SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: [Sigia-l] RE: Apple and Pears
Re: [Sigia-l] RE: Apple and Pears
From: Peter Merholz (peterme_at_peterme.com)
Date: Wed Mar 19 2003 - 12:19:11 EST
Having worked at Studio Archetype, I feel obliged to pipe up here...
> But I tend to think that a lot of people overlook the contributes of AIGA
> and the graphic/visual designers as being some of the real pioneers for IA.
> Many visionaries (like Clement Mok) made immense contributions to the
> discipline and yet are hardly referenced because they did not "pitch"
> themselves as having a LIS foundation.
Um. This statement is utterly incorrect. Christina, as evidenced in her
post, has been going on about "West Coast IA", which would be the approach
that folks like Studio Archetype and Vivid Studios took. And, in fact, past
discussions have dwelled on how "West Coast IA" took precedence over Polar
Bear IA, and was, initially, much more successful.
Folks like Studio Archetype and Vivid Studios were very much influenced by
Richard Saul Wurman's approach to "information architecture", which stressed
the visual representation of information. Studio Archetype began as a
graphic design company, and evolved to develop more complex design systems
that required an appreciation of the information needs.
Now, the reason they did not "pitch" themselves as having an LIS foundation
is because they didn't.
I also think the reason they're decreasingly referenced is because, as the
field matures, it becomes clear that those graphically-oriented beginnings
are not well-suited to the direction that IA is taking, which involves
understanding and portraying relationships within complex information spaces
that simply goes beyond what can portrayed in a pretty diagram.
> However, the design studios (like
> Studio Archetype) were the market trigger that permitted IA to flourish in
> the mid to latter 90s (and thus contributing to the survival of the skills
> today). The IA pureplay shops (like Argus) bombed commercially because of
> overspecialization and focus on LIS (ever read the titles of some of the
> consultants over there?
If you can point to another "IA pureplay shop", then maybe I'd take this
point seriously. But I don't think Argus "bombed" because it was an IA
pureplay shop. A lot of companies "bombed" around the same time that Argus
did, including the folks that acquired Studio Archetype, Sapient. (Though
Sapient is still around... But Scient? Viant? IXL?).
And while I agree that folks like Studio Archetype contributed to the market
success of information architecture, I would argue that Argus has had as
much of a contribution, not through the success of their consultancy, but
through how they helped Spread the Word.
(I would also argue that the consulting company probably most responsible
for the 'success' of information architecture is probably Razorfish.)
> To this day I am amazed that AIGA didn't absorb the domain of IA and thus
> make it a subset of visual design. I think they were feeling generous (and
> still are) as such a move would not be beyond their capabilities.
This statement here expresses such a lack of understanding of information
architecture that I don't know where to begin. It also reflects a lack of
understanding about the AIGA.
There's no way that the AIGA could simply "absorb" IA, in that people
practicing IA have no desire to be absorbed by them. By and large, IA
practitioners are suspicious and wary of the AIGA, since it continues to
coddle visual designers who value form over function.
The AIGA has tried to extend a branch to IA (and other disciplines, like
interaction design and usability) through the Experience Design community of
interest. The jury is still out on how successful this has been.
> So yes I agree with a loose definition of the role. Actually, what would be
> the downside of pitching IA as a subset of [usability, interaction design,
> visual design, or whatever] that an individual cross trains in to improve
> the overall experience of a product/design?
Because there are elements of information architecture that are too complex,
require too much training, rigor, etc., for it simply to be tacked on to an
And, frankly, if anything ought to be the "subset", it's usability. But
that's a whole different thread...
When replying, please *trim your post* as much as possible.
*Plain text, please; NO Attachments
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: Sun Nov 23 2003 - 22:55:40 EST