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How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody
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How to Make Sense of Any Mess: Information Architecture for Everybody

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,202 ratings  ·  112 reviews
Everything is getting more complex.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of information we encounter each day. Whether at work, at school, or in our personal endeavors, there’s a deepening (and inescapable) need for people to work with and understand information.

Information architecture is the way that we arrange the parts of something to make it understandable as
Kindle Edition, 174 pages
Published November 12th 2014 (first published November 4th 2014)
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Peter Morville
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a brilliant introduction to information architecture. It's short and easy to read but covers all the bases. It will make sense and prove valuable to anyone who messes with information. In other words, Abby really has written a book for everybody. ...more
Julia Kulgavchuk
May 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: design
This book is a mess. It's not a book really; I'd call it a pamphlet.

The text gives basic common sense-level knowledge about sorting out "messes". Now this doesn't sound that bad. The book explores some important points, such as "Start with why", "Who matters", "What before how". These considerations are indispensable for information architecture work and design-related work of any kind. Unfortunately the book is in a severe shortage of substance. These points need to be really well understood, a
May 05, 2015 rated it liked it
I came to this book with very high expectations after I heard it called the "Don't Make Me Think" of Information Architecture. Sadly, it didn't live up to that hype. In the hands of a good teacher I have no doubt this would be an excellent textbook to accompany a course, but on its own it's only OK. In trying to write a succinct and versatile primer on IA for anyone, Covert has gone too far in eschewing concrete examples. Many of the self-contained page-length lessons, which would otherwise be v ...more
Andy Thornton
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a deceptively thoughtful read, written as a short and snappy layman's guide to information architecture that belies its sophistication. It serves well as a intuitive reminder of the effort and focus necessary to solve sense-making problems effectively.

Abby does a great job of reframing complex concepts in a straightforward manner and the book helps shine a light on the implicit assumptions, biases, shortcuts and oversights often inherent in the work we do when architecting information.

Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
While I enjoyed and appreciated this book for what it was, a high altitude overview of IA, I really hoped the author would get a bit more into the details as they pertain to specific industries such as website design. Maybe a follow-up?
Karen Mardahl
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I think this is a great book for getting started with information architecture. I read it in about 100 minutes. I have the great big polar bear book ("Information Architecture for the World Wide Web"), but confess I have never gotten around to reading it. I am not an Information Architect, but I am interested in understanding information architect. Because it is not my job, I have made do with reading articles here and there over the years, but never reading that bigger book.

I regard this book a
Luci Riestra
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Nice introduction to Information Architecture, with simple advice on how to process and organise a complex topic. With templates to guide you and some examples, it's easy to follow and to read, and most of the times it feels all common sense, but the one that is not so evident to apply.
I think a good way to make the most of this book is to take an example of some "mess" of yours and try to apply as you read the steps. Else, it makes a collection of good-to-know recommendations on defining intent
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely brilliant book. Possibly my second favorite professional book of the year (after Brave New Work). Essential for anyone doing knowledge work, solving problems, or spending time in new territory. Extremely readable and well-designed, perfect for always being on my desk.
Jordan Jackson
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Honesty, this could have been a long form blog post, but never the less an informative read.
Bindu Upadhyay
For anyone dealing with mess and chaos. Well which organisation isn't? 😀
The advice can be applied to information structuring as well.
Quality of the writing: 3
Quality of the content/organisation/research: 4
Impact on my perspective: 2
Resonance: 3
Rereading potential: 4
Overall score: 3.5

The reason I read it: Trying to do some thinking about how to organise some information in particular, also hoping it might include some general principles. 

Context of reading: I had various problems in mind to try to solve using this book. I also read a textbook on a similar topic at the same time. 

How To Make Sense of Any Mess is an intro
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
A book filled with such generic advice that it's applicable to (almost) anything. Which makes it fantastic and disappointing at the same time; disappointing if you were hoping for a "magical" solution, or expected some hard, precise, specific instructions when you picked it up.

There's no magic, but then again, it's not that complicated either - just answer a bunch of questions about yourself/your work/whatever problem you're facing, and you'll solve it in no time...right? Right?

Still, some real
Omar Mizdaq
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
2 and a half stars. Too vague to be much use when read alone as an introduction to IA. The only scenario I can envision in which this would have much value would be as a design book club choice. I'm sure that in the hands of experienced designers, the abstract, nebulous one-page lessons that comprise the content would serve as jumping off points for many an enlightening discussion. As it stands, though, the lack of concrete examples (beyond facile references to supermarkets etc) mean that you'll ...more
Matthew Hodge
There are some good bits of advice in here about things to think about when you're trying to convey information but oddly enough, for a book on information architecture, it seemed a bit random.

I felt like I didn't quite grasp a process or a system to use so much as a few principles. (And some examples of tables and charts which was useful.)

