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November 27, 2006

R.I.P., IA


David Armano brought another great topic into the discussion about the evolving role of Information Architects (IA). Joshua Porter of Bokardo.com thinks IAs are on their way out. Says David:

Now before you take either side of the debate regarding the role and future of Information Architects (IA's), I would ask this question. Does the term accurately represent what a (insert title here) does?  Or if you are an IA, do you feel it does?

Not to sound too "New Age-y" here, but I believe job titles to be overly limiting. Yes, it's a good idea to have roles and decision-making authority defined beforehand, but it's also a bit arrogant to suggest that people's intellect is limited by the role they are assigned by a narrow-minded organizational structure. I know that I don't have a lock on any knowledge, and I am often enlightened by those in my team as well as what some would consider unlikely sources -- namely, users.

Users aren't "experts" in the same sense that we are, but they are the ones who must ultimately be satisfied with our final product. Four to six years of school and a decade of experience creating websites cannot account for subtle nuances that may, to those unaware or unappreciative of our "expertise," render collective elements of site design ineffective.

David's suggestion for a new title, which is as good as any, is "Experience Architect." My struggle with that is that experience is truly everyone's responsibility. I'm reminded (okay, it's a stretch) by Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural address, when he said, "We are all republicans; we are all federalists..."

Just so, we are all experience architects; we are all concerned with usability. The moment we demand our roles be cast in stone, we hamper our growth and capacity for innovation.

If this discussion teaches us anything, it is that we cannot become too comfortable in predefined roles, nor are we worthy of accolades and adulation because we may have accomplished something in the past according to our predefined roles. The game changes constantly. The bar is raised with every new project, and as such, we are forced to increase our level of output or get left behind. - Cam Beck


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"The game changes constantly. The bar is raised with every new project, and as such, we are forced to increase our level of output or get left behind."

Cam. I think that's a nice thought to end off on. We constantly evolve our skills and sometimes that requires a certain degree of discussion about what we call ourselves. We can't get carried away with labels—but if the shoe no longer fits...

I think IAs have outgrown the shoe, to be certain. The shoe hasn't changed, necessarily, but now it has become only a component of what those "formerly known as" IAs do - just as "experience" or "interaction" designers don't quite capture it, entirely (although I'm sure it varies by organization).

Outside of any hybrid or hyphenated labels, it might be time to introduce "heuristic" into the mainstream lexicon.

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