"Yes, indeed. IA as it has lived will soon die. Not because it wasn’t valuable, not because IA’s didn’t do great work, but because the Web is moving on."
So says Joshua Porter of Bokardo.com
Now before you take either side of the debate regarding the role and future of Information Architects (IA's), I would ask this question. Does the term accurately represent what a (insert title here) does? Or if you are an IA, do you feel it does?
The answer probably depends on the type of work you are doing and how you do it.
I began working with IA's back in 1998 when the role consisted mainly of—well, organizing information in a cohesive and usable format in the context of Website design. Since then, the profession, practitioners and certainly the Web have all evolved considerably. From my perspective, one of the most significant changes has been the shift from Websites to interactive experiences which actually have more in common with actual products than they do their ancestral Web counterparts. In short, unless you are working on a traditional site structure, what you do may have more in common with product design than information architecture. Several years ago, I moderated a work session at the IIT Strategy conference where we discussed a related topic.
If you look at the description, you'll notice that I didn't use the title Information Architects even though that's what we called them at agency.com. I referred to the discipline as Interaction Designers (ironically, that's the title we use at Digitas). In my opinion it's a broader term that is more accurate to the direction that IA seems to be gradually moving in.
The difference? The words Interaction + Design. Design used not to denote aesthetic, but as the thinking process of how we interact with something, and the experience we have from it. Yes it's also about usability—but like product design it involves some degree of visual appeal as well—and of course functional. And methods like prototyping, proof of concepts, etc.—all borrowed from product design.
So should the title "Information Architect" go away? Actually, I don't think so. The reality is that there is still "classic IA" work which needs to be done out there and if that's the majority of the service your firm offers—it makes sense to use it (just look at the cover of the book—"Designing Large Scale Web Sites"). However, if the majority of what you do feels more like designing interactive product/experiences, vs. a large scale Website—it might be worth taking a look at.
Joshua makes this final point:
"But the fact is that IA is a theory about the inherent structure of information…the architecture of information…and if we are moving away from that we should call it something else.
Relationship Architecture, perhaps?"
Interesting thought, but I think it gets too specific. Again, if we make this about what accurately describes what you do—it's simple. Do you architect information? Do you design interactions? Or maybe you architect digital experiences? Hmmm, Experience Architect—that has a nice ring to it too. :)