Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Information Architecture Works


The Information Architecture Culture

The information architecture culture seems to have emerged out of the explosive growth of the Web in the 1990s combined with the publishing of Richard Saul Wurman's book "Information Architects" in 1996. Peter Morville, who we introduced earlier, recalls passionate discussions with colleagues about applying the principles of library and information science (LIS) to Wurman's concept of information architecture. When O'Reilly published Morville's book, co-authored with Louis Rosenfeld, interest in the topic grew enough that, two years later, Richard Hill of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) helped Rosenfeld organize the first annual Information Architecture Summit.

ASIS&T has held the IA Summit every year since that first one in 2000 [source: ASIS&T]. The conference includes workshops taught by IA innovators and respected professionals. Topics covered in the 2011 conference include specific areas of information architecture, the latest IA techniques and the status and future of information architecture.

This growing interest in information architecture has helped launch other organizations and conferences. International conferences include the European Information Architecture (EuroIA) summit and Australia's Information Architecture Conference (Oz-IA) [sources: EuroIA, Oz-IA]. The Information Architecture Institute (IAI) is a professional organization whose aim is to advance the field of information architecture. The IAI holds its own annual conference called IDEA: Information Design Experience Access [source: IAI].

So, who is the typical information architect? Adelle Frank of Emory University in Atlanta has embraced her passion for IA through her work managing the data behind the Emory College Web site. Frank has attended two IA Summit conferences, and she describes the typical IA professional as a "quirky, intelligent individual who combines tech-savvy with good social skills and creativity." She also explains that information architecture enthusiasts love creatively bringing order out of the chaos of information overload, improving how people experience the Internet [source: Frank].

While not every information architect works under that job title, there are many people with the same skills and passion for IA that Frank describes. This growing community stays informed of the latest information architecture news through RSS feeds, mailing lists, podcasts from IA events, articles and membership in key organizations like ASIS&T and IAI. Frank added that this tech-savvy crowd also sends and receives messages through Twitter during events, offering another way IA enthusiasts can stay informed even if they can't be there in person [source: Frank].

While this article has covered the history, concepts, techniques and technology behind information architecture, it has really only scratched the surface. IA is a very broad topic with lots of literature for both newcomers and experienced architects. For lots more information, be a part of this site's user interaction IA and click forward to the next page.