Order the Chaos!

As residents of the 21st century, we are consumed with options. From what line of education to follow? what schools or college to apply to? how to travel to and from class? which laptop to buy for the class? lets not get started with bags and stationary!

We love it when we go into a store and find various options for what we are looking for, we want to see various sizes, colors, brands, quantities and more. But at the same time, we are overwhelmed by the choices. Walking into a departmental store for instance, that goes on for miles and houses almost everything from clothes to groceries to hardware products, we need a guide to know which direction to take to get what we want. Most times, even with sign boards we find ourselves feeling lost and looking for help.

The art of organizing and creating a system in a space such as this, is called Information Architecture.

IA is defined best by the Information Architecture Institute as:

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

Information Architecture through the Ages..

In 1964, an IBM research paper defines architecture as “The conceptual structure and functional behavior, distinguishing the organization of data flows and controls, logical design, and physical implementation”.

With the use of words such as ‘discs’ , ‘hubs’ and ‘wires’ it is clear they are referring to the then understood version of IA.

In 1970, Xerox was one of the first corporation that addressed to the notion of information structure and it used “elegant and inspiring phraseology, the architecture of information” to define the new corporate mission.

in the mid-1970s Richard Saul Wurman addressed the American Institute of architecture using the term “information” together with the term “architecture”.

The early view on information architecture that was developed from PARC, the IBM papers, and Wurman’s initial vision that was still forming when The World Wide Web emerged and provided a chance for pioneer professionals to operate with the large amounts of data through new media that did not have pre-existing corporate hierarchies.

‘An information architect is the individual who organizes the patterns inherent in data , making the complex clear’

-Saul Wurman

In 1998, a book published by Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville about information architecture and the World Wide Web hit store shelves, and the world was now exposed to information architecture.

‘The metaphors we use constantly in our everyday language profoundly influence what we do because they shape our understanding. They help us describe and explore new ideas in terms and concepts found in more familiar domains. ‘

- Earl Morrogh, (Information Architecture: An Emerging 21st Century Profession, 2003)

Its application..

Just as architects build buildings with structures and order, Information Architects create order and structure with the space provided. Where in the main task to for the design to be simple, direct and comprehendible.

Saul Wurman is the first man known to gain an understanding of the need for IA and invented five methods to information architecture, Organize by its location (space, area, place), Organize by alphabet (dictionary, filters), Organize by time (chronology, sequence), Organized by category (similarity), Organize by hierarchy (scale, value of products).

All these methods have their advantages and disadvantages. It is up to the situation, the designer and the time available to prove the ‘right’ method. IA’s use various tools to collect the information like card sorting, site mapping, interviews, wire framing. The most used are the user influencing tools, to best understand their way of categorizing.

The future..

With the world wide web and our desire for consumption, we are more attached to the digital world than the physical one. To accommodate this, the only way for information architecture to go is broader. It will grow in the next couple of years to accommodate more and serve the growing needs.