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Summary: Stay up to date on the latest information architecture thinking with TUG Notes, The Understanding Group's monthly newsletter.
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Announcing Our Newest Team Member!

a headshot of Grant Carmichael holding a tug boat.

We are delighted to introduce The Understanding Group’s newest information architect, Grant Carmichael, who joins our Grand Rapids office. Grant brings with him more than 20 years of experience in the UX field and is the first on our team with an Industrial Design background.

We think Grant’s design and inquiry skills are a perfect fit with our approach: he is practiced in making sure ‘why’ is represented in all his projects. Follow him on Twitter: @thinkxd.

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What We Mean When We Say “Navigation”

a headshot of Andrew Hinton

by Andrew Hinton

In many web projects, “navigation” has come to mean the menus for getting around the various areas of a site. Likewise, we often see web teams assuming that the act of navigating is mainly confined to those menu systems.

But that’s only part of the navigation picture. How do people actually find their way through a software environment?

The Greatest Act In Building A Website Is To Build WEBSITE

a headshot of Dan Klyn

by Dan Klyn

At The Understanding Group, we aspire to work in terms of architecture. Even as we design solutions to immediate problems, we want to view such problems as instances within a broader context. Instances that can be mapped back to matters of meaning.

Timeless words from Louis Kahn remind us to consider “What” before “How.”


Ducks and Decorated Sheds

by Dan Klyn

In this 20-minute talk in Detroit last month, Dan discusses the nature of “right” versus “good” and offers four considerations for getting to good structure: Systematic Intentions, Systematic Meaning, Structural Language and Simple Models.


Richard Saul Wurman at West Michigan Design Week

Within the inspiring setting of the historic Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids, Richard Saul Wurman, inventor of the field of information architecture and founder of the TED conference, helped to kick off the inaugural West Michigan Design week.

In his hour-long keynote address, Mr. Wurman talks about the epiphanies that he had early in life: he didn’t understand anything and he loved patterns and maps. That led him to a lifetime fascination with (and a staggering corpus of work on) how things are connected. (See also: Dan Klyn reflects on the time he spent with Mr. Wurman in May.)

Speaking of the ways we’ve benefitted from Mr. Wurman’s interest in connections and patterns, see the next entry below…

Transforming Big Data into Big Understanding

Press Release from Esri

The newest version of Richard Saul Wurman’s Urban Observatory is now live! This online interactive visualization displays major cities in a format that allows for endless side-by-side comparisons, which is exactly Wurman’s intent:

“Our world has always had big data surrounding us that, until recently, has remained untapped for any real understanding. We are several iterations into developing a common language for mapping urbanization. It will allow cities to understand not only the major threads of their performance, land use, and contents comparatively but [also,] eventually, the nuance of change and action.”

Learn more from the press release from Esri, and then try not to get addicted to comparing and contrasting city maps.

The Changing Nature of Search Behavior

by Gerry McGovern in New Thinking

McGovern challenges the notion of search results: if people like to navigate more than they like to search, then what do the results of their search efforts really mean.

Journey Maps and Personas as Interfaces

by Julia Barrett in Effective UI

Journey maps and personas are powerful tools for understanding. Like every deliverable, they should be developed and considered within a larger context—not as isolated ends in themselves.


UX Strat

September 7-9 – Boulder, CO
Strategy and Structure: Doing It Right, and How You’d Know
by Dan Klyn


September 25-26 – Chicago
Because of McLuhan by Dan Klyn


Find out how you can put the what before the how on your next website redesign or e-commerce optimization project.

Contact Bob Royce at today to learn how information architecture can bring structure to your world and understanding to your site visitors.

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