Episode 78 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with my friend Dan Klyn. Dan is co-founder of The Understanding Group, an information architecture consultancy based in Michigan. He’s created useful and influential IA frameworks, and in this conversation, we focused on his latest: the BASIC framework.

The purpose of BASIC is to help us “see the architecture of complex systems.” It’s an acronym that stands for:

  • Boundaries, i.e., what things are
  • Associations, i.e., how things connect
  • Situations, i.e., where things are
  • Invariants, i.e., constant forces
  • Cycles, i.e., variable forces

Dan speaks of the effects of architecture with a passion that verges on religion. It’s inspiring:

I have had my cognition, my heart rate, my pulse, my skin temperature… I have been physically changed by every different kind of place that I’ve been to. And by doing that on purpose, that’s where the BASIC Framework comes from is an awareness that I developed at some point that what these buildings do is they are machines that uniquely change our human experience by changing our blood pressure and our cognition and our pulse. And the effects that it uses are both, you know, the physics of the earth, the density of the walls… if you’re in a crypt of a cathedral and the density of the walls is two feet thick and it is granite, the air pressure changes in there make what your body can… what’s possible for you to experience has been concrete-ized literally in ways that are just extraordinary.

And so, by putting myself in so many of these different places, and yes, I’ve catered to my list of initially is canonical buildings that architects who control what is considered to be a good building in the Western tradition, right? But that’s the kind of list that I started from. And by going to as many of these places as possible, continually re-energizing and re-believing in reifying the reality… not some neat-o idea that I choose to have, but an actual experience that is undeniable that the way that these places have been set up through the arrangement of material and space and through the arrangement of the information that is either encoded in that material or inscribed on that material, the situatedness of things in space changes how we… how we experience things.

The radical architect, Christopher Alexander — people scoff! Like, spit their coffee out when he says stuff like that he knows how to make God appear in a field. But that’s… I think also a part of why I’ve been so interested in this is having been raised in a deeply religious context and hearing about power that people can have access to and experiences with and transformation, transfiguration, transubstantiation, immanence… that I’ve had those experiences. And they’re not so much with sermons of words — it’s sermons in stone that really changed my whole life.

For more details, listen to our conversation and download the BASIC framework posters and booklet.

The Informed Life episode 78: Dan Klyn on the BASIC Framework