Onto the 3 major take-aways from Karen McGrane’s fabulous IA Summit closing keynote. These aren’t necessarily in the order they were covered in her presentation, as I’m working from memory and spotty notes–but one of the things that stands out to me about this talk is how vividly I recall key points, which I think is another indicator of a powerful talk.
Major Take-Away #1 or “The center does not hold.”
After talking about her vision for what she’d like the world to look like by the time she is relaxing on her ‘retirement island’ with some tongue in cheek and some serious elements Karen launched into what was essentially a love letter to IA. With a slide like this:
So of course, I reveled in every moment of it since it was all kinds of IA is wonderful boosterism that I can’t get enough of. This probably should have clued me into the fact that she was about to go somewhere potentially contentious, but it didn’t…and then she intoned “but the center does not hold.” And she transitioned her slide deck to this:
And I experienced a bit of a stomach lurch and broke out in a cold sweat thinking “OMG, Karen McGrane is about to tell us there isn’t any such thing as information architecture or that we don’t really need IA now that we have content strategy and interaction design or, or, or” and I have to admit that I probably didn’t hear what she said until this slide:
Where in I started to breathe again, sort of. (Important caveat: she explicitly stated that she was *not* attempting to start internecine warfare and I’m sure she said some other important things that I’ll definitely listen for when the podcast is out.)
Her point being that information architecture can/should/must be a bridge between content strategy .and interaction design. Part of me sees this (and I definitely think that communication between and respect of the multiplicity of disciplines required to ensure good user experience design is a worth goal in and of itself), but…when I look at the “bridge” diagram I find myself seeing San Francisco (fabulous), the Golden Gate Bridge (impressive…and also something desperate people jump from), and Marin County (differently and perhaps even more fabulous). And therein lies the rub–because here’s the thing, you can take the GG Bridge out of the picture completely and SF and Marin will still be there, essentially unchanged and unharmed. They don’t require the bridge for their existence. Equally important, there is no point in the bridge without SF and Marin. And this image lends itself to the interpretation that “information architect” is not a role that can stand on its own while “content strategist” and “interaction designer” both are.*
For the record: I really don’t think that’s what Karen was trying to say, but it’s what I’ve been chewing on since. More thinking to do here, I’m sure.
Next up: Take-away 2: Competent Jerks & Lovable Fools
*Which led me to wonder what employers are calling what they're looking for, so I did a quick search at Monster (perhaps not the best source of these kinds of postings, though)--where interaction design has won this war (112 postings), but I was pleasantly surprised to pull up 62 postings for information architect and quite surprised to only find 14 for content strategist.