Information Architecture and AI with Jessica Talisman


Hosted by Deirdre Caren on Agora Insights' Blueprints for Success – Information Architecture and AI 

In this engaging episode, I had the pleasure of welcoming Jessica Talisman, an astute, senior information architect at Adobe. I found Jessica gracious, inspiring with a wealth of experience, stemming from her impressive background in libraries and information science, complemented by a master’s degree in teaching. I have no doubt that CEOs, business architects and analysts alike will find her insights thought-provoking.  


With her Master of Library and Information Science, a concentration on Informatics and a MicroMasters in Design Thinking, Jessica has the skills and knowledge to create a solid information frameworks. Her diverse professional journey has taken her through various roles and industries, including taxonomist and enterprise architect, in government, education and advertising technology, and even stints at tech giants like Amazon before joining Adobe. However, Jessica's career origins trace back to decades of experience in this field.  

One of the most captivating aspects of Jessica's story was her involvement in a groundbreaking project back in 1987. She was part of a team that pioneered the indexing and tagging of video content, enabling users to search for and access specific clips – a technology that paved the way for the video annotation tools we utilize today. It's inspiring to consider how Jessica's early work laid the foundations for innovations we now take for granted. 

Jessica acknowledged the challenges of being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field and offered advice for those entering the information architecture domain, such as exploring certificate programs, internships, and open-source learning resources. She also encouraged people entering the field to build small sites as part of learning. 

Let’s get started... 

3 Key Points 

1. The Indispensable Role of Information Architecture 

Jessica's expertise shines a light on the critical importance of information architecture and the ever-increasing complexities of data management within modern organizations. Information architecture plays a pivotal role in untangling these complexities, ensuring information can be effectively searched, retrieved, and utilized. 

Jessica went into the practical aspects of her work, including content analysis, system auditing, and the application of standards such as upper ontologies and metadata protocols. She shared her methodology for reconciling conflicting terminologies by leveraging alternative labels within ontological structures. 

Additionally, Jessica highlighted the importance of "intentional arrangement," where businesses intentionally create their own digital fingerprint by collaboratively defining concepts and structures that accurately represent their unique terminology and ideas. This approach aims to move organizations forward while maintaining coherence and avoiding ambiguity. 

2. Taxonomies, Ontologies, and Knowledge Graphs: The Building Blocks 

Jessica provided a solid foundation on the core concepts of information architecture, distinguishing between the UX/UI design aspects and the back-end data organization focused on taxonomies, ontologies, and controlled vocabularies. She emphasized how critical it is to establish agreed-upon definitions and the choosing of names of things to facilitate seamless communication and data integration across the enterprise. 

A significant portion of her talk revolved around data modeling practices, covering the conceptual, logical, and physical stages. She advocated for an iterative approach, updating models as projects evolve to ensure scalability and extensibility. Jessica also introduced the concept of knowledge graphs, explaining their role in structuring data for AI applications and their distinction from traditional property graphs. 

“So (a) knowledge graph is structured data. And the distinction is a knowledge graph is not in sequel. It's not constrained, and it doesn't represent just annotations of tables. That's the distinction.”  
- Jessica Talisman 

3. The Future: AI and Information Architecture Intertwined 

As AI continues its rapid evolution, Jessica envisions a future where information architecture will play an increasingly pivotal role in structuring data and providing the contextual foundation required for AI systems to thrive. However, she wisely cautions that organizations must first address their data challenges, invest in robust infrastructure, and tackle longstanding technical debt. Only then can businesses fully leverage the immense potential of AI. 

Talking about AI and Ambiguity, Jessica said "We have to be OK with ambiguity".

Standardization, controlled vocabularies, and structured data representation are fundamental to frameworks. These elements facilitate effective search and retrieval while seamlessly integrating with AI and machine learning technologies. 

Looking ahead, Jessica expressed optimism about the increasing demand for information architecture roles, driven by the widespread adoption of AI and the need for structured data. However, she cautioned about the risks of blindly trusting AI-generated taxonomies and the importance of human oversight and data governance. Jessica also noted the potential for collaboration between information architects and the library science community, which has long-standing expertise in data organization and preservation. 

Jessica's insights into knowledge graphs are particularly illuminating. She elucidated how these structured data representations provide the necessary context and relationships for AI systems to deliver truly meaningful outputs, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between information architecture and advanced technologies. 

10 Learning Points 

  1. The importance of establishing clear definitions and agreed-upon terminology to avoid ambiguity and to facilitate effective communication across an organization. 
  2. The value of taking an iterative approach to data modeling, allowing models to evolve and be updated as projects progress and organizational needs change. 
  3. The concept of "intentional arrangement," where organizations intentionally define and structure their own digital fingerprint through collaborative efforts. 
  4. The distinction between traditional property graphs and knowledge graphs, with knowledge graphs providing a more flexible and contextual representation of data for AI applications. 
  5. The significance of content analysis and system auditing as crucial steps in understanding and organizing existing data landscapes. 
  6. The role of standards and best practices, such as upper ontologies and metadata protocols, in ensuring data interoperability and longevity. 
  7. The potential pitfalls of relying solely on AI-generated taxonomies and the importance of human oversight and domain expertise. 
  8. The value of exploring multidisciplinary approaches and collaborating with fields like library science, which have long-standing expertise in data organization and preservation. 
  9. The need for continuous learning and skill development, as the field of information architecture evolves and new technologies like AI become more prevalent. 
  10. The importance of perseverance and not letting self-doubt hinder one's aspirations, as challenges and obstacles are inherent in any career journey. 

These learning points highlight the technical aspects of information architecture, as well as the strategic mindset and collaborative approach required for successful implementation within organizations. 

"Information architects, at least within my sphere, work with organizing and connecting data across a business landscape."
- Jessica Talisman


Reflecting on my conversation with Jessica, I'm struck by the relevance of the topics we covered. It's not every day that I get to engage in such a rich dialogue about the intricacies of data, IT, AI in this field. 

Jessica's insight provided me with knowledge and practical strategies for navigating the intricate world of information architecture. From the foundational importance of establishing clear definitions and terminologies, to the iterative nature of data modeling and the power of "intentional arrangement," her talk underscored just how critical structured data organization is in business today. 

Jessica's exploration of knowledge graphs and their role in AI applications offered a glimpse into the future, highlighting the need for human oversight, collaboration with library science experts, and continuous learning to stay ahead of the curve. Ultimately, her advice on perseverance, embracing curiosity and pursuing passion serves as a guide for professionals in this field. Let’s keep growing. 

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About Jessica 

Professional Summary

Jessica Talisman is a Information Architect with over 25 years of experience in data architecture, taxonomy, and ontology. She has a robust background in developing and implementing enterprise architecture, e-commerce content structures, knowledge management systems, digital libraries, and knowledge graphs across various domains. 

Personal Statement

Jessica is passionate about leveraging data to benefit all stakeholders and society. She is committed to continuous learning and sharing her knowledge to improve her work and the field of information architecture.


Post sponsored by Agora Insights Ltd 

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