One of the biggest problems I’ve experienced with getting the word out about good information and interaction design is explaining to people what I do. Even in casual situations, usually the third or fourth question from people you’ve just met involves what you do for a living.
And so I respond with “I’m an information architect.”
The head usually tilts sideways. People are usually intrigued. “Hmm. He’s a different kind of architect?” So the typical followup question (if there’s a semblance of interest): “What’s that?”
Admittedly, I rarely know how to answer. I fear being labelled a “designer who makes web pages” because I know there is far more to it than that. I equally fear being viewed as someone who’s “in technolgoy.” Both are obviously incomplete, yet its always an uphill battle to not only explain what I do, but to explain that what I do is somehow valuable. If you’re trying to convince a potential client, this is not a good posture to be in.
And so, I pull out the analogies and the examples. “At that point in the engagement, I come in and do my thing…” It’s often exhausting to go about this. In my opinion, if Information Architecture the profession were a company, its PR campaign should be deemed a failure. I confess, I don’t have a degree in IA (does anyone?) and I latched onto the title because I was part business analyst, part product designer and part interface designer. And so, I labelled myself “Information Architect” because it seemed vague enough to cover a few different areas.
After some time now, I’m less comfortable with the title. I don’t think it adequately captures what I do. Yes, I architect informaiton in that I try to organize and present information in logical, easy-to-digest patterns. But most of my work involves the layout of controls that allow users to interact with and manipulate information as well. Even more importantly, I often find myself sitting in on and actually defining what the product is before a single screen is drawn. I’m not sure if the breadth of my responsibilities is unique (I doubt it is) but “information architect” falls short regardless.
These days, I’ve settled on “Interaction Designer.” I don’t think that’s a home run either, but it’ll have to do for now. Time to print up some new business cards.