Richard Saul Wurman bigraphy, stories - American architect

Richard Saul Wurman : biography

March 26, 1935 -

Richard Saul Wurman (March 26, 1935) is an American architect and graphic designer who coined the phrase 'Information Architecture' and is considered to be a pioneer in the practice of making information easily understandable. Wurman has written and designed over 83 books, and created the TED conference, as well as the EG conference, TEDMED and the WWW suite of gatherings, now in development.

Personal life

Wurman lives in Newport, RI with his wife, novelist Gloria Nagy, and their three yellow labs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They have four children, including Joshua Wurman, a noted atmospheric scientist, and six grandchildren.


In 1976, Wurman coined the phrase "information architect" in response to the large amount of information generated in contemporary society, which is often presented with little care or order. Wurman said, "I thought the explosion of data needed an architecture, needed a series of systems, needed systemic design, a series of performance criteria to measure it.".

In 1978, he served as the Dean for the Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design..

Wurman created the popular ACCESS travel guide books, which were innovative in their use of mapping content by neighborhood. Simple but effective use of colored text allowed readers to separate, locate and evaluate restaurants, museums, parks, and other categorical destinations quickly. With this series of books, Wurman firmly established the purpose of information architecture.

Wurman was made an AIA Fellow in 1976 and entered the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 2003. He was a 2004 Gold Medalist of the AIGA – formerly the American Institute of Graphic Arts – which honored him as a design conference impresario.. He is a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council.. A current project known as is an attempt to create and standardize measurement tools as a means of understanding cities..

Wurman was named the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient by the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt's National Design Awards.

Early life and education

Described by Fortune magazine as an “intellectual hedonist” with a “hummingbird mind,” Richard Saul Wurman has always sought ways to make the complex clear. He has written, designed and published 83 books on topic ranging from football to healthcare, to city guides, but he likes to say that they all spring from the same place – his ignorance.

Wurman’s first book, published when he was 26, features models of 50 world cities on a uniform scale. His latest book is called 33: Understanding Change & the Change in Understanding. It chronicles the adventures and musings of an eccentric (yet oddly familiar) character: the Commissioner of Curiosity and Imagination.

He is responsible for the invention of the term Information Architecture and the theory of the organization of information called LATCH.

Wurman created the ACCESS city guides, using graphics and logical editorial organization to make places such as New York, Tokyo and Rome understandable to visitors. Other volumes he created focus on topics such as football and the 1984 Olympics. His road atlas employed similar techniques to elucidate U.S. geography and transportation networks. Several of his books are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Wurman chaired the IDCA Conference in 1972, the First Federal Design assembly in 1973, and the annual AIA Conference in 1976. He is perhaps best known for having created and chaired the TED conference from 1984 thru 2002, bringing together many of America’s clearest thinkers in the fields of technology, entertainment and design. He also created the TEDMED conference, 1995 thru 2010 and the e.g. conference in 2006.

Now in his late 70’s, Wurman continues to quell his restless intellect with a slough of new projects. Recently, he completed the first , “Intellectual Jazz”, which consists of improvised conversations between pairs of some of the world’s greatest minds. His next endeavor will be the , consisting of 5 exceptional global experts (total 25), 5 predictions of future patterns, held in 5 brilliant cities circumnavigating the world on 5 consecutive Mondays.

He continues to work with ESRI and on his comparative cartographic initiative for mapping urban settings, , which will culminate in the creation of a network of live urban observatories around the world, the first one opening in July 2013.

Wurman received both his M. Arch. & B. Arch. Degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, from where he graduated in 1959 with the highest honors, and was awarded the Arthur Spayed Brooks Gold Medal. He has been awarded several honorary doctorates, two Graham Fellowships, a Guggenheim and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and is a member of FAIA. He is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Smithsonian, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards. He has also been awarded the Annual Gold Medal from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland and the James Joyce Award given by the Literary and Historical Society of University College, Dublin. He has also been honored with the Gold Medal from AIGA, the Art Directors Hall of Fame and the Chrysler Award for Innovation and Design.

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Living octopus

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