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

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