Posts tagged “information architecture”

Much Better Than The Original

Comedian Laurie Kilmartin tweeted

Hey aspiring comedy writers, when my brain is foggy or I just need multiple punchlines for the same setup, sometime I consult my transitions list! It’s dumb but it helps

It’s sort of a low-fidelity methods card approach, where a phrase suggests a particular structure, or triggers the writer to generate a certain type of response. As a comedy consumer, I am amazed at how familiar so many of these phrases are. While I do some amount of deconstructing the form as a fan, it is very cool to see how fully she reverse-engineered standup tropes for her own benefit

Street sign information hierarchy


In San Francisco’s Presidio, all the streets are named after historic military figures. Note how the sign designers added a biography line to provide additional context. The sign serves the traditional navigational purposes but also provides an educational service. The limited readability of the bio line means that it won’t interfere in navigational tasks but pedestrians (or slow moving drivers) can consume the additional information at will. It’s interesting to see how an ordinary object can be redesigned to include a layer of meta-information that doesn’t detract from its familiar, primary purpose.

Familiar categories; different context


In California, gas stations usually show three prices: regular, mid-grade, and premium. Sometimes diesel is shown. Even if there is small text to explain what those prices refer to, we mostly go off of familiarity, knowing what each box in sequence is telling us.

This sign from a Speedway station in western Michigan uses a fourth slot to indicate price for another item: cigarettes. Gas stations and smokes seem to go together better in MI than in CA.

Please Take My Advice

Over the last year I was an advisor to the board of The Information Architecture Institute. I’d never served a role like that before and I’m not an IA insider (to say the least) so there was a lot of interesting (and at times frustrating) uphill aspects to it. We worked out a huge amount of communication issues (i.e., what is our role as advisors, how do we communicate with each other, what does your organization do) and it felt like we made some good progress over the term. Ironically, it wasn’t until the last meeting of my term that I even found out that I had a term.

Frankly, it was a bit of an ego-soothing role. I’m an advisor! To the board! So to find out I was not in the gig for life was surprising, especially since that discovery happened only at the moment of termination. It was tied to the end of that board’s tenure and the pending elections of a new board. But the outgoing board (with some overlap with the incoming) polled us for interest in participating further. I said “yes” and that was all I heard until I see the IAI newsletter:

Finally, we’ve invited a superb group of Advisors to help out the Board this year ¬? I’ll let next month’s writer fill you in. I can say, though, that with Board and Advisors on four continents, we’re truly an international organization ¬? and the timing of our weekly conference calls is getting very tricky 🙂

Sigh. I did not make the cut, presumably. Back to being a civilian. Parting is such sweet sorrow?!

Update: 10/29 – received an official email thanking me for my involvement and letting me down easy regarding next year’s set of advisors. Spurred on by this entry, or coincidental? Nice to be thanked, but much classier to be informed personally, directly, ahead of time. Ironic that this is the third such incident in a couple of weeks where people could have done a much better job of telling me what the situation was before I heard it elsewhere. Oversights, usually, but something I’ll try myself to be conscious of.

Check out checking out


I was thinking about how to describe this mess of a Safeway receipt when I read a post on Niblettes that mentioned “brand diarrhea.”

[as I’ve said, I won’t call the person Niblettes, I’ll call him John, but I will call the blog Niblettes. This is my brand aphasia. Or silliness threshold]

They’ve jammed every form of bonus/status/ad/info at the end. For this purchase, the checkout dude even stopped afterwards and recited a lengthy speech referring me to the information located on the bottom of the receipt that I should check out if I had time. His tone suggested there was maybe something special there that I hadn’t noticed, something specific they would want me to find. But what?

He then called me Mr. Portugal and also gave me $100 cash-back, even though I had only paid for $80. I returned the other $20.

I was pretty intrigued by the discounted gas purchase available. But there’s no info on where to get that! Or any info about how to find out where to get that! Nothing on the back, either. Which makes it basically a useless offer if we can’t redeem it!

I await that heavenly day when I earn my free deli sandwich!

What is a map?

Here’s a detail from a flyer from a local Coastside restaurant

Note the schematic indicating their location. There’s a lot of local knowledge required to interpret that. Which direction is north? Are each of those towns equal distance from each other? Are they equal size? Are there stop signs located at those locations?

(Answers: right, not really, not hardly, no way)

Here, then, is a more familiar map, from Google.

El Granada doesn’t even merit text on their map, but they do a get a green arrow!

Can I just call you “buddy”?

The New Yorker takes a wry look at the cultural perspectives embedded in information design

When you sign up online for Skywards, which is the frequent-flier program of Emirates, the international airline of the United Arab Emirates, you enter your name, address, passport number, and other information, and you select an honorific for yourself from a drop-down list. A few of the choices, in addition to the standard Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss, and Dr, are: Admiral, Air Comm, Air Marshal, Al-Haj (denoting a Muslim who has made a pilgrimage to Mecca), Archbishop, Archdeacon, Baron, Baroness, Colonel, Commander, Corporal, Count, Countess, Dame, Deacon, Deaconess, Deshamanya (a title conferred on eminent Sri Lankans), Dowager (for a British widow whose social status derives from that of her late husband, properly used in combination with a second honorific, such as Duchess), Duchess, Duke, Earl, Father, Frau, General, Governor, HRH, Hon, Hon Lady, Hon Professor, JP (justice of the peace?), Judge, Khun (the Thai all-purpose honorific, used for both men and women), L Cpl, Lt, Lt Cmdr, Lt Col, Lt Gen, Midshipman, Mlle, Monsieur, Monsignor, Mother, Pastor, Petty Officer, Professor, Senor, Senora, Senorita, Sgt, Sgt Mjr, Shaikha (for a female shaikh, or sheikh), Sheikh, Shriman (an Indian honorific, for one blessed by Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, wisdom, luck, and other.


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