Argus and Information Architecture

Information architecture was invented twice, and one of those times, it happened in Ann Arbor. Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville, two librarians in Ann Arbor, began to think about the problem of organizing information on the Internet during the 1990s and ultimately wrote the seminal “Polar Bear Book,” Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. Then they started a consulting agency called Argus.

Argus is one of those places in our local professional history that acts as a nexus point. Various members of our community worked there. Argus famously (or, at least, it should be famous) worked for Borders, the now-closed Ann Arbor-based book store. In the days before the Amazon of today, Borders wanted to figure out what to do with the Internet. Argus proposed an online presence where users could buy books online. Borders turned down this idea of, basically, doing what Amazon ended up doing.

Amazon went on to be very successful. Borders entered a slow decline, eventually closing down and taking with it a local institution, a “third place” where people could mingle in their community, and a source of jobs.

Argus closed earlier in the wake of the 2001 bursting of the dot com bubble. It is nevertheless an interesting episode in our local history.