Five Hat Racks

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The concept of the „Five Hat Racks” was originally developed by Richard Saul Wurman in his book Information Anxiety [Wurman, 1989]. In the words of Truong the concept sounds as follows:

There are five ways to organize information: category (similarity relatedness), time (chronological sequence), location (geographical or spatial references), alphabet (alphabetical sequence), and continuum (magnitude; highest to lowest, best to worse).
[Truong, 2004]

Wurman is chairman and creative director of the TED Conferences who focus on technology, entertainment, and design. In 1976 Wurman defines the term "information architect". In his book, Information Architects [Wurman, 1996] he presents the creations of 20 colleagues who've mastered the skill of presenting clear information. In this book he redefined his “Five Hat Racks” Concept slightly to form the LATCH Principle:

Information may be infinite, however...The organization of information is finite as it can only be organized by LATCH: Location, Alphabet, Time, Category, or Hierarchy.
[Wurman, 1996]

I've tried a thousand times to find other ways to organize, but I always end up using one of these five.
[Wurman, 1996]

The LATCH Principle


Location is chosen when the information who you are comparing comes from several different sources or locales. Doctors use different locations of the body to group and study medicine. Concerning an industry you might want to know where on the world goods are distributed.


Alphabet is best used when you have enormous amount of data. For example words in a dictionary or names in a telephone. As usually everybody is familiar with the Alphabet, categorizing by Alphabet is recommendable when not all the audience is familiar with different kind of groupings or categories you could use instead.


Time is the best form of categorization for events that happen over fixed durations. Meeting schedules or our calendar are examples. The work of important persons might be displayed as timeline as well. Time is an easily framework in which changes can be observed and comparisons made.


Category is an organization type often used for goods and industries. Shops and services in the yellow pages are easy to find by category. Retail stores are divided into e.g. men- and woman-clothing. This mode works well to organizing items of similar importance.


Hierarchy organizes by magnitude. From small to large, least expensive to most expensive, by order of importance, etc. Hierarchy is to be used if you want to assign weight or value to the ordered information.


[Fischetti, 1997] Mark Fischetti, Blueprint for Information Architects. Fastcompany Magazine, Issue 10, pp.186, August/September 1997.
[Truong, 2004] Donny Truong, Universal Principles of design. Created at: Jannuary 21, 2004. Retrieved at: October 21, 2005.
[Wurman, 1989] Richard Saul Wurman, Information Anxiety. Doubleday Books, New York, 1989.
[Wurman and Bredford, 1996] Richard Saul Wurman, Peter Bradford, Information Architects. Graphis Press Corp, Zurich, Switzerland, 1996.
[Wurman, 2000] Richard Saul Wurman. Information Anxiety 2. Que Publishing, Indianapolis, IN, 2000.
[Wurman, 2000] Richard Saul Wurman, The Business of Understanding.Created at: December 28, 2000. Retrieved at: October 21, 2005.