Information Design Watch
December 9, 2005, 10:34 am
Conserving digital information is turning out to be a tremendously complicated endeavor. One response is the DSpace Digital Repository, an open source platform for archiving electronic files developed by the MIT libraries and Hewlett Packard. In an article in IEEE’s Spectrum, Mackenzie Smith of the MIT Libraries gets into the details:
[S]aving raw data solves only part of the preservation problem. We also want to be able to read, play, or watch these bits when we need to. Then there are pesky legal obligations, which demand that we be able to guarantee that certain records haven’t been altered by human hands or computer malfunction.
This is a project we were pleased to work on, creating a visual explanation that MIT can couple with articles and white papers to increase understanding of the technology.
Our DSpace case study on our Web site includes a PDF version of the diagram:
December 9, 2005, 10:31 am
We suggest a moment of silence for Saul Bass’s AT&T logo, now replaced by a cartoonish revision. The AIGA site has a nice slideshow of Bass’s work in branding, logo and poster design (click on the picture).
December 9, 2005, 10:26 am
In an article on A List Apart, Nick Usborne comes close to defining information architecture without ever using the term. Addressing Web designers, he asks:
Now, just pause for a moment and think of all the design choices you have made over the last year, and the reasons why you made them. And think about the huge impact those choices might have had on the performance of the sites you worked on.
Usborne presents a scarily simple usability test to demonstrate his thesis. And counsels designers to act like information architects — that is, to talk to content owners and, even better, to actual users.
And Who Does Not?
Scott Jason Cohen presents the alternative view:
[T]o many, the information architect seems redundant. If the project involves heavy back-end implementation, the system and user flow will already be determined. Click here, go there – the tech people will have already figured this out. In terms of layout, a good visual designer will know not to make a page too damn cluttered. (It’s usually the client that insists on putting 3,000 links on the front page or making the logo spin.)
Cohen’s manifesto is entertaining but misses the mark in some fundamental ways. First, the “tech people” have not already figured everything out. Good back-end technologies are designed for customization; analyzing and diagramming process flows is an important part of our information architecture practice. Second, information architecture is creative. The challenge of organizing complex information for use by different types of users is never solved by prepackaged rules and good information architects know this.
Cohen characterizes information architects as outsiders who interfere with the design process. In fact, information architects and visual designers face the same challenges and work toward the same goals; the best designs come from collaborative practice.