Review: “Information Architecture: An emerging 21st Century Profession” By Earl Morrogh

This book provides an excellent broad review of the history of information and communications technology, starting with the spoken and written word through to computers, computer networks, and the world-wide web.

Unfortunately, the title of this book gives the impression that there will be an examination of the current state of information architecture with some looking forward to the future of the “emerging profession”. Relatively little of the book is given to discussing IA as a profession, with much more weight going to the historical context. In fairness, the intention of the book is “to introduce the reader to key innovations in the history of communications systems and technologies leading to the information age”. While it is important to know where the profession is emerging from, it is just as important to look at where it is likely to emerge to.

The information architecture of the book

As one might expect, this is a very well researched and referenced book. Likewise the structure is well thought out. The chapters that cover historical aspects follow a regular pattern - first a brief rundown of the history of a particular innovation, then comments on the cultural impact, and finishing with a summary of the impact on information architecture. This makes it very easy to skim through the chapters and dip in at points of interest.

In chapter 17 the author speaks of “Info Glut” (too much information). Sadly the editors don’t seem to have paid too much attention to the message here, because this book seems overly and unnecessarily cluttered with long marginal comments. Normally this device is used to add value: illuminate a point with a pithy quote, highlight key words, or cite a reference. In this book there are altogether too many pages where the marginal comments fill the entire height of the page. At the ridiculous extreme, on the first page of some chapters (e.g. 19 and 20) the marginal quotes appear to have been too long for the margin for they are given top spot in the main body of the page while the author’s introduction is relegated to the margin.

If there is to be a second edition, the editors should perhaps consider the marginal comment from page 97, which says in part “when individuals are bombarded with more information than they need or can use, attentiveness declines, errors and frustration increase, and productivity suffers” - an apt description of the experience of reading this book. Normally I wouldn’t be so carping about such a relatively trivial matter, but it becomes a central matter in a book about IA - especially one touting IA as a profession in the making.


It’s a shame this book doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its title because the chapter structure and the author’s research make it a good read. But one thing an emerging profession needs is texts that provide core knowledge, texts that become so familiar to the practitioners that they are often referred to by nickname or abbreviation. Sadly I don’t think Morrogh will become one of these but it is a reasonably good addition to the specialist literature.

The verdict?

Recommended for its history of information and communications technology but not for the little it adds to current knowledge of IA as a profession.

Information Architecture: An emerging 21st Century Profession
Earl Morrogh.
Copyright © 2003 Pearson Education, Inc., New Jersey.