Welcome to Boxes and Arrows

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Many months ago, an information architect named David Bloxsom came over for lunch. We both faced an idle post-crash afternoon, so a bottle of Trader Joe’s three-dollar pinot grigio was cracked. We talked about information architecture and trying to get the field to mature. We talked about how the ASIS journal was too academic, too complex for most folks to penetrate. We talked about Web Review, Site Point, and A List Apart and how they were just too basic for most IAs we knew. By the time the bottle was empty we had sunburns and a vision for a magazine. A magazine that would be plainspoken and smart, that would tackle the thorny issues that trying to design structure in new information spaces such as the web, software and wireless created. A journal for practitioners, for those everyday folks just trying to make their product better while ducking the layoff ax.

I hope this ’zine will make us all a bit smarter when we are through. And that is bigger than any tagline, bigger than our semantic antics, bigger than the politics and cross-company infighting.

Next (after a nap) I emailed around to create my dream team… all IAs, but all from different backgrounds. Former designers, programmers, writers and usability wonks that had stepped up and said, “This thing needs an architecture,” and proceeded to design something better. I wanted a journal that was by IAs for IAs.

But I suppose this was a foolhardy assumption on my part—I considered them purely IAs because they did what I did and I was an IA. But they also considered themselves interaction designers, experience designers, user experience designers…well, you get the picture. Over the last several weeks, all the issues we’ve seen again and again on listservs and blogs rose up again among my carefully chosen staff. The best laid plans of mice and me…

But it wasn’t a waste of time. Through all these arguments, we hit upon a shared struggle we all were engaged in—the fight to bring thoughtful design to the new digital medium.

From all of this, we wrote our mission statement:

Boxes and Arrows is the definitive source for the complex task of bringing architecture and design to the digital landscape. There are various titles and professions associated with this undertaking—information architecture, information design, interaction design, interface design—but when we looked at the work that we were actually doing, we found a “community of practice” with similarities in outlook and approach that far outweighed our differences.

Boxes and Arrows is a peer-written journal dedicated to discussing, improving and promoting the work of this community, through the sharing of exemplary technique, innovation and informed opinion.

Boxes and Arrows strives to provoke thinking among our peers, to push the limits of the accepted boundaries of these practices and to challenge the status quo by teaching new or better techniques that translate into results for our companies, our clients and our comrades.

I’m not sure what I can tell you beyond that mission statement.

It’s time for the web (and software, and portable apps) to grow up.
It’s time for us to come to terms with our terms.
It’s time to discover our best practices, our most effective techniques and tools.
It’s time to learn from others in the field and stop navel gazing.

And we need a place to do that.

It is my very great hope that Boxes and Arrows can be that place. A place for designers—who think design is more than pretty font colors—to exchange ideas. A place for programmers—who realize the elegance of code means nothing if people can’t use your application—to learn to make their interface just as elegant. A place for marketers—who know that click-throughs are no good if people click away a second later—to sort out what really creates brand loyalty. A place for information architects, interaction designers, information designers and interface designers to come together with the UXs and EDs and HCIs and build a discipline that will make a difference.

This is a place free of jargon.

We aren’t messing around here: we want answers. That means we won’t hide our ignorance behind terminology. If we know it, we’ll say it. If we don’t get it, we hope you folks will use the comment feature to straighten us out, or better yet, submit an article or case study of your own. This is our journal—yours and ours, audience and authors and staff together. We’re tearing down the fences we so hastily built between our crafts, and we hope to build something better.

I hope this ’zine will make us all a bit smarter when we are through. And that is bigger than any tagline, bigger than our semantic antics, bigger than the politics and cross-company infighting.

It’s ambitious, I know.

Welcome to Boxes and Arrows…

Christina Wodtke
Publisher, Producer and Fool
Boxes and Arrows
“architecting the damn thing”


  1. Well, here we are. It’s nearly three a.m. and IM’ing with David and Erin. George logged off a half hour ago. Chad left an hour ago and a half ago. MadonnaLisa and her husband who made the forms work left three hours ago. Liz, Lee, Christy and Brenda are safe in their beds, Jay and Thomas off carousing at SXSW. Gabe I imagine is tossing and turning, wondering what we’ve done to his design…. And Adam is just waking up to a surprise. What a smart, passionate and dedicated team I’ve been blessed with!

