Design Integrity

(The following is Issue 23 of my Design Fiction Newsletter. Please subscribe here: https://buttondown.email/designfiction)

1. I heard the most simple and resonant description of integrity the other day.
2. It was so resonant, at least to the matrix of my own consciousness at that moment, that I played it over probably a dozen times over the day.
3. “Wait. What was that again?”
4. REWIND. PLAY.
5. “Oh yeah. That was it.”
6. (( LATER ))
8. “No. Wait. What was that again?”
9. REWIND. PLAY.
10. REPEAT.
12. I’m going to paraquote in my own words now.
13. “Consider what we mean by “integrity” — what is it to have an integrated sense of self?
14. To be “integrated” means that there is no gap between what you think you are, what you want to be seen as, what you project of your self, what you say about your self — and what you do, or how you behave.”
15. Okay, that may not be the best paraquote but I think you get it. (And it was a couple of weeks back on one or two days when I went deep on the maybe 40 seconds of the exchange I heard and really tried to integrate its meaning into the folds of my vascularized piece of head meat while riding a bike up a mountain.)
16. It was the “gap” between what you think of yourself and what you are or how you act in the world when you come up against the consciousness of others.
17. In relation to others, who are you?
18. The integrated person will not have those gaps. They are who they believe they are, not just because they believe it but because others experience it.
19. Integrated. Unified. Complete.
20. Integrity. Honest. Consistent.
21. When you interact with someone who has not managed to close the gap between who they say they are, or who they hope they are and their actions as experienced by others, we say they lack integrity.
22. ((Someone or something can be both well-integrated and lacking in integrity with fractures all over the place, just as we are all assholes to someone sometime and maybe even always, but not necessarily an asshole to everyone all the time, nor always. But that’s another whole thing, eg not everyone likes Windows 10. Same for iOS and cream in coffee.))
23. I’m guessing that all of us have gaps in our sense of self, and the most self-aware of us are forthright about the gaps and may even make conscious efforts to close those gaps. I’m not talking about outright liars, cheats, grifters, or confidence players — you know..professionals exploiting an evolutionary defect in all of our psyches.
24. The worst cases are those who otherwise are fine and dandy but when put in one of any number of life’s crucibles that test resolve and grit, those particularly challenging situations, they simply heat-stress and fracture and the gaps just suddenly appear, as if the heat goes up and the material stresses and effervesces into the nothingness of immaterial vapor or, otherwise, cracks and breaks — and the gaps between what one *wants* to be and what one *is* in one’s actions reveals itself.
25. Yeah, but — Integrity and Design.
26. What’s that got to do with Design Integrity?
27. Another way of making sense of ‘Design Integrity’ in the context of product design (whatever a product is nowadays — the “product” of human effort? I dunno anymore..) which is this:
28. The advertising, the claims, the marketing message, the story told of the product of all of that work, which can be thought of as the expression of what the product *wants* to be, and;
29. The imbued characteristics of the thing in the material, which can be thought of as the sum of things that constitute the, well..I don’t know, maybe the user experience? The experiences humans have with the product where ‘product’ constitutes the summation of the design process — meaning as construed through messaging and expressions of value through the design and construction of the thing.
30. Well these things together, for an integrated product, a thing with *integrity* should have no gaps, even under the stress situation — the edge cases, when put in the crucible that is the world outside of the site of creation and design.
31. Most importantly integrity upholds in the experience users have. “Does this thing feel integrated?” “Does this product feel, in the experience of using it, to be what it claims?” “Does this product of human ingenuity feel, in the experience of use, to be what I expect based on what it claims?”
32. When pushed to the point of extremes, does it/you/they still manage to maintain its/your/their integrity?

30. You know, “If you can keep your head together when all those around you are losing theirs..” Etcetera.
31. Which is why when a thing and its meaning aren’t well integrated upfront — when the meaning and the material experience have a gap because someone thought it was best to build the thing and then laminate some story about the thing afterwards perhaps inconsistent with the work that went in before, well — this can be a bad idea.
