A thought by Allan Cochinov has been bouncing around my mind lately:
I’ve often theorized that there are two kinds of designers: those who like to design things smaller than themselves (appliances, sneakers, phones, book covers), and designers who like to design things bigger than themselves (architecture, interiors, city plans, cars).
How do digital things map to this model? Is our work large or small?
Well, both. Take Facebook: a damn 1,300,000,000-person megacontinent, sure, but full of microinteractions—the Like, a notification sound—that are smaller.
So we lean back with that knowing grin and explain that dimensions are passé. We contain multitudes. Nanometres and light years, man.
I tweeted that I don't really have a handle on what information architecture is these days. I’ve wilfully generalised over the past few years, and while I still get the tools of IA, the flavour of the thing, I can't grasp its boundaries, its definition. (As Karen suggests, it’s been a while since I’ve trolled myself.) I think I know the theory, but if I tell my colleagues we should work on IA and they say okay, what's that and how do we start, I don't know how to respond.
But maybe this model has something. Maybe IA is the larger-than-human stuff: the constructions that people inhabit. Topology, routes, flow. Doorways, light, maximum capacities. Designing the void.
And then maybe interaction design is the smaller-than-human stuff: the tools people manipulate. Materials with properties and responses. The time axis that makes 3d 4d: how you move and twist things, how they beep and complain. Designing the matter.
Designing the void. Designing the matter. Maybe.