Peter Morville interview

In order to prepare a little for Peter Morville’s talk in Toledo on June 15th, I thought it would be interesting to check in with him on a few things. Here are a few questions for Peter and his answers. If you have not registered for his talk & lunch on 6/15, there are still some seats left. Free!

— Keith

What has been the reaction to your Architecture of Understanding talks in other cities? Which trips have been the most memorable and why?

The message of Intertwingled – that everything is connected from code to culture – has resonated with audiences around the world. We care about the impact of our work and want to understand the consequences of our actions. My talk doesn’t deliver answers, but it does get people asking interesting questions. pinguin-parade

There are three trips that stand out.

In Zurich, I talked about the architecture of happiness, enjoyed a penguin parade, and learned the trains are always on time (give or take a few seconds).

In Manchester (where I was born), I discovered that “systems thinking” is far more popular in the United Kingdom than in the United States; and I learned our daughter Claudia loves fish and chips (and even mushy peas).morville-mtfuji

In Tokyo, I enjoyed conversations about simplicity, complexity, and seeing organizations as ecosystems; and I escaped the city for the lovely Japanese countryside, where I climbed the magnificent Mount Fuji.

How did you pull off a 4th edition of the Polar Bear book by making it smaller and broader? How hard was that? What are people saying about the book?

It was easy. We invited Jorge Arango to join us as co-author. He did the heavy lifting. Our happy collaboration was driven by a shared vision for the fourth edition: as a practice of placemaking and sensemaking in physical and digital contexts, information architecture is for everyone.

Based on the feedback so far, we’re feeling very good about the new polar bear.

welchman-inclusive What did I miss at the IA Summit? What was the hot topic in the hallways?

This year’s IA Summit was most memorable for its focus on inclusiveness. Highlights included Lisa Welchman’s keynote on digital diversity, Léonie Watson’s keynote on accessibility, and the Information Architecture Institute’s special session on Georgia House Bill 757.

Your next project is a book that aims to make planning fun. How are you going to do that?

morville-plan-visible Planning is too important to take seriously. I see it as a literacy or skill that includes playing, practicing, prototyping, and pivoting. My goal is to help people (including myself) get better at planning by making planning visible. There’s a glimpse of my vision in here. But it’s early.

For now, I’m planning to write a book about planning, which means the writing is a long ways off.

Do you remember your first talk in the Toledo region 17 years ago? What HASN’T changed since then?

You invited me to speak at BGSU, not long before we became colleagues at Argus, and I recall that after my talk a doctoral student came to the stage with a big stack of paper and asked me to sign her photocopy of the polar bear book.

We’ve experienced great changes since then, including the shift to mobile, social, and cross-channel design, but information architecture remains invisibly important, and doctoral students are still too poor to buy books.


If you have not registered for Peter’s talk & lunch on 6/15, there are still some seats left. Free!