design damn you!

Another christina sent me this article: Reduced to a look and a feel “It alarms me when I […]

Another christina sent me this article: Reduced to a look and a feel

“It alarms me when I hear that many interactive agencies make the distinction between a “designer” and an “information architect” (IA). Apparently the IA determines the structure, functionality and content of a site and then the designer applies the “look and feel”. Needless to say, in the methodology mentioned above, the box entitled “information architecture stage” appears just before the “design stage” box.”

Well, yes, that would annoy one.


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  1. 1

    Similar thoughts about the separation of “structure” from “look” were expressed in this article that ran in Communication Arts last December. I mentioned it and lamented the separation on my own site in a posting about us vs. them

    Both activites are DESIGN and one cannot or should not exist without the other. If the work is to be spread out between two people, with different titles, then they must work together and collaborate as one and not “throw it over the wall” as many places and processes insist we should be doing. The work suffers, the people suffer and the creativity is not there.

  2. 2

    The author sez (paraphrase): “Solutions should be driven by ideas” and “Come up with a great idea for your solution.”

    Therein lies the problem, that I’ve found in working with some of the stereotypical “look-and-feel” designers, that it’s all about your “great ideas.”

    What about the customer? The target audience? How many interactive designers actually engage in getting to know their audience and testing their sites with that audience?

    What about collaboration (as erin points out) with your team members, the IA, the site builder, the engineers? How many of you think schematics and sitemaps are just a fun weekend reference or fish-and-chips wrapper, having nothing to do with what you’re designing? How many disregard those docs without ever consulting with the IA?

    Hmmm? Until “interactive designers” learn how to work for others (users/customers) and work with others (team), rather than for their portfolios and Silver Pencil eraser awards, they deserve to be relegated to being the “interior decorators” of the industry.

    I’ve worked with great designers who honestly care about users (no, dear, you are _not_ the “user”) and have superb collaboration and communicative skills. But suffice it to say, they were the exception that proves the rule.

    All I’m asking is that we talk, engage, debate, collaborate. But I don’t see it happening soon. Blame art school.

    monkeys rule: monkey man.

  3. 3

    I thought, at first, that Brooks was simply arguing for an interdisciplinary approach and for communication between the teams. But, instead, he appears to be arguing that designers need to be able to shrug off those designers of the information architecture so that they can conceptualize in a silo some kind of idea for how the thing should work and go design it, then throw it over the wall to the developers.

    This attitude embodies all that is wrong with, as EM calls it, “throw it over the wall” processes. Brooks is setting back the industry by telling designers to clutch their little piece of the process instead of insinuating themselves into an interdisciplinary process that is obsessed with designing systems that are conceived to reflect what users need. Sad.

  4. 4

    I am a graphic designer and IA practicer… and i love design look and feel when a good IA sent me what i should give the look and feel. I guess is the perfect job task… because there’s nothing that can stop me to make an original work, supported by a person who knows how to move the stuff like the IA moves…

    I’ve never felt envy and sometimes i’m IA and i left the designers and i work perfectly in both sides.

  5. 5

    yeah, nobody “moves the stuff like the ia moves.”

    esta bien. siempre. siempre.

    monkeys still rule: monkey man

  6. 8

    Oh no, not again.


    Make it stop, please. Make it stop.

    Or just go read Boxes and Arrows. 🙂

    monkeys, for modern living: monkey man

  7. 9
    Lyle Kantrovich

    This reminds me of an article in A List Apart a while back written by a designer:

    The Curse of Information Design

    I think the article is poorly written — it’s basically a long rant asuming one person’s experience at one company is the universal rule. The author also is really saying he wants to go back to a loosey-goosey development process where he’s not a “slave to the spec.” Here’s a quote:

    “The information architects, the busy fussy people using strange terms like “user flow,” seemed to have done all the work for the designers. The designers—the ones who went to school for years, studying layout, color, and the effective way to deliver a message in any medium—were now glorified painters.”

    ALA’s discussion groups are down, otherwise I’d point to my comments I sent the author. I think they went something like “Get over it and get on. Just because designers used to have more power and freedom to do whatever they want in web design doesn’t mean that was the right way to do it — we also don’t have ‘webmasters’ like we did in 1996 that design, develop and administer servers.”

    My opinion is that IAs DO design, as do architects and city planners. It’s more structural design than visual design, but if you’re wireframing pages, that gets into layout which is part of visual design. In my judgement, no IA worth her salt can stick to just site-level design — she has to think about what’s on a page and how that page is structured to do a decent job.

    No monkeys here…just one big Croc

  8. 10

    JJG wrote:
    IA is not design.
    I couldn’t disagree more. Seems to me that IA is the design of a system, series of tasks, etc. You can call it whatever you’d like, of course. But it’s design.

  9. 11

    excuse my ignorance, but i came across this site and checking it when i came across this discussion on IA.. how can you possibly have a functional site without IA? i’ve worked on sites that had a kickass backend developement team, but looked like crap for the user.. hence the “designer” …for my part, i seem to do both at my job.. targeting out all the IA specs ‘n schtuff, and then go about the design process from that startoff point.. which can get really frustrating at times, but i’m only one dewd. *shrugz* kewl site. good content. heh

  10. 12

    What’s most annoying about people who separate information architecture from design is that they often don’t know their history. Information Architecture was a term coined by Richard Saul Wurman (in the 80’s I think) and he wasn’t talking about the web. He was designing a series of tour guides and was talking about information graphics. Information architecture is design — it’s just a school of design that is not about aesthetics but rather communication. On that same note, design is not about aesthetics, though often in the web design industry that is exactly how it’s used. You would never say the same of an automotive designer or a product designer. Both are equally concerned with usability. The difference shouldn’t exist in web design either.

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