Happy Birthday B&A

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“Boxes and Arrows was formed to break that code of silence, “dedicated to discussing, improving and promoting the work of this community, through the sharing of exemplary technique, innovation and informed opinion.” I think we’re making some progress.”Welcome to Boxes and Arrows…wait, is it a year already? Holy cow! Well, happy anniversary! I am incredibly proud and amazed at what this little zine has accomplished in providing a space for information sharing. A quick look around reveals that we’ve got 111 articles, 84 authors, and already over 1,149 comments at the time of this writing. Holy cow, redux.

Moreover, Boxes and Arrows sports an impressive range of articles for beginners to experts, written by some of the best minds in Design today—both known and unknown. When I read the succinctly written introduction to key first principals like Visible Narratives, or learn about an advanced technique never-before shared, like free listing, I get a frisson of joy. (And that’s just last month!)

Sometimes lately in our profession, it seems like we are treading water, reinventing the wheel, going in circles—whoops, there I go. Boxes and Arrows seems to be apart from that (except for an occasional passionate thread in the discussion page). Paula Thornton, interaction design strategist, referred to us as “the community’s water cooler,” where designers gather to discuss what works for them. I believe these discussions are key to our profession’s survival and advancement. In the late nineties, we kept every innovation secret, as if the way we did a wireframe was the key to our companies survival…yet all it resulted in was thrashing—and the secrets eventually got out as people changed companies and shared what they knew with their new groups.

Boxes and Arrows was formed to break that code of silence, “dedicated to discussing, improving and promoting the work of this community, through the sharing of exemplary technique, innovation and informed opinion.” I think we’re making some progress.

Some fun facts about B&A

  • It was originally designed to be a magazine for Information Architecture. I’m glad it’s not just IA.
  • Yes, it was started after a three-dollar bottle of pinot grigio was consumed in the sun.
  • I was going to be happy if it lasted six months.
  • During pre-launch, the staff fought passionately over the definitions of IA, Design and many other topics. Yep, we do it too.
  • Gabe Zentall of Carbon IQ designed our lovely site, and yes, we fought bitterly, changed our minds and vacillated until he was driven to distraction. Yep we did that as well.
  • Hacking Movabletype to use as our CMS was not necessarily the wisest course of action for us, but it seems to be working out. There is a market out there for a CMS for small magazines, I swear…
  • “Publisher” at B&A means you pay the ISP, debug Movabletype every so often and occasionally send hysterical email.
  • “Technologist” means answering a percentage of those hysterical emails. Thanks Jay and Josh.
  • “Editor” means you do almost everything else. The editors of B&A are Boxes and Arrows. Many folks don’t realize what editing does for writing, but let me tell you the reason B&A is more coherent than a collection of blogs is because of these hard working folks.

So, much love to the current editorial staff: Christy, Liz, Lara, Brenda, Ryan, and the queen bee visionary, heroine of a Chief Editor who makes this rag come out twice a month, Erin Malone. If you love this magazine, send them a thank you. They do it for free in their precious off hours.

Also special love to the midwife editor, George Olsen, without whom we probably wouldn’t have gone live in the first place.

And if I’m giving thanks, thanks to all who made this possible, both past staff and current. You did good.

Finally, thanks to the authors past and future who are the very soul of this endeavor.

Writing is painful, sharing your knowledge risky, yet you put yourself out there and I am grateful. You make me look forward to Tuesdays.

p.s. B&A is having a gathering at the IA summit after the events on Saturday (we’ll put up a flyer with the exact details). Meet us in the bar, chat with other readers, authors, the editors and, of course, myself. See you there!


  1. 1,149 comments? … Wow! my one article is 10% of the total comments.???? Ok, come-on! that is worth kvelling about … I also want to say that I LOVE B&A. I look forward to every update so much that I almost always get to the latest version b4 the real announcement arrives in my mailbox.

    I also want to give special kudos to the editors. I can vouch for what Christina says when she says the editors ARE the magazine. Brenda worked with me on so many revisions of my last article that we ended up going back to where we started from. I wish you all could have shared in that process b/c some of that great thinking and content will never see the light of day. But the magazine is all the better for it b/c what came out was precisely what was needed by the B&A audience.

    Kudos to everyone who works and writes for B&A. It is really the only zine I read anymore.
    — dave

  2. Congratulations to all the B&A team! I’m so impressed with the amount of progress and the consistency of outstanding content. When I recently posted on SIGIA about moving beyond first principles, B&A was one of the first things I thought about as a place where the field is progressing.

    Looking forward to many years of fantastic content to come.

  3. One year only!? I forget where we used to go for the good stuff before B&A. I cannot imagine reading about IA advances these days without Boxes & Arrows. Keep up the great work everyone!

  4. I’d be curious what you liked and didn’t like about MovableType. I’m in the process of starting to use it for a fairly large site -and so any idea of what we might not want to do would be interesting to hear. Or… any suggestions for other similar (and almost-free) software tool.s

  5. Happy birthday! I just started visiting BnA a few weeks ago – it and ALA are definitely my new web homes.

    Please keep up the great work.

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