Q: What has four eyes but can’t see? A: The Mississippi river.

There’s another four-eyed monster that’s puzzled by that whole “vision” thing… the collective of Information Designers, Interaction Designers, Interface Designers and Information Architects. The “Four I” designation comes from Christina at elegant hack, who has, for some time now, tracked the progression of the fifth I — the Identity — of these complexly interrelated fields. In addition to entries in her daily gleanings, she offers a collection of definitions of Information Architecture [IA] in particular.

The identity issue isn’t new… and it embodies far more than the simple question of what’s in a name, although, since at least part of Information Architecture involves labeling systems, the name issue is particularly frustrating for some. Other questions are far more important, and more difficult to answer. What is the role of the Information Architect? What are the IA’s methods? What are the boundaries of the IA’s domain? And, perhaps most important [for me, certainly,] what are the goals of Information Architecture?

I’m not certain that the final question has been adequately answered… what’s more, I suspect the answer will reveal quite a lot about the emerging identity of Information Architecture, and maybe say something about all those other I’s. It’s a riddle worth solving.

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