We have come a long way since then. Individuals in companies have passionately championed the need for IAs in the development process. Some have even succeeded in building a discipline, a practice of people, a foundation for others to build on. Despite the dotcom bust, where it has been difficult for even the best of us to persevere in championing this role, many of us are thriving and succeeding.
We have been nurtured within the halls of ASIST, AIGA-ED and SIGCHI. We have discovered that in spite of our original backgrounds, we have far more in common with each other than with many in the organizations that fostered us.
We are beginning to see leaders emerge; think back to the last conference you attended and the voices that resonated with you long after you returned home. We now have conferences dedicated exclusively to the field — the field of information architecture. We are emerging as a profession. We are being taken seriously.
As the information glut moves more and more online, our skills and expertise are fundamental to the success of an audience intent on finding the information they seek. The need for structure around our profession is becoming clearer. Most of us come from other fields: library science, technical writing, graphic design, among others. We have the responsibility now to establish a body of knowledge, a legacy for those who will practice information architecture after us. Like the generation of kids who have grown up with computers their entire lives, our future colleagues will not remember a time when the field of “information architecture” did not exist.
The last several months, culminating in the last few weeks, marks a milestone in the evolution of information architecture as a profession. Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville authored a second edition of the famed Polar Bear book, “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web.” Christina Wodtke’s “Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web” and Jesse James Garrett’s “The Elements of User Experience” were both released the same day. New IA textbooks are being published every year, adding to the ever-growing list from which educators build their curricula. In fact, an excerpt from a recently released textbook, “Information Architecture: An Emerging 21st Century Profession,” can be read here this week.
While publishers invest more money in publishing and promoting new books for and about the field of information architecture, new voices, more voices are added to our foundation. This is a good thing. Diversity of experience makes us stronger and in turn, the profession richer.
As companies, corporations, governments and other organizations move more and more of their information online, the role of the IA becomes increasingly critical to the development of web applications and websites . The act of finding information goes from a casual, personal endeavor to a necessity, to a way of doing business. In some cases, quick, efficient information retrieval can even mean the difference between life and death.
As we head into the holiday season and the end of 2002, we witness the birth of a new organization. One devoted solely to information architecture and its practitioners. No longer the little special interest group, the stepchildren who never quite belong, IAs will find a home within the Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture (AifIA). Placing emphasis on education, research and advocacy, the AIfIA is stepping up to the challenge of creating a strong voice for IAs in the evolving information age.
As a profession, we are coming of age. Over the last several years a solid foundation has been laid, upon which we will all continue to build. Tools and organizations and leaders have emerged to help us do our jobs with confidence and expertise. We have become a strong community of both practitioners and innovators. We are standing on our own, ensuring that our profession is recognized, our skills appreciated, and our voices heard.