Information Architecture - A New Opportunity : | WebReference

Information Architecture - A New Opportunity :


Information Architecture - A New Opportunity

Right now, if you want to boost your career, remember Aesop's fable where one animal takes advantage of the fight between two others. Right now, in the arena of Web design, two parties are quarreling: graphic designers and usability gurus.

On one side, you have information architects led by usability evangelist Jakob Nielsen (, and on the other side graphic designers, like Gene Na of Kioken (, a company that imparts a distinctive movie-like quality to its work. Both parties are equally vehement in their philosophy: user-centered, simple design vs. media-rich, cinematic Web sites.

For a good read on the war, point your browser to:

Usability Experts are from Mars, Graphic Designers are from Venus

Who Says Design Should Be Simple?

However, instead of taking sides in this great debate, pounce upon the opportunity of becoming an information architect, somebody who would tend toward the Nielsen camp, but nevertheless reap rich rewards. If you have the skills and talent, you can claim a lot of respect and a good salary.

Web design consultant Roger C. Parker, of, says information architects generally receive at least 30 per cent higher salaries than "pure designers and marketing types because they bring more to the table." You can expect $50,000-100,000. A keyword search for "information architect" on yielded 78 jobs, many of them offering $80,000-120,000 a year, with some offering up to $155,000. The same search on yielded 95 jobs, with some top companies, like Ogilvy & Mather, looking for information architects or user interface designers.

But what kind of skills and talent do information designers need to have? Lynne Duddy, Director of Information Architecture at, says IA specialists should be able to demonstrate how to humanize technology, focusing on people, plus operate with a high degree of intelligence, show an extraordinary empathy with others, make connections and see patterns not evident to many, adapt their communications, as needed, using words and pictures, passion and composure, and maintain an objectivity that allows the true essence of a solution to emerge.

Tall order, isn't it? But, then, information design isn't everybody's cup of tea. How do you know if you have it in you? Do you need to be a creative, right-brained type or a logical, left- brained type?

Duddy says, "Like the nature of their work, IAs are people with an uncanny blend of rational and creative." Parker, on the other hand, says they are "creative, right-brain types." "Rational, left-brained types are too analytical and focused on specific tasks. Creative types are more likely to identify unsatisfied needs and come up with 'out of the blue' solutions to problems," he adds.

Information design offers a more holistic approach to design than graphic design. "Information architects must possess the ability to comprehend the whole picture rather than a single portion of it," Parker says. "Most designers and business owners are too myopic."

Duddy echoes a similar thought: "Because IAs seek design solutions from an objective point of view within the context of people's needs, the content, the brand and the technology, we can look at the design problems holistically."

This article originally appeared in the December 21, 2000 edition of the WebReference Update Newsletter.


Produced by Angshuman Das and
Created: Dec. 19, 2000
Revised: January 25, 2001