Workshop on Wheels at Big Design in Dallas

Wherein I put thirty UXers on a bus and drive them all around downtown Dallas to learn about the corollaries between architecture in the built environment, and architecture in places made of information

People in the United States spend more than 40 hours each month inhabiting digital places; constantly checking and re-checking their statuses, account balances, their likes and unfollows, their friends and tinder matches. We do this more than 150 times a day. An increasing portion of everybody’s everyday takes place in places made of information.

What does it take to make good places for people?

One rich and relevant source for understanding what makes a good digital place is architecture in the built environment. Buildings can teach us about the power, successes and failures of design to transform the emptiness of space into the fullness of place.

Dallas, Texas is a “target-rich” urban environment for studying the successes and failures of architecture. On September 17, as part of the Big Design conference, I will be leading an excursion into the built environment in and around downtown Dallas, comparing and contrasting points of architectural and design interest along the way.

We’ll visit 11 buildings of my choosing, each one telling a different story of human desires and needs, and the ways designers, architects, planners and engineers collaborate in placemaking. We’ll encounter the works of Philip Johnson, I.M. Pei, Santiago Calatrava, Frank Lloyd Wright, Renzo Piano and Rem Koolhaas. We’ll ask a lot of dumb questions, and a few brilliant ones.

You’ll return to Big Design with an enhanced ability to read the design of physical and digital structures, and map those structures back to meaning and intention. In understanding what “good” means in civic and commercial architecture we will begin to understand what “good” might mean in places made of information.

Get on the bus….only 30…. no wait, 20 seats left!

Some of the places we’ll visit

  • Dallas City Hall, by I.M. Pei
  • Perot Museum, by Thom Mayne
  • JFK Memorial, by Philip Johnson
  • Cathedral of Hope, by Philip Johnson
  • Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, by Santiago Calatrava
  • Kalita Humphreys Theatre, by Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Nasher Sculpture Garden, by Renzo Piano

27. August 2015 by dan
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IA Essentials Workshop At SXSW

16. January 2015 by dan
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Speaking at ConveyUX in Seattle in January 2015

I get to give TWO talks at ConveyUX in Seattle in January.

01. December 2014 by dan
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Abstract and Excerpt from Dutch Uncles, Ducks and Decorated Sheds

Please feel free to purchase the chapter I wrote for Reframing Information Architecture. I assure you I receive exactly zero dollars for each $40 PDF.

Abstract: On what basis can and ought one assess the relative merits of a given work of information architecture? In 2009, Jesse James Garrett pointed to the non- existence of such a normative theory and the community of practice’s consequent inability to indicate “what good means” as evidence that information architecture is not a proper discipline. Garrett’s rallying cry was for a wholesale reframing of that community in terms of User Experience Design, with human engagement as its center. In this chapter, I draw from the work of architects Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi to counter-propose a co-occurring reframing of the mostly-digital sense- and place-making work of information architecture in the normative terms of architecture, where the appropriate interplay of meaning and structural form com- prises the basis of what good means.

07. August 2014 by dan
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Now Available: Reframing Information Architecture Book

Reframing Information ArchitectureI just ordered a copy of Reframing Information Architecture, a new academic textbook style publication from Springer edited by Andrea Resmini.  The book compiles work originally presented in a pre-conference workshop in Baltimore for the IA Summit.  It features chapters written by yours truly, Andrew Hinton, Flavia Lacerda, Terence Fenn (et al.), Duane Degler, Sally Burford, David Fiorito, Roberto Maggi, David Peter Simon and Luca Rosati (et al.).

07. August 2014 by dan
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Louis Kahn and Alan Watts On Wonder



15. June 2014 by dan
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DUMB Project Update

Screen shot from my Map / Poster layout

I’m getting excited to give a retooled version of my DUMB presentation at the GIANT conference on June 11.

Last night, I updated the project site for the Book / Map and uploaded some provisional cover art etc. Check it out:

30. May 2014 by dan
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Architecture As Rhetoric for Spaces

For the second time in as many semesters, Andy Fitzgerald was kind enough to remotely give a rendition of Taxonomy for App Makers for my students in SI658 at U-M, a piece of work he originally presented at the Information Architecture Summit in 2013.

There is no limit to the number of times I will delight in hearing this bundle of teachings, and the only limit to the number of times I will go back to the well of images and words in Mr. Fitzgerald’s deck would come from be me no longer wanting or having to explain the concept of information architecture.

There are plenty of ways to explain information architecture, but each of them depends on an understanding of what’s meant by the word “architecture.”

And even while I’ve been preparing myself for more than five years now to understand and talk about the architecture of buildings in ways that help explain the architecture of information, what Fitzgerald does here is provide a way to understand and explain all architectures, irrespective of the prefix:


Architecture is rhetoric for spaces.

Let that one work on you for a while: rhetoric for spaces. An argument for how things ought to be set up in space. Few of us have worked on the teams that make buildings, but all of us have made arguments. And all of us have arranged things in a space or across spaces because of reasons.

That’s as good of a way to set up a conversation about information architecture and taxonomy as any I’ve yet seen or tried.

Architecture = the argument.

Taxonomy = arrangement of things because of reasons given in or by the argument.

Fitzgerald’s framing of taxonomy relative to architecture provides an equally excellent set-up for talking about the inter-relatedness of and distinctions between architecture and design.

Architecture = the argument.

Design = an instance-articulation of the argument.

We might say that when designed things are good, that’s because they’ve been made as an instance-articulation of an over-arching argument that we find persuasive, if not agreeable.

The interplay of architecture and rhetoric goes back at least as far as Vitruvius, and I’m eager to see what Fitzgerald has to say at this year’s IA Summit.

23. February 2014 by dan
Categories: Information Architecture Strategy, Teaching Information Architecture | 1 comment

Form Follows Forces (with Abby Covert)

21. February 2014 by dan
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New Short Nonfiction: Landing Clean

Landing Clean is a new write-up of a story I’ve told a few times but never before thought to capture in any particular words.

29. October 2013 by dan
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