Nathaniel is an independent information architecture analyst and a director of content architecture at Prudential. He is the information architecture columnist for UXmatters and has contributed articles on information architecture for The Bulletin of the Association for Information Science & Technology. He also publishes illustrations and other educational content on the DSIA Portal of Information Architecture.
What’s on your IA/UX/Content Strategy “nightstand” reading pile?
Marcia Bates’ paper, “The Invisible Substrate of Information Science” inspires me every time I read it. “INFO”, by Hans Christian von Baeyer, is a great collection of information theories that spans multiple disciplines. And Jim Kalbach’s book, “Mapping Experiences” is a diligent study of concept mapping approaches that helps IA and UX practitioners promote strategic alignment.
What/ who is your creative muse?
User experience design. I’ve learned more about information architecture by studying the informational patterns associated with user experience design activities. I defined the “UX Design Practice Verticals” in 2011 and have been fascinated with the organizational dynamics of digital teams ever since.
How did you find IA/UX/Content Strategy? What drew you to it?
My professional career started in marketing and communications. When the Web became the “new media,” I was drawn in by sheer client demand.
Over time, I felt the field of information architecture could do more to prepare for the complexity that was on the horizon. The field needed a baseline of best practices, curricula to cultivate new professionals, and more science. I felt that I could contribute. So, in 2006 I decided to pursue information architecture as my core competency and investigate it from a theoretical and scientific perspective.
Who are 5 practitioners that you follow on Twitter?
Andrea Resmini @resmini
Cleve Gibbons @cleveg
Dan Klyn @danklyn
Jorge Arango @jarango
Marsha Haverty @mjane_h
What are your favorite tools of the trade? Why?
I prefer to develop my own tools. I exploit them in practice to test out theory and generate a pragmatic basis for professional discipline. My main tool is used to model complex information environments. Another tool that I created measures information density and other theoretical patterns that I’m investigating.
If you could become instantly smarter in one subject, what would that subject be and why?
Math. It’s a powerful tool and language that consistently helps us to make sense of the world around us—regardless of modality.
How/where do you “start” a project?
Whenever I am in the position to lead a project, I always start with context and the articulation of a sustainable intent. The scope of what is sustainable can mean a short-range MVP or defining an environment that promotes long-term user engagement.
If you could choose a capstone project for your career, what would it be? Why that one?
I hope to contribute something worthy enough to be considered a legitimate capstone one day. It would be most fulfilling for me to extend information architecture in a way that has more social relevance. Everything we do impacts society in some way. So, why not use information science to facilitate a positive human experience with a direct moral intent? The noble pursuit of Library science is a great example of that. If I can use information architecture to help society address some challenging aspect of our collective human experience, I think that’s where I’ll realize my capstone.
Name an educational resource (book, website, publication, etc) that you turn to regularly?
Pabini Gabriel-Petit and team have been faithfully publishing UXmatters for over a decade. InfoDesign is a generous archive that’s curated by Peter Bogaards. And the Association of Information Science and Technology has had an unprecedented intellectual presence in the field of information science for almost 80 years. From a UI perspective, Smashing Magazine is a great source for trends in interaction design and front-end development.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
Doing what I do for a living.