Andy Fitzgerald

language + meaning + user experience architecture

Language Arts for the Lizard Brain

5 April, 2017

Here are the slides and a complete transcript of my 2017 Information Architecture Summit talk on language, cognition, and vocabulary design, delivered this March in Vancouver, BC. This is the latest iteration of a topic I first presented at Taxonomy Bootcamp in Washington, DC in November 2016.

Talk Description

Because we use all use language proficiently every day, we tend to assume we know how it works. Sometimes we’re even right! When designing communication systems for others, however, we frequently run into wild discrepancies between what we expect our users to understand — and what our users actually understand.

One culprit...

Designing for the Human Scale

15 March, 2017

This last February I had the honor of giving the opening keynote at World IA Day in Zurich, Switzerland. Here are the slides and a complete transcript of my talk, “Designing for the Human Scale.”

Talk Description

The popular metaphor of how thinking works is computational: we recall information from memory, process it, and manipulate it in a predictable way. While this metaphor has its use, it often leads us to ignore key differences in the ways that machines and people access and use information.

To design effectively for the human scale, we need to bring to our work as User Experience Designers...

A Cognitive Sciences Reading List for Designers

28 July, 2016
bookshelf with books

If you’ve ever done any contextual inquiry or usability testing, you’ve probably observed first hand the difference between what people say they will do and what they actually end up doing. Overlooked calls to action, bizarre navigation paths, mind-bogglingly irrational decisions — even the most sensible seeming users occasionally (or often) do things that “rationally” make little sense.

Which is to say that we all, on occasion (or often) do things that seem to make little rational sense.

And yet, on a day-to-day basis, this is how we successfully negotiate the complexities of our world. We use heuristics (aka rules-of-thumb) and limited...

In Pursuit of the Perfect UX Portfolio

7 November, 2015
portfolio home page

One of the more common questions I get from folks here in the Seattle UX community is about portfolios: How to create an effective portfolio? How much work should I show? What’s the one piece to include (for “x” job)?

I won’t pretend to have the perfect answers to these questions (hence the title “In Pursuit of…”). I don’t mind, however, sharing a few tips that I’ve found helpful in creating portfolios and interviewing and hiring folks based on them. As it happens, I’ve also recently finished a ground-up redesign of my own portfolio, so I can put some of...

Desiring Ecologies - Meaning-Making in the Network Wilderness

2 May, 2015

Here are the slides and a complete transcript of my 2015 Information Architecture Summit talk on information design for emerging organic networks. This is the latest iteration of a topic I had the honor and privilege to deliver at the Italian IA Summit in Bologna (as the Keynote talk), and at Seattle’s inaugural World IA Day event. In each of these cases, my goal was to explore how an ecological approach to information spaces can help us design more effectively in complex and unpredictable environments.

Talk Description

As networked information ecologies get more complex, interdependent, and unpredictable, designers must...

Architecting the Connected World

21 February, 2014

In the first two posts in this series, I examined the connection between information architecture and user interface design, and then looked closely at the opportunities and constraints inherent in information architecture as we’ve learned to practice it on the web. Here, I outline strategies and tactics that may help us think through these constraints and that may in turn help us lay the groundwork for an information architecture practice tailored and responsive to our increasingly connected physical environments.

The Challenge at Hand

NYU Media, Culture, and Communication professor Alexander Galloway examines the cultural and political impact of the Internet...

The Lingering Seduction of the Page

24 January, 2014

In an earlier post in this series, I examined the articulatory relationship between information architecture and user interface design, and argued that the tools that have emerged for constructing information architectures on the web will only get us so far when it comes to expressing information systems across diverse digital touchpoints. Here, I want to look more closely at these traditional web IA tools in order to tease out two things: (1) ways we might rely on these tools moving forward, and (2) ways we’ll need to expand our approach to IA as we design for the Internet...

Architecture, Design, and the Connected Environment

13 December, 2013

Just when it seems we’re starting to get our heads around the mobile revolution, another design challenge has risen up fiercer and larger right behind it: the Internet of Things. The rise in popularity of “wearables” and the growing activity around NFC and Bluetooth LE technologies are pushing the Internet of Things increasingly closer to the mainstream consumer market. Just as some challenges of mobile computing were pointedly addressed by responsive web design and adaptive content, we must carefully evaluate our approach to integration, implementation, and interface in this emerging context if we hope to see it become an enriching...

Language + Meaning + User Experience Architecture

19 August, 2013

There is an architectural concept called the “kitchen triangle” that I often use in talks and presentations. I use it to point out the difference between arguments and articulations of arguments. The gist of it is this: in order to create an effective kitchen, the sink, the stove and the refrigerator must each be placed no closer than 4 feet to each other, but no further than 9 feet apart. There must also be limited or no traffic through the center of the triangle.

In this example, the triangle is the argument: it presents a solution for how we use space...

Designing with Code

15 August, 2013

To code or not to code? For designers, that’s a very contentious question. Clients like designers who code because (among other reasons) that’s one less body on payroll. Design advocates, on the other hand, often see code as a technical limitation that stifles creativity. To make matters worse, the information ecologies we all work in refuse to stand still. By looking carefully at some of our favorite arguments, however – and by taking them within the context of our ever-evolving digital landscape – we can begin to make a case for when working in code makes sense.

Several years ago,


Hi. I’m Andy. I’m a user experience architect based in Seattle. You've found a little spot I've carved out to think and write about the connections between language, meaning, and user experience architecture. Please do have a browse around – and do leave a comment if anything you find here piques your interest.


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