Ultimately, a book I wanted to like more than I actually did.
Omar J
Feb 15, 2018 rated it liked it
A short and succinct read on thought processes around designing an Information Architecture. Abby Covert keeps the language simple and tries to keep the topics generic enough so it can be applied to all disciplines. As an experienced designer, it was a helpful reminder of the fundamentals but it felt a bit too dumbed-down. I think it’s geared for beginners but if that’s the case, it’s too generic and lacks thoughtful examples to help a beginner frame these principles.
Christophe Addinquy
I don't know if it makes sense, but the book is somehow messy. The very high level thougths as they are exposed may give something to think about, but miss the practical dimension. Probably this very short text doesn't address the beginner, therefore I had hard time to appreciate it.
Ma note de lecture en Français ici
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, design

This book is so useful as a thought exercise but tough as a practical workbook for approaching information architecture for documentation. Because it lacks specificity, it’s on the reader to take the high-level questions and really sit with them. Not for the faint of heart, but a great read when sitting in the midst of many challenging messes. I took more notes as the book progressed and got slightly more concrete.
Carolina Bento
Aug 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent introduction to Information Architecture.
It's a very concise and straight-forward book, focusing on a handful of core topics.
Each topic's examples are were simple and yet were very powerful to summarise the underlying idea of the topic/chapter.
I'm looking forward to explore some of the recommended books from the "Further Reading" section.
Attila Bujdosó
Sep 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ux
When the author says "If you rip out the content from your favorite book and throw the words on the floor, the resulting pile is not your favorite book." she is right. Unfortunately, she didn't apply this thinking to her own book.

If you throw a bunch of tweet-long ideas, comments, observations and statements into a book, the result is not a very good book. Some diagrams are good, though.
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for anyone who organizes things and/or works on the web. I was initially disappointed by what felt like a lack of concrete examples, but the carefully crafted thought process and lessons on each page won me over. I would love to read more by this author.
Stacy Taylor
Mar 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, design, work, nonfiction
I didn't care for the format, which was basically like a collection of 100 one minute elevator pitches. It made for a quick read, but it lacks substance and depth. I guess that was kind of the point, but I didn't get as much out of it as I'd hoped to. ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is awesome and super helpful! Abby Covert, has done some great work explaining how to organize systems and information in a simple and precise way. Best quote in the book: " Perfection isn't possible, but progress is." I'll be repeating that one 'til I'm dead. ...more
McKenzie Richardson
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

I had to read this book for my Information Architecture course and it is by far my favorite book we have read up to this point.

This is a great first resource for learning about Information Architecture and the information provided is wide enough to be applicable to many situations outside of official information science areas. If you need to make sense of a mess in your life and/or profession, this is the book to find out how.

Covert writes in a w
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
This book will help you do two things:

1. Understand how to break a big hairy problem into smaller steps so that you can approach solving it.
2. Understand some approaches to solving it.

It will give you examples of various activities, tools (i.e. worksheets) and things to understand about problems. It'll do this one page at a time, which is to say each of the 150ish pages covers exactly one topic, and covers it well enough that you'll know how to move forward to the next topic. It also gives refe
Brion Pampell
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is truly a book for anyone. I really appreciate a solid framework on which to map ideas and concepts to. As someone who lives in the design world daily, I generally do a lot of the things mentioned in this book, but it’s nice to see a map that includes some of the holes in my communication approaches that aren’t always top of mind but should be.

It’s generally a good idea to revisit the basics, no matter where you are in your career. Additionally, I struggle with Executive Functioning
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is fundamentally about mental models, which are in vogue right now, but rather than lay out examples of mental models to use in specific contexts, it describes how to create them. The idea is that anything we create or utilize, be it a piece of writing or a commercial product, has some underlying structure to its content that enables its audience to come up with some interpretation of what they’re seeing; as the sense-makers, we need to be deliberate about this structure in order to ac ...more
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Broad overview

The book is a good broad overview of Information Architectures. For someone just starting out in a career that touches information architecture - which in reality is most of them - this is a great starting point to get down the terminology of IA and some standard methods.

As someone who works with IA all the time in the software development space - I had hoped this book would give me something deeper or connect things in new and interesting ways and was left a little disappointed.
Feb 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, z_2019
Def. A good primer for how to approach information architecture in your job...less useful if you're trying to apply it to daily life although not impossible. You'd jus have to skip pieces of the mess is purely personal. It's a sensible book that explains what I've been doing for 9 years. Goes over the main concepts, approaches, and pitfalls. Interested in understanding IA it wanna try it? Would recommend for that. ...more
Useful. I built this kind of thinking organically and in undergrad visual art school though so I recommend it more for folks trying to find a more basic human approach to information architecture (or untangling any kind of 'mess' really). Definitely right there with Abby and wish many of my colleagues over the years could read this and that they wouldn't look at me so much like I was an alien anymore. Cheers to Abby for writing this. ...more
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Even though Abby states that this book is beginner friendly, which it definitely is, I’ve read it only after 5 years of practice, and still learned a lot. Her definitions, framings and tools are a very valuable resource for any professional. A fresh look into things we do at work everyday but not necessarily think this with such elegance.
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12 likes · 2 comments
“Knowing is not enough. Knowing too much can encourage us to procrastinate. There's a certain point when continuing to know at the expense of doing allows the mess to grow further.” 4 likes
“The only way to know what happens next is to do it.” 3 likes
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