This is the 78th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Peter is a pioneer in the fields of information architecture and user experience, and he also specializes in organizational strategy and planning. He has been helping people to plan since 1994. Peter wrote or co-wrote the books Information Architecture: For the Web and Beyond (also known as the “Bible of IA” and the “Polar Bear book”), Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become, Search Patterns: Design for Discovery, Intertwingled: Information Changes Everything, and Planning for Everything: The Design of Paths and Goals.

I first became aware of Peter’s work when I read the report that he and Fred Leise of Louis Rosenfeld, LLC prepared for the Hewlett-Packard intranet (@hp) in 2001. I thought the recommendations were brilliant. I met Peter several times when he lived in Ann Arbor, and he presented on the February 2022 SIKM Leaders Community call. He now lives on a farm in Virginia.


Peter was born in Manchester, England. In the 1990s, together with Louis Rosenfeld, he headed Argus Associates, the consulting firm which supported one of the precursors of the Information Architecture Institute, the Argus Center for Information Architecture. The company began in January 1994 as a full-solution web design business, but Morville and Rosenfeld decided to specialize by applying principles of library science to solve issues of grouping and labeling on the early Web. The two dubbed their work “information architecture,” although they did not mean it in the sense of Richard Saul Wurman’s use of the term, who according to Morville, “focused on the presentation and layout of information on a two-dimensional page. We focused on the structure and organization of sites.”

In 1998, Morville co-authored Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, which was published by O’Reilly Media in 1998. This book, known as the “Polar Bear book” because of the Polar Bear on its cover, became a bestseller and was awarded Amazon’s best computer book of 1998. It has been described as the seminal book on information architecture. The book sparked enough of a growth in interest in information architecture that two years later, the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) helped organize the first annual Information Architecture Summit.


  • University of Michigan — School of Information: Masters, Library and Information Science, 1992–1993
  • Tufts University, BA, English Literature, 1987–1991



Strange Connections — Information Architecture


Farming Information Architecture

In an employee intranet project for HP in the early noughties, the IT group we worked with was insular. This was a problem endemic to the culture, famously captured in the aphorism “if only HP knew what HP knows.” So, in concert with IA, we helped with KM. We pitched cross-pollination via interdepartmental brown bag lunches and championed unsanctioned initiatives such as an annotated site index created by the administrative assistants of HP Labs, because often the path to a good information architecture is better knowledge management.

@hp Information Architecture Strategy & Recommendations Report with Fred Leise

  • Portal Strategy Recommendations
  1. Define portal scope
  2. Balance top-down & bottom-up approaches to content access
  3. Recognize IA as infrastructure
  4. Manage conflicting influences
  5. Manage transitions
  • Information Architecture Design Recommendations
  1. Use several classification schemes
  2. Provide multiple finding tools
  3. Leverage CMS (distributed metadata)
  4. Improve search (interface, results, thesaurus)
  5. Provide robust navigation

Articles by Others


  • “Findability precedes usability. In the alphabet and on the Web. You can’t use what you can’t find.”
  • “The design of good houses requires an understanding of both the construction materials and the behavior of real humans.”
  • “When technology precedes requirements and user needs, the UX suffers — it leads to solutions in search of problems.”
  • “The future is faceted.”
  • “Information architecture is a means to create learning and relationship-building opportunities. When we create unusual relationships between people or products or ideas, we create a tension that invites learning.”



SIKM Leaders Community


  1. W4: Experience Maps: KM & Visual Thinking
  2. Search Patterns: Making Maps for Knowledge Discovery
  • 2008
  1. W6: Information Architecture 3.0
  2. Connecting Knowledge Management and Discovery: Search 3.0

Taxonomy Boot Camp






  1. Information Architecture: Design for Understanding
  2. Review by Tom Wilson
  1. Review by Tom Wilson
  2. Review by Gerard Torenvliet
  3. Review by Phoebe Ayers
  4. Review by Aaron Wall
  1. Search Patterns Site
  2. Review by Tom Wilson
  3. Review by Tom Johnson
  4. Review by Dave Fernig
  1. Creating a Cultural Fit
  2. Chapter 3: Connections
  3. Review by D. Ben Woods
  4. Review by Jim McGee
  5. Review by Robert Bogue
  1. Chapter 2: Framing
  2. Review by Martin White
  3. Review by Getaneh Alemu
  4. Review by Jim McGee

Book Chapter



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Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager