When entering a web resource, one expects to locate information quickly without having to spend minutes clicking around the site. Richard Saul Wurman coined the title information architect in 1976, based on the enormous amount of information generated by society. He thought that “the explosion of data needed an architecture, a series of systems, systemic design, and a series of performance criteria to measure it” (Knemeyer).
The Information Architecture Institute defines information architecture as “the art and science of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, online communities, and software to support usability.” Dorian Taylor believes that “since information architecture uses information as a raw material, it is virtually devoid of any content of its own. As such it is best demonstrated through copious examples and will never have one definition.”
The job description of an information architect is so diverse that one sole definition cannot be used to describe the field or characterize its responsibilities.
During the last decade, the job description of the information architecture career field has changed and developed into a wide range of descriptions. Mr. Taylor describes his work as “creating situational awareness and conceptual integrity.” Through this process, “artifacts emerge as byproducts (and ultimately receipts) of that process.” Taylor believes that “a persona, content inventory, or wireframe is meaningless if everybody involved doesn’t both understand and value it. The process of acquiring such an artifact is arguably more important than the artifact itself.” Information architects develop wireframes that help their businesses organize content in a database so that information is readily accessible to employees and customers.
Information architecture is currently a web-centric discipline because much of the work involves websites. Many individuals in this career field are hired by companies with a large-enough web presence to support a full-time information architect. Other individuals work for freelance companies that contract information architects to businesses that need help with websites, e-mail databases, and infrastructure setup.
Because degrees in information architecture are relatively new, many current information architects have college degrees in different disciplines. Some common backgrounds include graphic design, human-computer interaction, and library and information science. These majors are all related and are beneficial when looking at the skills and jobs that an information architect completes. Mr. Taylor doesn’t have an educational background and admits that he learned most of his skills on the job. As he states: “The theory lies in the intersections of so many disciplines that the word interdisciplinary seems hopelessly inadequate. In practice, it is extremely difficult to avoid becoming something of a domain expert as a byproduct of doing the job.”
- Information Architecture Resource Library: Lists the many colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations that offer courses in information architecture.
- The Information Architecture Institute
- Information architecture books
- Advice from an expert (Dorian Taylor)
- Knemeyer, Dirk. Information Design. January 2004. 24 April 2012.
- Taylor, Dorian. Information Architect Ryan Rennaker. 2012.
- The Information Architecture Institute. 2012. 24 April 2012.