Introducing… the new World Information Architecture Association

World IA Day is growing up. We started as a grassroots organization, organizing events once a year, bringing people together to talk about the order and structure of things. Now it’s time to build the steps to move the discipline forward.

The board has a fuzzy vision for this future, based on early conversations in 2019–2020. The world has changed quite a bit and the need for information architecture is ever so clear, even if under different names, misinformation, information overload, cognitive dissonance, etc. The World Information Architecture Association is about building, empowering, learning, and engaging.

An event once a year is not enough. As a newly forming organization, we have big ambitions to build on the shoulders of the giants before us. We invite you to watch over us and contribute your thoughts and feedback.

Introducing the World IA Association. Btw, we’re looking for volunteer designers

Why the name change: Organization vs Event

The label “World IA Day” has been used for many things: from talking about the annual events to referring to the organization itself. The label has overgrown its usage and we on the global board have decided to split the label into two so that a clear distinction can be made between the Day and Association and their objectives:

  • “World IA Day” — refers to the annual events that take place in February/March
  • “World Information Architecture Association” — refers to the organization behind the events, spelling out “IA” for clarity

We’ll talk about why World IA Day the organization is changing its name, what changes and what stays the same, and what’s new and exciting about our vision for the future of the #InformationArchitecture community-at-large.

The mission for World Information Architecture Association is focused on the spread of information architecture to:

  • Build and connect a global community of IA advocates and practitioners
  • Promote the role of IA in different fields
  • Provide resources for learning and professional development
  • Engage IA academics and professionals in research and development

The local events will still be the same. As it is now, event names should take on “World IA Day” as the prefix in front of the event name, i.e. “World IA Day Moscow”, “World IA Day Egypt”, “World IA Day Italia”, “World IA Day New York”.

  • If people asked you, what events have you attended? You can still say that you went to World IA Day + {local event name}
  • If someone asked you, what event are you organizing? World IA Day + {local event name}
  • If someone asked you, who’s behind World IA Day? You can say, it’s the volunteer nonprofit organization called World Information Architecture Association, where you then lapse into a 30-hour conversation about structure, meaning, and sense-making or {insert your own definition or metaphor for explaining information architecture}.

What’s in a name: Association and Identity

As we talk about World IA Day, we’ve consistently had to refer to World IA Day, the organization vs World IA Day, the annual event.

Considering the feedback from the community (June 2020, Future of World IA Day workshops) that was focused on the need for more events and services, we questioned whether it was the role for World IA Day as an organization to step up and fulfill that need. We realized that, for this to happen, the organization needed to garner support as a year-round entity and not around the event that happens once a year.

By taking on a new identity, we are setting up expectations for an organization around information architecture as a profession.

Whose decision was it to change the name? Who was involved?

We knew that it was eventually going to happen when the organization was set up in late 2019. The paperwork was set up very quickly to make sure that WIAD20 would be able to operate with a legal and fiscal entity supporting it, World IA Day, Inc.

The global board of directors started the discussion around renaming in spring 2021. We brainstormed various options and steered away from others, namely, Institute and Foundation, to avoid confusion with known entities.

Along the way, we considered the play-on acronyms of WIAO (for World IA Organization), WIAS (for Society), and WIAA (for Agency or Action) and had fun pronouncing them out loud as words, not letters. Eventually, the board narrowed down the options to 2: Association and Community. Through a blind poll from the global board and advisors, it was determined 10 to 4 in favor of “association”.

How does the word “association” translate? What is the etymology behind “association”? Was it something that was easy to understand and conveyed? Here are some responses we received from the board and advisors about their reasons for choosing “Association” over “Community”:

Arguments for association:

  • […] association not only implies a professional connection, but could also be used as a pathway towards such an organization. The collapse of the [Information Architecture Institute, the former organizer of World IA Day] has left a void. If IA actually needs a professional association is another question, but association leaves open that possibility. It’s easier to imagine that as a potential (though not forgone) outcome from the WIAD association.
  • The word “association” carries baggage but is more honest.
  • Because it implies a professional organization!
  • There are lots of great communities already. There are a few associations (by name) but they mostly act like communities. We need associations even though they are harder. We need people to think in terms of professionalism, being committed to a higher purpose, and being willing to invest time and money [in]to it.
  • You want the added layer of legitimation / solidity that comes with “association.” The association cares for the community.

Arguments for community

  • […] community is a word without meaning and power. It’s like the word “excitement.” Speakers are “excited to be here.” Companies are “excited to announce.” Everyone says they are excited and yet nobody actually feels genuinely excited. How can we when everyone is always excited, all the time, about everyone[?]
  • So too with community. The twitter community. The board gaming community. The community for “insert online forums for users of some product made by a Fortune 500 company”. More than a dozen people with a shared interest in a thing is considered a community. The word no longer signifies anything meaningful to me.
  • I think it can convey “a sense of belongingness” and it “relates to people on the same level.” So I agree with the sentiment and reasoning for this choice. But I feel the word has become co-opted and overused so much that it no longer conveys the richness and warmth it once did.
  • The word “community” sounds better, but it belongs to the actual community, not to any one organization.

Overall, the sentiment was to attain a professional identity around the information architecture work we do, learn, and practice and a sense of shared belonging and identity.

What’s important for the community?

The global board wants to know from you. A group of volunteers is helping us find out what you think is important for a community and professional association around information architecture. This is part of our continuous efforts to hear back from the community-at-large. There’s a lot at stake to reform this organization. We’d like to include you along this journey.

Let us hear from you: https://forms.worldiaday.org/community-research

Contributors: Andrea Rosenbusch, Grace G Lau

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Grace G Lau

Grace G Lau

Information architect / taxonomist / UX researcher-designer based in Greater Los Angeles, California