IA is orthogonal to other disciplines

Information architects can be easy to mistake for domain experts in other verticals, because part of our skillset is being able to understand a new domain, deeply and quickly. Our expertise is not that of any vertical, though, it’s systems thinking, information behavior, and knowledge organization. It’s a meta-discipline.

Journalism and education are also meta-disciplines because they also primarily deal with information itself, in different ways.

This means that good information architecture can feel invisible and inevitable. This is not unique to information architecture, it’s shared across information science. This is one of the reasons that we are susceptible to burnout and also why it’s important to have the larger context of information science.

This makes us good at:

  1. Applying (new) frameworks or approaches to a (new) area
  2. Getting up to speed in a new domain quickly
  3. Eliciting mental models and assumptions
  4. Taking things up and down the ladder of abstraction

These are extremely important skills.


Bates, M. (1999). The Invisible Substrate of Information Science. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 50(12), 1043–1050.

The domain of information science is the universe of recorded information that is selected and retained for later access; the domain of education is curricula; and the domain of journalism is the journalistic product of all the newsworthy areas of life (science reporting, political reporting, etc.).

Most people outside our field do not realize that there is a content to the study of form and organization. I believe that this is one of the chief reasons our field is commonly thought to have no “there” there. The average person, whether Ph.D. scholar or high school graduate, never notices the structure that organizes their information, because they are so caught up in absorbing and relating to the content. And, in fairness to them, they are not interested in the structure. We are interested in the structure.