Home | Initiatives | Explaining IA

In January 2010, the IA Institute and Peter Morville announced Explain IA. In this contest, we invited members to explain information architecture. What is it? Why is it important? What does it mean to you? We wanted to give our members an opportunity to tell a story (using text, pictures, audio, and/or video) about their relationship to information architecture. This is supporting a Board of Directors initiative led by Andrew Hinton and a group of advisors to update our official description of Information Architecture.

We created this wiki page to continue this exploration. Please enter links to articles and sites that you feel most effectively explain Information Architecture. We will use these resources to build a series of documents that members can use to Explain IA to their co-workers, clients and business partners, whether or not they are practitioners.

To see the contest entries, visit our Flickr group page:


Explain IA Links

When considering resources to post on this page, please enter links to resources that answer "What is IA?" or that present broad level information to help non-practitioners understand IA. (i.e., your favorite resource on card sorting or Pervasive UX would be inappropriate)

Classic Resources

Elevator Pitches: Our original 60 second descriptions from Asilomar 2002. Add your own elevator pitch.

What is Information Architecture: a classic, but perhaps dated whitepaper created by the IA Institute in 2006.

Defining Information Architecture: Chapter 1 of Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Peter Morville and Louis Rosenfeld. Note: This is links to a PDF document.

New Challenges Retreat: Ideas, Discussion and a Call to Action: Anders Ramsay's summary of a retreat held at Edith Macy Conference Center, just north of New York City, on October 7-9, 2005.

A Visual Vocabulary for Describing Information Architecture and Interaction Design: Jesse James Garrett's website discusses the considerations in development of IA/IxD diagrams, outlines a basic symbology for diagramming information architecture and interaction design concepts, and provides guidelines for the use of these elements.

IA Classics in Comic Book Form: Dan Willis' illustrations used in presenting classic IA tools such as sitepath diagramming, topic mapping, free listing, card sorting, and personas. Note: This links to a PDF document.

What an Information Architect Does: Jesse James Garrett summarizes the results of a comparative analysis of IA job descriptions conducted in July 2000. Note: This links to a PDF document.

Becoming an Information Architect: Written in 1999, Sacha Cohen's article for Monster.com, this was one of the first articles noted in the literature about what an Information Architect does. The original article is no longer available and we have been unable to locate Sacha Cohen or another version of this interview outside archive.org. Read for a fascinating look at a career alternative that was new in 1999.

Newer Resources

Journal of Information Architecture: The first academic journal exploring topics in Information Architecture, sponsored by the Copenhagen Business School and the Information Architecture Institute.

  • Building an Information Architecture Checklist: Laura Downey and Sumit Banerjee's case study describes the development of an IA checklist in a large United States government agency. Their definition outlines the broader scope of Information Architecture within the Enterprise.

Explain IA Contest: Our January 2010 contest produced 69 entries explaining Information Architecture. Which is your favorite?

The Commoditization and Fragmentation of the Information Architecture Community – Nick Finck's IA Summit 2010 presentation at SlideShare. Podcast at: http://boxesandarrows.com/view/ia-summit-10-day-1

Eight Principles of Information Architecture: Dan Brown's 2010 IA Summit presentation. A podcast is available at: http://boxesandarrows.com/view/ia-summit-10-day-2

Bridging IA Research and Practice: Keith Instone and Andrea Resmini's 2010 IA Summit presentation.

Plenary Speech from IA Summit 2009: This is the controversial and thought provoking plenary given by Jesse James Garret in which he states that there are no information architects or interaction designers, only user experience designers. While the speech highlighted a rift between the IA and IxD community that many believed to have been healing or overblown to begin with, it did serve to promote both communities to think more carefully about how what they do is perceived by the larger business community.

DSIA Portal of Information Architecture: Nate Davis launched this portal in April, 2010 to offer educational and technical content to the general public, business stakeholders and UX practitioners who are interested in the latest advances in information architecture from the DSIA perspective. Nate's IA Summit talk podcast is available at: http://boxesandarrows.com/view/ia-summit-10-day-3

We Are All Information Architects: An interview with Eric Reiss addressing the issue of IA's definition, how to develop as an IA professional, and what fields of knowledge and skills an information architect should have.

Last edited 16 Feb 2011 by whysel