Lara Portmann

Lara works at Nothing AG, a digital design agency in Bern, Switzerland, where she is responsible for doing things with words. Sometimes that means content design, sometimes it means information architecture, and sometimes it just means writing texts. Next to her work at Nothing, she is also starting a PhD in language and communication studies at the University of Bern, where she researches UX writing and its cultural-political consequences. Overall, Lara is interested in content and communication in both micro and macro contexts, and in particular in how language shapes the world around us.

About the talk

February 22, 11:50 – 12:15

Lara Portmann – The impact of IA: language, structure, and privilege in our work

As information architects, we deal in categorising information and using language to give meaning to the categories we create. This shapes the world around us: the categories we create determine what is deemed possible or impossible, real or unreal, and natural or unnatural. Our work normalises certain ways of living while obscuring or even invalidating others. Inspired by critical discourse analysis, a discipline that concerns itself with the way in which language reproduces social power, this talk is about how our work as designers and information architects impacts the world—sometimes in ways we might not have expected.


While there has been much stir in the design industry to address inequality recently—one must only look to the recent surge in articles and talks about ethics, inclusivity, or accessibility—little attention has been paid to our own role and position, and to how our own privilege can shape the solutions that we, often with the best of intentions, put forth. With this talk, I invite all of us to take a look in the mirror, and to consider the ways in which we often unknowingly recreate social power structures through our work. Ultimately, I offer a starting point for how we can better understand our own privilege, assess how it impacts our work and find ways to change and alleviate negative impact we might cause.

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