32. Software “made with love” that then turns on you and seems to hate you or, worse, not even care about you.
33. Adobe “Creative” Suite has three different names for the same functionality in three different supposedly integrated pieces of “creative” software
34. ((I assume it’s a “Suite” because their trying to help me make sense of it as a well-integrated “package” of creative possibility.))
35. But the Suite is not well-integrated, despite what the fancy marketing and naming agencies try to make you think. I have three different names for — and shortcut keystrokes to bang — for the same functionality in three programs in that Suite. And that seems to be fine by the folks there at Adobe, version after version, despite everything that their users seem to think and feel about that.
36. Just feels like they’ve completely lost touch. As if they don’t even care anymore.
37. I feel extremely fortunate that my product, the OMATA One, has held up to the degree that I can say that, confidently and with humility and thanks to the effort of a small squad of exceptional talent, it has design integrity.
38. And it may be that is because circumstances are such that I have to touch ever part of the ‘user experience’ and I can’t hide behind anything.
39. (Not that there’s anything to hide behind, like a multi-branching dial-up service center or generic inbound email or a robot or something.)
40. And the areas where little stress fractures show up I am transparent about these things outwardly and directly to the fucking best of my ability because that in itself is integrity.
41. I do not make excuses or try to divert the blame to ‘Edgar’ (who is the fictional character I invoke to myself because most times, all times lately, it’s just me here) who variously screws up shipping, or writes shitty code for the App, or who overslept and forgot to wake me when there was a morning telco, etc.
42. So, then..Squarespace.
43. This dispatch wasn’t about what I’m going to write next, but literally this just happened, sitting here over coffee, and it might sound dumb and like I’m trying to shit-start, but I really am not.
44. This is just a good microscopic case study in what we might call **Design Disintegrity**.
45. I’ve started using Squarespace to finally, finally put together my portfolio website.
46. Nick suggested it. Nick has integrity and after — I dunno — over a decade of working together he hasn’t told me to ‘look over there’ he picked my wallet from my pocket or stole my car or something.
47. I trust his advice, even when he’s wrong. 😏
48. Over a few weeks of here and there working on the portfolio site I found the image manager, or library, or whatever they call it. I had inadvertently been using it but because I didn’t do any kind of comprehensive tutorial (if it even exists.) I just started banging keys and knolling out the site with Nick’s help.
49. Recently I had just uploaded an image and then realized that I wanted to make a small editorial tweak to that image that I could only figure out how to do with, you know, “Photoshop”.
50. I had to “Photoshop” the image and the image ‘editor’ on Squarespace doesn’t have the ability to do what I needed to do which was remove a small bit of text by erasing it carefully.
51. So I did the edit in Photoshop and uploaded the edited image and, you know, that’s great. That’s done. Now let’s put the image where it belongs. Conveniently the image is the ‘top’ image in the library but look there — there’s the old image with the text. It’s right next to the new image, nearly identical to the original, except with the edits I’ve made. It’s still in the library! Ugh!
52. Hard for a guy like me to ignore that there are two nearly identical images, one of which I will *never* use. Ever.
53. I’m inclined to being digitally tidy. And not being able to tidy an image library like this sends me into a flat-spin. It feels like my dirty laundry is just allowed to stay dirty and on the floor. Forever. Even after Jesus comes and goes, it’ll still be there.
54. Imagine such a world?
55. ((Parenthetically, I’m terrible at managing my post-wash laundry. The non-metaphorical sort. I have to say this. I might leave my non-digital laundry in the laundry basket unsorted for days which I freely admit and share with you as I recognize that to not mention this here will reveal a gap between self and appearance of self and thusly and rightly represent a kind of lack of integrity, however innocuous it may seem, but someone somewhere (wife/brother/sister/parent/travel companion, etc) will think — “Bullshit on the laundry metaphor. Have I ever seen Julian fold his analog laundry? Maybe that one time..but sure-as-shit he keeps his digital laundry data super well knolled and organized and that backup ritual…whoa daddy..he’s squared away there..But want to hear about his real laundry protocols? How long you got?”))
