“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

The Secret War: Information Architecture, what is it?

My buddy Chris and I have a way to really get debates going. Here is one based on the article by GK Van Patter that he lauds and I hate.

It started here, when Chris points us to GK’s article (go there to read GKs article. I don’t want to add another link to it to help its Google score).

In the comments Chris and I do a little back and forth and I was about to reply in his comments and I thought … “This is good shit” and I should post it to my own blog and point back if I can. So here goes … Enjoy!


[Chris challenges me to whether or not I’ve been to a workshop of NextD (GK’s organization. After I state that GK has not been to the IA Summit, the only “Findability IA” conference I know of, after claiming he knows what we do there.]
1) I’ve been to GK’s workshops. :), but my point was that he CLAIMS knowledge of a community that he is criticizing, but really doesn’t know anything about it.
2) He actually never makes a point in THIS article, except to criticize a growing and successful community of practitioners.
3) He creates a term that no one in the IA community uses; “Findability Information Architecture”?
4) Why? To what purpose? What is this treatise hoping to gain? If he is trying to convince the IA community about the value of strategic experience design, he is really preaching to the choir. I mean the IA community is completely embedded with experience designers like Nathan Shedroff and others who are leaders of the experience design movement. Many of these leaders were instrumental in bringing about the AIGA-Experience Design community into being and creating the DUX conferences.

Personally, I went to the first workshop from NextD b/c I saw something worth relating to about thinking about design. It is right on, but I soon learned that what GK is talking about is well, DESIGN. It is just using cognitive thinking as a way of structuring ideative processes. Cool! Lots of value there.

Good stuff, valuable … But when someone goes foul in the game, I believe it is fine to call them on it, and well, I’m callin’ him on it.

I’m also finding a lot of reactionarism growing in the “design thinking” community as well. I would just caution the whole IDEO, Nussbaum, NextD love-fest going on here.

Recently at the IA Summit architect, Joshua Prince-Ramus, gave a great keynote about his work. In it though he keeps using the term architecture and design as a pejorative, literally saying as such. He explains a methodology of design in his own right that is rational in juxtaposition to that of say the expressionism of a Gehry. Ok, that’s fine, to create a new school, but he expressed it in such terms that it was progressive in nature, like evolution, instead of how all design moves, which is cyclical, curvy, non-linear, advancing and retro, all at the same time.

This same “progressivism” is what I’m hearing from the “design thinking” folks. I like the general thoughts around design thinking, but I do think we need to be cautious and take a full look backwards and forwards, and not react too harshly to where we’ve been as there are still great lessons from our forefathers of design: Reed, Wright, Rand and the great schools of design as well.

Something new will eventually come around and when we react to forcibly away from our past heritage the follow on is usually a sharp turn towards the retrospective.

I think that strategic design is great, but you can’t ONLY do strategic design. You have to then execute on that strategy at some point and to do that requires knowledge of the individual disciplines of design and to do that there needs to be people who understand each of these in depth but with a thinking ability to apply it to that strategy.

Basically, the mission to turn EVERY designer into a strategist is all well and good, but then who is going to execute your strategy? What theories of practice and methods are you going to use to build and advance those disciplines? How are you going to have solid academic research if all you do is at the 30,000 ft. mark? Someone has to be able to form, structure, narrate, fashion, organize, embody, enspace (is that a word?), etc.

So I bemoan THIS article of GKs for these reasons.

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