    It’s not a perfect magazine, but it’s here. And I’m proud we made it happen. I’m even prouder of what it will be.

    Special thanks to Brad Choate and Jeffrey Chan for last minute tech pitch-hitting, Ben and Mena Trott whose wonderful Movable Type allowed us to cut our dev time in half (and change things on the fly when we changed our minds) Bill, Charlie and Justin who user tested and complained intellegently.

    And a kiss to my husband whose wondering why I’m not in bed right now.

    Good night, all.

  2. Wow! Well done everyone, I think I speak for everyone in the IA community when I say “thank you”. It’s amazing what people can do when they put their minds to it.

  3. I’ve been stoked about B&A ever since I heard about the project – it rocks to see it come to life. Thanks for all the effort you’ve put in to get here. Congratulations to all the team!

    I’m looking for great things in the IA/UX world in the months and years to come…and I’m sure I’ll find them here.

  4. “A place for information architects … to come together with the UXs and EDs and HCIs …

    “This is a place free of jargon.”

    Uh huh.

  5. May Boxes and Arrows go far in helping us talk to each other and learn from what we know. It’s time to share more and to take things a little further. I know the effort and struggle it’s been over the last few months. The product shows it and I know more great stuff is coming down the pipeline.

    Great job to the entire team!

    – Elan

  6. Wow. This site is great!
    It’s time for the community to develop a Grand Unifying Theory for IA, UX, HCI, etc. Good work.

  7. Look — there, in the sky. It’s…information architecture, and it’s here! Wow, information architecture now has a place on the web and a stake in the ground. You’ve taken the next big, needed step in moving us all forward. There is no looking back. Thank you.

  8. Outstanding work! Congrats and thank you to the whole staff of writers, editors and tech folks who’ve created a landmark work.

    Here are my initial comments. I’m sure I’ll be posting more praise of B&A in the near future as I read more.

    Croc o’ Lyle: Boxes and Arrows Hit the Bull’s Eye

    Also: Croc o’ Lyle: Comments on the Yahoo! Mail article


  9. Congratulations to George Olsen, ye old curmudgeon! And congratulations to the rest of the gang on a valiant and interesting new effort. Keep up the good work.

  10. Christina and her gang,

    Thank you and congratulations for this new place on the Internet universe. It had to happen sometime, this growing up for IA, and what better place to happen–in your loving hands.

  11. IA’s and all the shades of blue…Box and arrow people will hopefully help the circles, trapezoids, and rhombi 🙂 that are not part of THE student council to motivate themselves and amplify the importance of Information Architecture and User Experience in the future. “If you build it they will come…”

    A serious shot out to movabletype.org — what *cannot* be done with this engine?!

    Enhorabuena a todos!!!

  12. Congratulations Christina! Thank you for your hard work. A great resource for the IA community.

  13. congrats to all involved

    your content looks great

    execution, however, is less than expected

    ironic, isn’t it? a *user interface* and *information architecture* site using popup windows that feature a horizontal scroll and cannot be resized to eliminate this!!!

    good luck fixing these problems quickly, and best regards,


  14. Wow! Great site. This comments section is quickly becoming a “who’s who” for our profession… I hope it is only a glimpse of the collaborative potential that is to come!

    Thank you for all of your tremendous work…

  15. Truly a magnificent effort. The content is first-rate. Deep thanks to all involved.

    Small nitpick: If you used a relative CSS unit for text sizing instead of pixels, you wouldn’t need an explicit “Large Font Version” link. Experiment with CSS keywords! Sorry, personal pet peeve.

  16. IA was never much understood and has taken quite a hit with the economic downturn. A resource like this can really become a wonderful place to point and say “This is what it’s all about, this is why we do it.” Thanks.

