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Adam Greenfield: The InfoDesign profile

Adam Greenfield

By Peter J. Bogaards (June 7, 2004)

Regularly, InfoDesign profiles a thought leader in the design industry, focusing on people who are identified with or show strong sensibilities to the design of information and experiences. This time, Adam Greenfield is our 'victim'.

Adam Greenfield is an internationally recognized information architect and user experience consultant. His practice is focused on making complex artifacts easy to understand and use, without sacrificing thoroughness or depth. Adam was the lead information architect for the Tokyo office of well-known web consultancy Razorfish; prior to that, he worked as senior information architect for marchFIRST, also in Tokyo. He now works as a Happy Cog principal with Jeffrey Zeldman. His award-winning personal site can be found at

Most Valuable URI

Google. No contest. It's not even close.

Best PDF/PPT To Download

Annotation of the Celera Human Genome Assembly - Chromosome X pdflogo
(and the 23 others you'll find if you hack the URL a little). Simply beautiful in the abstract, not too shabby as information design, and awe-inspiring to contemplate.

Best Read Book

Way too many to answer.
In the last six months, just off the top of my head: 'Koba the Dread', Martin Amis's consideration of Stalin. My third rereading of James Ellroy's 'American Tabloid'. 'Out of Gas: The End of The Age of Oil', by David Goodstein, which both scared the crap out of me and forced me to rethink a lot of longer-term plans and ambitions.

And believe it or not, I was fond of China Mieville's 'Perdido Street Station', which, despite the fact that it's fantasy, offers a hardboiled and vividly imagined cityscape, with recognizable socioeconomics, urban politics and scientific ethics. Mieville's fully sexual and socially realistic presentation of (literally) interracial love is highly unusual in fantastic fiction.

Person's Work To Follow

Edward Tufte, particularly as his work affects the decision-making process. I'm increasingly convinced that helping people make better choices is the single most important thing we can do as designers.

Favorite World Company

I guess I would have to answer Apple, but really I'm not terribly fond of companies. They're all so very much less impressive than the people who work for them.

Best Non-profit Organisation

Amnesty International

Your Role Model

Lester Bangs, for the integrity. John Pawson, for the clarity. Jane Jacobs, for the wisdom. Also, Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio: a husband and wife team doing some of the most adventurous architecture around like the 'Blur' building.

Book(s) You Always Return To

Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao Te Ching.
Jacobs' 'Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's 'A Thousand Plateaus'.
William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White's 'Elements of Style.

Article You Always Return To

The 'Shearing Layer" chapter from Stewart Brand's 'How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built'.

Best Recent Quote

"Learning is not compulsory ... neither is survival." - W. Edwards Deming

Company (N)Ever To Work For

Ever: Some part of me would still love to work at IDEO.
Never: Any company I don't have an intimate say in running.

Person (N)Ever To Work With

Ever: Too many to list. Human beings.
Never: None worth embarrassing publicly. Buy me a drink and I might offer a few names, though.

Person To Meet

The person reading this.

Favorite Place on the Web

At the moment, Daily Kos: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation. For Americans, it's optimism in a can.

First Site on Monday Morning

My BaseCamp dashboard page.

Killer Usability Argument

When poorly-designed systems default, users frequently blame themselves. Is that something you want on your conscience?

Lesson(s) Learned From .Com Burst

People who seem powerful, confident, even authoritative may well have absolutely no idea what they're talking about, and less ability to govern events or determine outcomes. Place your bets accordingly.

Most Promising Technology


Best Software Application

iTunes and Safari

Your Advice For A Talented UX Designer

Experience cannot be designed; you can, at best, suggest what sort of experience you'd like to offer your users. Accept partiality, incompletion, and inattention - and understand that nobody will ever care quite as much about the detailed effort you put into your designs as you do.

Most Important Social Change

Globally and over the long term, female empowerment.

Best Place on Earth

Wherever my wife is.
Added points for palm trees, large bodies of water close at hand, soft breezes.