Information Architecture with Maps

I'm working on a brand new workshop for UX London in May:

A map is a powerful tool for navigating and understanding physical, digital, intellectual, and social space. In this workshop, we'll explore how maps can improve the process and product of classic and cross-media information architecture and user experience design.

That's all I have! But, I'm convinced that information architect as cartographer is a relatively uncharted territory worthy of exploration. And Richard Saul Wurman agrees. But, I could sure use some help. If you have reactions, suggestions, or recommended reading, please let me know. Thanks!

Strange Connections

IA for Ubiquitous Ecologies (PDF) by Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati is a short, powerful paper about designing cross-media experiences.

Stacy Surla has written a great article about Citizen-Centric Portals.

This is a *very* interesting idea. Principles of cartography and geography could be an important element in IA. I'd like to help with this workshop.

Love the idea - I've always been fascinated by maps. I have a few examples of different levels of fidelity/granularity of concept maps, etc. if you're interested.

Now if I can just get to London...

Hi Peter, I gave a talk at EuroIA about The Future Of Wayfinding, which covered a fair bit about equivalence between real-world navigation and that within digital information systems. It fits somewhere between Ambient Findability, Luca and Andrea's cross-media thinking, classical Info Retrieval theory and ubicomp.

Credits and references are at, and I summarised the piece for Johnny Holland: If you think the slides might be of help, I'll gladly forward them.

Can't wait for you to join us at UX London – looking forward to what you come up with!

Cennydd Bowles

My "Linkosophy" talk explored this some. I don't know that I developed the idea very far... but I think understanding how maps help or hinder how we construct an understanding of place is very important for IA. Maps tell us about context, and help us ignore the stuff we don't need for that given contextual angle/facet. But it can make us mistake or miss things that we might otherwise should notice as well.
Denis Wood's work is somewhat rambling & jeremiad-like, but it did make me see maps in a different way.

This sounds great. Let me share an interesting story...Back in 1986, I was demonstrating a mapping information management system (OK, GIS if you like) at DecVille in Cannes. One guy (from a large UK-based multinational corporation) saw it and said the technology would be perfect for planning and managing their IT architecture/facilities. Nothing ever came of it at the time, but it should still be a fruitful avenue to pursue. Best of luck with your workshop!

John, please do send examples. Cennydd, I'll take a look at your wayfinding work and will let you know if I need the slides too. Thanks everyone!


I've been dabbling with the concepts of space, place, and way-finding off and on (and mostly on) since I decided to take my architecture skills somewhere else. Maps are an extremely important part of the puzzle, and as you may know place-making is an important concept in the way Luca Rosati and I see IA evolving.

As a result, I have a good deal of unfinished materials (mostly on space and maps in videogames), a rather long book chapter on Way-finding published in 2007, and plenty of presentations dealing with the subject I can bore you out of your mind with. ;) And of course lots more for the upcoming book. So, if you need something specific, throw it this way: it might very well be I have something around.

PS: Cennydd definitely did a great presentation in København.

As an Ex-Army officer in tanks, maps have always fascinated me (And under red-light tactical conditions, red major highways disappear from your topographic map!)
I love the Subway representations of taxonomies but I have yet to make it work well for a website layout where I do most of my work.
What interests me is the linkage between the graphic map represenation of the data to the operational level of creating the content/background info ie the name on the map, its metadata, and the creation of planning documents and the shells of files needed to create the content or links to exisitng content. DITA XML offers some advantages but it is too flat of a txaonomy. OWL based ontologies seem to be the best to use and can incorporate real-life GIS info or any sort of x, y, z coordinates of a virtual environment. But ontology work is complex and the tools are not cheap.
Very intersted in you ideas.


Thank you for bring up this interesting topic. I have worked on the proposal for ISO, TC 211 concerning Ubiquitous Geospatial Information (UBGI). This is a new area for the ISO geospatial committee and Professor Sang-Ki Hong of Anyang University, Korea is spearheading this effort. As the ISO formalize the ontology of the components that will encompass this model, there are many geographic constructs and information architecture taxonomies that have similar characteristics.

Fundamentally, that linkages between geographic location and information retrieval holds the greatest promise to take search and give it more than semantic awareness, but also geospatial relevance. However, one additional quality must also be included if information relationships based on location are to be efficient and productive. The relationship of temporal relevance must be included in this semantic awareness.

This all boils down to developing a system of addressability or indexing that bounds all these information qualities and geospatial elements if information architecture is to be more productive than it is today. It will be interesting to see how the UBGI model, information architecture, and the ontology that integrates them together are developed, provisioned and implemented.