UI Architects was formed in 2001 by Allen
Matsumoto with the goal of building the ideal design consultancy,
for clients and consultants alike.
As a graphic designer in the 1970's and '80's,
Matsumoto was an adherent to the "form follows function"
philosophy. To design an effective communication solution, it was
necessary to define and understand the audience, clarify the business
goals of the client, and provide the bridge between those worlds.
By the mid '80's, function became an ever-more important aspect
of design with the rise of interactive media. Always an early adapter
and scholar of new technologies, he began designing interactive
media during the pioneer years. In 1993, when more than half of
his design firm's work was coming from interactive projects, he
formed Digital Ink Corporation, focusing exclusively on the burgeoning
But as the decade wore on and interactive media
moved from floppy discs to CD-ROMs to the Web, he noticed a disturbing
trend. The most critical work of a designer, gathering information
and analyzing it in order to create a communication solution, was
beginning to disappear from his projects. "Design," which
had to many people meant simply the construction of an aesthetic
veneer, had become just that.
In the waning years of the 20th century, a "new"
discipline had arisen from reconstructed workflows of communication
design: Information Architecture. Although broad and not fully defined,
Matsumoto recognized this as the place to which the critical foundations
of Design had moved. Donning a new title for a discipline he had
exercised for decades, he became an Information Architect.
With the explosion of the Web, it became more
apparent that this field and its inherent ambiguities was not consistently
accounting for the evolving models of interactive design. Usability,
a long-overlooked practice, could be and often was left out of the
process by Information Architects who were charged with too broad
a range of responsibilities. What was needed was a newly-defined
role. A designer who would maintain the high-level vision of the
design and manage the integration of usability, information architecture,
graphic design and business modeling.
The UI Architect.
The same explosion of work in the field created
a curious and unfortunate effect. Almost overnight, there was demand
for interactivity design that outstripped the number of experienced
practitioners by many orders of magnitude. There simply were not
nearly enough people who knew how to do this. Many were jumping
into the lucrative field, and the smart ones were learning fast.
(There were also a lot of really terrible ones, but we'll disregard
them as a passing artifact.) However, even the best tended to be
early in their careers, and clients typically found themselves paying
top dollar for what were essentially students.
There was a common belief among these new professionals
that this was "all new," that the old rules had been cast
aside and they were helping to create a brand new universe.
The fact is, very little was new. The technology
was new, but not in concept, merely execution. The age old rules
of communication design still applied, but were being largely ignored
in the frenzy by a new crop of professionals who had never learned
many of the fundamentals. The process of coordinating a large project
uses rules and principles that supersede the nature of any given
production, but few of these designers had any experience with production
processes or controls. Every project seemed to cost a fortune, as
will any prototype. When you have to pay the R&D for the wheel
every time, you have expensive cars.
Gradually the most egregious of these oversights
came under control, as standard practices began to replace bushwhacking,
and methodologies and technologies matured. But the value of someone
with decades of good practice experience still shows up in
time to market, cost of deployment, and quality of product.
Working with a small handful of fellow professionals
who have decades of experience, Matsumoto realized that the value
proposition of a group composed exclusively of these people was
a rare opportunity. If each partner was capable of running their
own single-person consultancy, joining together could allow them
to gain the advantage of a larger entity, while retaining as much
as possible of the latitude afforded by being solo. In 2001, he
launched UI Architects to try to realize that dream.
In 2005, UI Architects merged with Peter Frazier's
design consultancy, and leveraged the growing awareness of user
experience (UX) to provide deep cross-disciplinary consulting from
the beginning of the product development cycle to the end. With
five decades of combined experience in research, strategy, and
design of customer-centric products and services, Allen and Peter
continue to provide high-value insights to clients across many