Andrew Hinton





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Like fish who take water for granted, organizations often overlook how language is a critical part of their infrastructure. We often think of content, metadata, names, or links, as stuff we put into the environment. But that way of thinking underestimates just how much language is actually part of our environment. What happens when we don’t take language seriously as a primary medium? Organizational confusion and incoherence: from planning to making, and from databases to interfaces.

Understanding how language is infrastructure is even more important now, with the explosion of mobile, cross-channel, and blended environments, across entire service experiences and touchpoints. The language we use as infrastructure is the information we use for architecture.

Some of what we will cover:
– How language works as the primary interface between people and complex systems.
– Why labels are more than just names we put on things, and how they change (or even create) the environments they name.
– How taxonomy is more prevalent than we tend to think, and how it plays an essential role in all kinds of environments and services–online and off.
– Stories and everyday examples of how language creates the “maps we live in.”


Andrew Hinton is an information architect and user-experience strategy consultant at The Understanding Group. Since the early 90s, he has helped organizations large and small make better places with information. Andrew is a frequent speaker at conferences, and a long-time member of the UX community. He has a book due in December from O’Reilly Media, called Understanding Context: Environment, Language, and Information Architecture. For more about the book (and links to more about Andrew), visit