New Article on Concept Design Tools

The nice folks at Digital Web Magazine published my new article on Concept Design Tools. It’s already received some nice reviews in the Twitterverse…

For those of you who haven’t seen Victor Lombardi’s new article on concept design tools, it’s a must read…

…it’s brilliant stuff and super accessible. It’s great to see solid thinking around the topic. There isn’t enough of it.

…great article on concept design!!!!

Here’s some reactions from bloggers I keep hearing over and over, confirming why I think this topic is important for digital designers. Steven Clark asks, Where is the breadth of our design?

where is our design process preceding the implementation phase? The moment we receive the brief we’re practically falling over ourselves to push forward, and implementation seems to go on at the same time that we’re figuring out what the product should do. This is as applicable to web solutions as to applications, we jump in boots and all with predetermined assumptions.

And Martin Belam writes

One strong theme that came out of it for me personally though was that, unlike industrial designers, when we make web applications and sites we tend to rush to wireframes and ‘colouring in’ before we have explored multiple potential solutions. Victor’s championing of questioning the brief looked like a good way to try and break out of that vice.

Since writing it I’ve already discovered similar work that’s been done over the past several decades. My approach is different in that the tools are simple and fast enough for any designer to use without having to learn a lot about method, but I will be spending some time with the masters to learn how I can climb onto their shoulders.

selective memory design concept tool

Thoughts on the Euro Information Architecture Summit 2008

I’m just back from the Euro IA Summit held in Amsterdam, September 26-27th. Overall it was a good event with many warm, interesting people in attendance. I was considering attending PICNIC as well but as I heard it was “very corporate… lots of white men with PowerPoint” I spent my time with the city instead. Hearing a speech is slightly better than reading it or watching it online, but only slightly.

The Summit kicked off with a talk from Adam Greenfield called “Why I’m Not an Information Architect and You Shouldn’t Be Either.” Where the community used to be filled with electricity — taking on great new challenges — he lamented it’s now focused on creating wireframes for websites. This doesn’t feel like the field that will create Bruce Sterling’s Spimes. Adam’s focus lately has been Ubicomp, and he talked about how “power and grandeur lie beneath the user interface, in the API” and that “IT has dissolved into behavior” like the swipe of an RFID-enabled train card.

There’s a lot to react to there. I agree the field is not nearly as exciting as it was seven years ago, and this state makes a lot of us that are comfortable with innovation wonder what communities we should mix in and what IA should be (see Matt Milan’s thoughts for another perspective). At the moment I’m trying to pull back and see information architecture as a new but somewhat established field. Invention used to be necessary of everyone, but now it’s only needed from a few. Compare it to an established field like electrical engineering. At the beginning there was a lot invention, but now we know enough to simply do it. Today, some engineers continue to push the envelope with the design of microprocessors while others specify the wiring in the next model of speaker phone. I would expect IA to settle into the same spread.

Ruud Ruissaard of Informaat discussed the current state of content management which can be summarized by satisfaction rates around 37%. He advocated for a more holistic approach to address systems and processes and management. I have to think CMS will go the way of portals, with everyone realizing there’s a lack of flexibility in large installed systems. Instead, let’s move content to the cloud and pull it out with flexible APIs.