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World IA Day Keynotes

World Information Architecture Day happens in February each year. As a co-inventor of this worldwide event I try to participate as a speaker at a new location each year. Below is a collection of my contributions to the event in the capacity as a keynote speaker. 

If you are interested in the behind the scenes story of this grass roots movement I am proud to have a heavy hand in shaping, read more about how this event got started and my past role in it.

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2020 – The IA Element of Everything (Cambridge, MA, USA) 

In 2020 the theme of World IA Day was the IA Element. I was invited to open the event being hosted for the Boston community at Lesley University. It was a chilly New England Day one week before the world started to lock down because of COVID=19.

The focus of my keynote was to challenge the IA community to really look at how we are positioning ourselves and serving (or rather, not serving) the next generation. 

“We have more sense makers now than ever before, yet they are being told that their skills are only narrowly applicable to one type of work: user experience design

Now it would be easy to be more than disheartened by the reality that I see before us. In fact, if I were a pessimist and saw these clues as signals of our future, I might come to the easy conclusion that we are seeing the end of information architecture. 

Lucky, I am ever the optimist and see these as clues to a clearer future. Because ultimately I see each of these as an information architecture challenge in front of our community.” 

Video | Essay | Transcript

2019-2018 – Baby the IA (Melbourne, FL)

I took two years off of traveling for WIAD to be with my family after Jamie was born. Watching the teams across the world deliver stellar events from the comfort of my home made my heart so very happy.

2017 – How to Set IA Up to Fail (Washington, DC, USA)

In 2017, I flew to DC to open a wonderfully attended event. I had heard about the vibrance of the DC IA community for years and it was a pleasure to finally get there.

In terms of subject matter, I was really inspired by the theme to write about failure. It was a great talk for me to develop as I navigated my first year as an inhouse employee after being a consultant for the last several years.

“This year, our theme is Information Strategy & Structure. I personally love this theme because it means we are moving forward having completed our initial mission to spread knowledge of information architecture to as many people and contexts as possible. This year’s theme is all about getting down to brass tacks, taking that IA knowledge and actually infusing it into the organizations we work with and for.

As a community leader this is exciting, but as a teacher and public speaker on this subject, this theme is also anxiety inducing. Because unlike the education about what IA is, this is the hard part. The part that gets murky pretty quick. So today I am here to talk to you about failure. Specifically what does it look like to fail at integrating IA into an organization. I wanted to tackle this subject because knowing is not the same as doing. We now have a worldwide community that knows about information architecture, it’s time to make sure they are setup to succeed at practicing IA in their unique context.” 

Video | Essay | Transcript

2016 – Architects Everywhere (Zürich , Switzerland)

Flying across the world to be the opening keynote speaker for an event you are credited as having invented is such a trip. In 2016, I was given the great privilege to take that trip, and it delivered in life experience, professional awe and cheese consumption. The Zürich team blew me away with their hospitality and curation skills. The content for the entire day was fantastic and the weekend even included eating fondue in a yurt. Unfortunately this was not video recorded BUT there is an essay of the content I covered linked to below.

“I believe in information architecture. Not just as a job, or an industry, or an academic specialty. I believe in information architecture as a life skill. I believe that IA is not a fad or a trend or a pattern or something that emerged to deal with the complexities of working on the web. Instead, IA is and has always been a fundamental part of how we communicate with one another. I also believe that IA is not something that was invented as much as it was something that was named. Information architecture is something we have always done as humans, we just keep changing the ways we practice it to make sense given the information and media we have to work with.

I am here today to convince each and every one of you that information architecture is a critical life skill that you already use in your work and play everyday. Regardless of what you do to pay your bills, what title you write on your business card or how you spend your free time: you are using the principles and concepts of information architecture to make things clear to other people.”


2015 – Everything is Information over time (NYC, NY, USA)

In 2015, I gave my first solo keynote for World IA Day. After years of being behind the scenes at this event, this was a huge day for me – and in my home town of NYC! 

Looking back, it was also a poignant moment. As I gave my keynote my mentor and beloved grandfather was preparing to leave this life. My family had discussed this in the days ahead of the event and decided not to tell me. I still know in my heart that he held on for that extra day to let me deliver that keynote before grief overtook us all. Hindsight on this moment has always felt touched by grace, especially given the theme of the event that year: the IA of Happiness. 

I have been challenged to answer an important question: Does the way that we architect information affect happiness? I think this question is asking a lot of things simultaneously. It is asking about our happiness as designers, our customers’ happiness, our coworkers’ happiness and even the big “we” of how our work affects our world’s happiness. I think this question is challenging to answer due to the broad ness required to consider this question. It takes honesty to answer big questions like that of work like this.

Video | Essay | Transcript