I was going to make the headline “Is Information Architecture a Design Practice?” but I decided that a one word post (that word would be “yes”) was far too short.
Of course Information Architecture is a design practice. The definition of design in wikipedia (HT to Matt Nish-Lapidus for pointing to it) is as follows: “Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system”. So yes, that is what Information Architecture does in regards to digital information systems. The Information Architecture Institute states that Information architecture is the “structural design of shared information environments” (emphasis added).
Does that mean we are actually “information designers”? No.
Of all the design disciplines, we most closely resemble traditional architecture than any other.
Well, we structure digital spaces and places. We design them for people to essentially “live” in. The screen has become our second home and dominates our work life. Software and computers are ubiquitous. I wake up to an alarm on my iPhone, use the touchscreen in my car to adjust the radio, I work all day on my laptop, listen to music on my iPod, consume news off of my iPad, watch movies off of my Apple TV, and play games on my xbox. In any given day I use or encounter a dozen or more computers. My life, our lives, are enabled and mediated by software.
That software is structured by Information Architects. According to Jorge Arango, it is structured through the combination of nodes (discrete units of meaning) into larger structures, which then combine to form the systems of software we encounter every day. The Information Architect shapes those digital environments in order to assure the structural integrity of meaning.
We specialize in digital place-making, way-finding, and sense-making … and we do that just as an architect would in physical space.