  17. Relative CSS sizing is on the way. Pixels were a result of last-minute coding to get the site out the door.

    As Christina said, it ain’t perfect. It’s a work in progress and I’m sure we’ll have no shortage of folks excercising their critique skills. -g-

  18. Well done. Very clean and chock full of good information. Ya’ll have been busy and it shows. Thanks for the new source and many happy issues to come.

  19. what a thrill to see this visionary terrain…
    as a lone “” who has derived many hours of pleasure on gleanings-inspired trails of the net, it excites me enormously to experience this site. thank you.

  20. Boxes and Arrows is a good foot forward for the online design community — but once again, calling online design “expereince design” begs more questions than it answers.

    Foremost among these is the relationship of online design to other design disciplines, especially those that also call themselves “experience designers”: environmental graphics designers, landscape architects, interactive game designers, vehicle product designers, and so forth.

    If the community organizing around this blog wants to pursue a grand, unifying theory (as some, not all, have proclaimed as a goal), then interacting more with the world of design beyond the net is imperative. But this is a good start, internally. Thanks. I’ll read on.

  21. Great site! I love the neat interface, how articles are linked, recommended and presented. One of the best I’ve come across! I am hooked to these readings happily. Keep it up 🙂

  22. Hi B&A team,
    I was talking to one of my new colleagues on where to find good and reliable information in regards to IA, and the first thing I said was “Go and check out the Boxes and Arrows website”. I’ve been using the website for 4+ years now, so I think I owe you guys a big “thank you” for your hard work and for helping to shape the industry to what it is now.

  23. Hi Juan,

    Thanks so much for the comment! All of us work very hard to keep B&A that place. Glad to see that we’ve built a good foundation.

    Feel free to jump in and offer story ideas based on your experiences. New stories come from there all the time.

  24. Hopefully it will be a place to come out from behind those terms.. UX, ED, etc… and speak to each other. No matter what set of letters you associate yourself with.

    Baby steps.

  25. Wow. There is no doubt you rule. Not only is B&A smart — it’s also rather beautiful. Nice job!

  26. Congratulations, and thanks! Wonderful resource, wonderfully done. Appreciate the conscientiousness that is everywhere apparent.

  27. Okay, resize bug fixed. you can now resize. Thanks for all the great feedback, folks, but for now I’d like to ask you to please use the feedback form ( http://www.boxesandarrows.com/about/contactus.php ) for bugs and improvement advice, and keep the comments to content-related commentary. Please do keep that feedback coming; B&A is definately evolving hourly. We now have resize on the pop-up, previous and next on the pages, and the type is darker and larger. So use that feedback form to make this magazine better!

  28. Hey Bob,

    First we aren’t a blog.. we’re an online ‘zine who have abused some blog software to make our lives easier. Small difference? http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html

    Blogs link to news items, and provide commentary… we create news items that blogs link to. We create new content. Blog tend to be one person, or a set of known villains– in B&A every issue we produce will have new authors.

    Moreover our articles are actually edited (gasp) and hopefully have an introduction, middle and a conclusion… quite unblogly, since blog entries are each small tone poems committed to the moment. Blog are diaries, personal squeaks out into the world, unedited, personal, soulful and messy. this zine will still be human, but we will edit and follow our thoughts out to their reasonable conclusion. We will do the hard work part as well as the inspired fun part of writing.

    Now that I’ve cleared the air on that matter (and probably annoyed several bloggers)….

    “Experience design” is just one title for one set of design practices… B&A is about more and less than experience design.. we deal with all matters structural, from usability to information architecture to interface design to interaction design to….

    You may notice a distinct lack of tagline under the logo. We aren’t ready to hitch our star to anyone one title. But perhaps, in time, though conversations such as this one we will be able to to say: we are experience brand architects of interactive digital spaces. HA!

    (Oh, lord, I sure hope that’s not it….)

  29. Wow, I just found B&A and it’s great: I couldn’t find what I needed on A List Apart and so I Googled and was rewarded more richly than I could have possibly dreamed…

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