Reverse-Engineering an Information Architecture

The Cordish Companies

The Cordish Companies is a national real estate developer that invests in entertainments and sports districts, shopping centers, casinos and music venues.

The challenge

The Cordish redesign project was unusual in its workflow: our team received a beautiful set of visual designs from a partner agency, but no functional or architectural notes. The development challenge was intriguing: what's the most effective way to prepare completed visual designs for development, contemporaneously designing the information architecture and technical specifications for an impending build? 

The solution

The task necessitated that we write comprehensive technical specifications, including making speedy architectural decisions about content-type definitions, taxonomy and other structured content. But rather than get flummoxed by the unusual process, we embraced it as an opportunity to innovate, both in terms of technical documentation standards and the workflow regime between information architects and developers. 

Our solution was to componentize the base data fields. Though predominately a technical solution, it led to innovations in process and workflow. 

How did componentization help?

By componentizing the base data fields in an additive way (this was a novel approach for us) it allowed the developer, David Mealo, and I to write collaboratively in "shorthand." Namely, and among other benefits it created, componentization optimized the speed with which we wrote the documentation. This was crucial as David and I were working remotely across the United States. 

The first round, or "chapter," of the documentation in which we worked synchronously took us roughly 20 hours. By the third "chapter" we were able to work asynchronously, handing off the documentation and foregoing the labor-intensive character of synchronous remote collaboration.

A further technical improvement was that the new componentization paradigm (again, this was at the field level, as we were already doing this in the data templates) further optimized the build for personalization and flexibility, therefore becoming a development standard for the development agency. 

See it live at:

My Role

Information Architect

My Contributions


Technical Specs (Co-Author)

© 2018 Joan Jasak