Language Arts for the Lizard Brain

Here are the slides and a complete transcript of my 2017 Information Architecture Summit talk on language, cognition, and vocabulary design, delivered this March in Vancouver, BC. This is the latest iteration of a topic I first presented at Taxonomy Bootcamp in Washington, DC in November 2016. ... continue reading

Language + Meaning + User Experience Architecture

There is an architectural concept called the “kitchen triangle” that I often use in talks and presentations. I use it to point out the difference between arguments and articulations of arguments. The gist of it is this: in order to create an effective kitchen, the sink, the stove and the refrigerator must each be placed no closer than 4 feet to each other, but no further than 9 feet apart. There must also be limited or no traffic through the center of the triangle.

In this example, the triangle is the argument: it presents a solution for how we use space to accomplish a task. It is based on the dimensions of the human body (the length of our arms, of our steps, of our ability to twist and pivot) and on the process of food preparation (which requires, among other things, that access to key areas not be disrupted by household traffic flows). ... continue reading

The Trouble with Systems

Much virtual ink has been spilled in the last year or two over the importance of thinking about information design in terms of systems as opposed to thinking of it as a set of carefully laid out maps.

In a 2012 blog post on Embodied Responsiveness, Andrew Hinton observed that “rather than trying to pre-program and map out every possible scenario, we need systems that respond intelligently by the very nature of their architectures.” Stephen Hay (Responsive Design Workflow, 2013) and Sara Wachter-Boettcher (Content Everywhere, 2012) have likewise called out the need to stop thinking about web design in terms of pages and start thinking about it as a system, as a cohesive, interrelated whole. ... continue reading