Where’s the Restaurant?

Remember that time when you had to meet a friend at a restaurant in a mall that you’ve never been to? You’ve spent 10 minutes walking around just to find the restaurant, but no luck. So, you look upwards for any signs that can direct you for the nearest digital directory board. When you’ve reached the digital directory board that outlines all the different places, you realize there are different categories. Looking under the Restaurant tab, you have found the restaurant.

This is a common example of Information Architecture (IA) at work.

The Information Architecture Institute explains IA in a concise quote:

Information architecture is about helping people understand their surroundings and find what they’re looking for, in the real world as well as online.

In other words, Information Architecture creates structure and the direction of flow for a website, a downloaded application, printed materials or even the physical spaces we encounter. Good IA allows users to understand where they currently are and the direction they should head towards in order to find the information they want. Through Information Architecture, we are able to create site maps, hierarchies, categorizations, navigation, etc. Once the content is separated and divided into categories, then the act of doing Information Architecture is practiced.

But how did the term “Information Architecture” emerge into the world?

1964: IBM Research Paper

Within the research paper, the author defined architecture as “The conceptual structure and functional behaviour, not just the physical layout, distinguishing the organization of data flows and controls, logical design, best practices, and professional expertise.”

1970: Richard Saul Wurman

At this time, computer architecture was only seen as disks, boxes, and wires. Richard proposed to the American Institute of architecture the idea of using the term “information” together with “architecture,” where architecture was not seen as a physical term but also as a conceptual term.

1970: Xerox Palo Alto Research Center

This was when Xerox recognized the importance of information structure and used the “architecture of information” to define its new corporate mission.

Mid 1980s: Design Deliverables

During this period, the topic of information architecture was talked less about as the term information systems grew. However, the design deliverables that are associated with IA that were formed into the toolkit in the late 1990s were created during this time. This included blueprints, information categories, requirements, and guidelines.

1998: Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville

Rosenfeld and Morville published a book about information architecture and World Wide Web that exposed the world to information architecture.

2009: Dan Klyn

Dan Klyn proposed the idea of the interplay of Ontology, Taxonomy, and Choreography into understanding IA.

Ontology describes the MEANING of the product or service’s elements. Taxonomy refers to the ARRANGEMENT of the elements. Choreography refers to the INTERACTION among all the parts to ensure everything flows smoothly.

He released this video to help users understand the definition of Information Architecture using his ideas:

The next time you’ve found a way to get to the particular restaurant to meet up with your friend, think about how easy or how hard it was to get to where you were. Was there something that frustrated you? Was there anything that could’ve sped up the process? These are questions Information Architects need to ask themselves when designing for users like you to help you find where you want to go.



Bigby, G. (2016, May 6). The History of Information Architecture. Retrieved from https://dynomapper.com/blog/19-ux/187-history-of-information-architecture

Complete Beginner’s Guide to Information Architecture | UX Booth. (2015, December 22). Retrieved from http://www.uxbooth.com/articles/complete-beginners-guide-to-information-architecture/

Klyn, D. (2016, April 25). Understanding Information Architecture. Retrieved from http://understandinggroup.com/information-architecture/understanding-information-architecture/

Resmini, A. Journal of Information Architecture. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://journalofia.org/volume3/issue2/03-resmini/

What is Information Architecture? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.iainstitute.org/what-is-ia