tho, so I’ll let you have the last word on whether we’re talking species or not!

  28. christina June 5, 2007 at 5:49 pm #

    Well, I don’t recognize myself in the list– I’d be curious where you’d put me. Usability/content/graphic? I think there is yet another category– people who like to try to boss everyone around: me and peterme fit nicely there. I was talking with Lou recently, and we thought we are actually just entrepreneurs who were drawn to IA simply because it was raw and new and needed building. I guess many of the early kids leaned that way– an eighth category?

    That’s really the pleasure of these things, isn’t it? Like a horoscope or a meyers-briggs test, we all like to hold a mirror up to ourselves. Bellygazing permitted here, 5 cents a look!

    Anyhow, just happy my book led to creating new things! Everyone should go buy my book and then make a blog post. ;-)

  29. leisa.reichelt June 5, 2007 at 10:13 pm #

    hey Christina.

    wow, it feels like an age since I wrote this post… I wonder if I wrote it again today if I’d make slightly different or more categories…

    I’d definitely include a category that was something along the lines of ‘part-time’ IA, or ‘sometime IA’ – this would catch all the people who have an active interest in and participate in IA, but whose primary role is actually something completely different. Like being an entrepreneur, or a developer, or a writer, or whatever.

    How would that work for you?

    I think you’re totally right tho’, it’s really just intended as a conversation starter or a way of reflecting on who we are and what we all bring to the field and how we can work together.

    thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a note :)

  30. Kit Lewis June 26, 2007 at 1:51 pm #

    Re. ‘bricks & mortar’ architects turning themselves into information architects, user experience architects etc…

    For me, the key thing is how one defines “architecture”. My personal definition is very different to the one you’ll read in an encylopedia (eg. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture); architecture is the design of space around people. This is the aspect which distinguishes it from engineering and construction on the one hand, and sculpture and product / graphic design on the other.

    If you think about it in this way, then the crossover to IA or EA becomes reasonable, even inevitable – in the developed world it’s becoming increasingly hard to separate the physical space from the information space. Everything contributes to the experience that people have.

  31. Steven Heitman August 2, 2007 at 9:44 am #

    Hi,

    I’m the new type of IA fresh out of school in May 2000. I’m in the process of getting another graduate degree with more emphasis in IA. I’ve found it difficult to get a job because it seems all the hiring managers don’t have any college degrees in IA.

    Can any one speak to this?

    I don’t understand why it is I can’t seem to get a good job. I’m feeling at my wits end because I can’t be unemployed for the next million years.

    What’s up?

    Sincerely,

    A frustrated, very frustrated IA…

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