Designer looking for Information Architecture job in London
April 26, 2005 12:38 AM   Subscribe

Hi all, I'm asking this on behalf of my girlfriend, who has an MA in design from Moscow but has worked here in London for the past 2 years as a web designer / traditional media designer (dreamweaver, photoshop, illustrator, flash, director, etc. She's looking for guidance on how best to move into an IA role -- any suggestions much appreciated!

So she knows how to paint and is articulate in humanities etc. She has a good eye and her photo and static design work has been published in the past. More recently in the past 3-4 years she's been doing the 'web designer' role a lot -- using Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator, Director and in the past year been doing work with Flash/Actionscript 2.0 doing a couple of freelance projects in her spare time recently where she's been doing all the IA-style activities. So she's competent technically as well as creatively and basically has a really solid understanding of the creative process and wants to lead the charge by taking on an IA post in her next job, preferably working with bigger rather than smaller projects... also she has a very strong maths and physics background so has a strong analytical / logical head. For me she'd be an ideal IA.

Anyone have any suggestions as to where to look or even know of people who are looking? She'd need sponsorship -- I can send CVs etc if it helps.

(I hope I'm not breaking any netiquette rules by asking for jobs here... if so please just interpret this as a more general question in the spirit of metafilter).

posted by to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
I know this is going to seem self-evident, but any time you aim for any role within a company, especially a skills-based one like "designer" or "IA", their willingness to take you on is going to be a factor of how well you've established your ability to deliver on that skill.

As someone who hires and manages IAs on a daily basis, I can tell you that IA skills are not definitely not something you have to certify for through school or formal training. Yes, you can do that nowadays, and it can help, but I'm going to hire someone in an IA role based on what I know about their past work, and how well that portfolio establishes their IA abilities.

Her best bet is to set up a book of work that goes into a fair amount of detail on several projects, and the IA work that she did on each of them. She basically needs to show two different things--that she understands the basic methodology of doing IA, and that she's a creative, valuable thinker on that front.

For the first, that means primarily showing sanitized IA deliverables--concrete documents like use cases, task flows, wireframes, site maps, user testing docs, etc. While any veteran IA will admit that you almost never do everything on a single project, if you're interviewing with an IA manager who doesn't already know you, they're going to want to be sure you understand the core concepts of how IA is done. (In all honestly, there's still way too much chest-thumping sometimes over "heuristic testing", and whose use-case format you prefer to use, blah, blah, blah, but it's the nature of the job. Like any profession populated by passionate geeks--and I can be one of them--it's crammed full of jargon and arcane details, and people are way too willing to judge you on your ability to sling them around.)

For the second objective, that means looking at some collection of projects again, and for each, demonstrating the specific challenges that she helped the client to address. A hiring manager is going to want to see that she can look at a site, identify the primary usability/structural issues, and come up with effective ways of cleaning them up. Again, these might have to be sanitized, but they should show as much concrete detail as possible about how she's applied good IA thinking on past work.

Overall, though, your best bet to shift job focus is always to do it through an existing gig--building off the existing base of your current capabilities, and branching out into the new area gradually over a few projects. If she's currently employed somewhere she likes, she should just approach her management with her desire to do more IA work, and ask to set up a plan for doing more IA work while she still does design work along the way. I've helped many designer, site editors, coders, etc. move into IA, just that same way.

If she's definitely looking, and she's having a hard time getting hired as a "pure" IA right off the bat, she should also consider looking to get hired as either more of a designer, with open IA aspirations, or in a hybrid role where she does both. (The odds of getting into a hybrid role at a place that works on big accounts is pretty small, though--at a big shop, the two capabilities will actually report up into different people on a given client team.)
posted by LairBob at 5:01 AM on April 26, 2005 [1 favorite]

What is IA? Interactive Advertising?
posted by banished at 9:10 AM on April 26, 2005

What is IA? Interactive Advertising?

Heh-heh...see what I mean about jargon...

No, it stands for "Information Architecture"--basically, designing the structure and functionality of a site or application (as opposed to the graphic design that's involved).

Most "IA"s I've known have bristled against the term, preferring something like "Experience Architecture" or "User Experience Design", since "Information Architecture" sounds like it's very focused on just arranging a site's content.

The phrase has basically stuck, though, so while every agency tends to come up with its own internal term, most folks still call it "IA" work when they want people outside their company to know what they're talking about.
posted by LairBob at 9:18 AM on April 26, 2005

LairBob you're the best thanks a bunch -- it's confirmed a lot of the suggestions I've already made and it's great to get this alternative perspective that resonates with it.
posted by at 11:34 AM on April 26, 2005

She may also get some insight from
posted by yoga at 1:33 PM on April 26, 2005

Overall, though, your best bet to shift job focus is always to do it through an existing gig--building off the existing base of your current capabilities, and branching out into the new area gradually over a few projects.

I'll second this. It's very hard for someone with very little IA experience to jump straight into a specialist role -- there are just too many experienced practitioners out there now. Get a job that you can turn into some IA work, then use that work to get the specialist position.

Also, there's a London IA mailing list that may prove beneficial. IAs tend to stick together, and they'll have a sense of who's hiring.
posted by jjg at 4:09 PM on April 26, 2005

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