1. Please tell us about your current projects.
My main clients at present are The Library of Congress and The Kresge Foundation. I’ve been working with the Library for the past two years, first to define a Web Strategy, and then to translate that framework into an information architecture. It’s been a real honor to serve the world’s largest library and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States, and I look forward to the rollout of improvements over the next few years. I’ve also had a great time working with my colleagues at Q LTD to redesign The Kresge Foundation’s web presence. In addition to designing the information architecture, I’ve enjoyed the user and stakeholder research, defining a social media and collaboration strategy, and getting hands-on experience with the Google Mini. I’m happy to know that our information architecture and user experience contributions will help this $3.1 billion philanthropic foundation to improve the quality of life for future generations.
2. What do you dislike most about your profession?
It saddens me to see UX professionals framing the relationships between disciplines as a zero-sum game. I absolutely don’t believe that for interaction designers or content strategists to win, information architects must lose. In fact, in my experience, the opposite is true. I regularly advise my largest clients to hire specialists with complementary expertise in content strategy, governance, interaction design, search engine optimization, and user research. It’s so much more interesting and productive to work together. And, when I consult for small organizations and must serve as a UX generalist, I’m grateful for the wisdom I’ve gathered from the books and talks by my colleagues in related disciplines. We have so much to learn from one another.
3. What will the industry look like in 20 years?
Last year I wrote an article about Ubiquitous Service Design in which I offer some thoughts about where things are headed. But 20 years is a long time. I expect we’ll experience some black swan events that will make the shift to self-driving cars look like a bump in the road. Also, I’m hopeful that some of the more substantive changes will be driven not by technology but by cultural adaptation. If we’re going to create a healthier, happier, more sustainable society, we need to change what we do, what we believe, and what we want.
4. You are known as a father of the discipline of information architecture. What were your first steps? Was it difficult to spread your ideas?
Louis Rosenfeld and I were in the right place at the right time. In the early 1990s, we began using our academic backgrounds in library and information science to solve the practical challenges of structuring and organizing information on the Internet and the World Wide Web. It didn’t take us long to steal the title “information architect” from Richard Saul Wurman (he coined the phrase in 1976) and to borrow concepts and methods from such disciplines as anthropology, human-computer interaction, and technical communication. It did take a lot of hard work. We were tireless evangelists. We wrote dozens of articles, spoke at countless conferences, and built the world’s first information architecture consulting firm. But it was the publication of the “polar bear book” in 1998 that brought mainstream attention to information architecture. I’d never imagined that the polar bear would make such a big splash.
5. Do you like it when you are called a guru?
Yes. I’d rather be called a guru than an idiot. I try not to worry about what people call me. But I don’t always succeed.
6. Are you writing a book now? If you were, what would it be about?
No. I’ll never be crazy enough to write another book. But if I were, it would be called Ubiquitous Information Architecture, and it would explain what it means to be an information architect in an era of ubiquitous computing and cross-channel user experience design.