In today’s world we have access to an ever-growing amount of information, but it isn’t always as easy to find the exact information you are looking for. Solving for the structural design of shared information environments (think library systems, databases, websites, intranets, and the likes), is an emerging practice focused on improving the usability and findability of complex information systems: Information Architecture (IA). The purpose of IA is to help users understand where they are in the system, what they’ve found, what’s around, and what to expect.
Every year the biggest network of active IA specialists, the Information Architecture Institute, organizes the World Information Architecture Day (WIAD): a free conference held on the same day in 38 cities in 24 countries around the world. This year XPLANE had the privilege to support the event and speak at the Portland edition.
We kicked off the weekend with a special-edition Visual Thinking School (VTS) workshop the night before the conference. With an enthusiastic group of WIAD participants, we started answering this Portland’s 2015 conference theme (‘What the F*ck is Information Architecture?’) by formulating individual definitions of IA. Next, each participant was handed a Jar of Whimsy – a jar full of random items – and was asked to organize the contents. They modified their definitions through a series of exercises to reveal a handful of principles on IA. Among these were the purpose of organizing information and the advantage of a human centered approach. In the end all the participants, as a group, impressively organized over 800 combined items in a cohesive structure in less than 15 minutes!