56. ((Being well-integrated doesn’t mean you’re perfect. Self-awareness and being able to articulate the things you are ‘bad’ at and, well — owning *it* — is a vector towards a kind of enlightenment. Leastways, I think so.))
57. Wait. Oh yeah.
58. Squarespace. Image Library.
59. So, there’s no way to delete the images I no longer need nor will ever use. This seems nuts to me.
60. And this seems to be the sentiment expressed in jam-packed forum threads as well. “Incredulous” may be an understatement in this context.
61. CRUD.
62. Create. Read. Update. Delete. These are the core tenets of data management. I think CRUD is even in the Talmud.
63. And here we are. Squarespace has violated the primordial rules of data management. I mean, it’s CS101.
64. There’s a gap between what and how Squarespace represents what it is — who it is for, what it will help you do, how much Squarespace loves you and your beautiful creative soul — and how it behaves.
65. Actually to be clear, I’m talking less about this one little super annoying “gap” between basic rituals of digital data management and how the Squarespace algorithm acts or behaves (extend the metaphor to lack of discipline? or not obeying certain established norms?)
66. What I am more fascinated by is what seems to be their lack of owning up to this. And maybe this lack of ownership is an established practice because to own it would be a kind of admission of some kind of guilt, or because it leads to shame and embarrassment which is another whole thing. But shying away from confronting shame, embarrassment and all the super powerful things in and around those states of being is itself a lack of integrity.
67. Squarespace, by not participating and representing that there’s a bit of a problem here doubles-down on the failure of their design integrity. It only gets worse. I never quite understand why there’s a gap between an issue like this as clearly captured in the community/support forum — that *they* host — and the implementation. What’s going on behind the scenes? Did they get too big to bother, perhaps like Adobe? Do people there just not care at some critical level to where they do not feel its worth the effort to even say *why* this gap exists, even if they have no intention (after years) of materially addressing it beyond saying — ‘yeah. we know. and here are the reasons why this fracture exists and here are the reasons why we are not going to do anything about it.’ Or, ‘yeah. we know. and here is what we’re going to do about it, and here is the reason it’s going to take 36 months to fix.’
68. I don’t get it. Maybe I’ve been outside of the belly of large scale organizations for so long that I forgot what it feels like to not care enough and just cash the paycheck and plan the next vacation.
69. The lack of Design Integrity here is not just that their algorithm isn’t behaving as well-designed and well-integrated data management algorithms should, but that Squarespace itself as a, well — brand I guess — lacks integrity that might be re-integrated, become whole if they just said — damnit..you know what? you’re right..yeah, well and here’s the story about why this is the way it is.
70. ((I’d actually be genuinely interested to learn how an otherwise fairly well-designed, reasonably well-engineered and, well, you know — it’s a great platform, otherwise. I can recommend it, despite this disintegrated component of the experience. It’s a bit like an otherwise well-integrated airplane — the wings stay on and all the rest, and even when an engine blows up it stays on and, heck..even lands without anyone getting dead and stuff.))
71. Except now I see a fracture. I happened to get the seat with the duct taped cushion and the engine blows up every time I go on a flight or have to re-upload a slightly tweaked image.
72. Squarespace is ignoring a stream of upset folks who are nearly beside themselves with bafflement as to why, when Squarespace says they’re here for the creative soul and all that, they don’t have some bit of basic functionality that is impeding their work in some cases.
73. Is that going too far? I don’t think so. While I am making this site for myself and thusly can sorta..ignore the pile of dirty socks on the floor, it seems many folks build sites for clients and then hand the keys over to the client. So you could have a client who goes into the image library to update the product photo or whatever and finds dirty socks and worse all over the place. Test images, accidental uploads, etc. The only way, it seems, to get rid of these is to (sit down right now) —
74. **DELETE THE ENTIRE SITE AND START OVER.**
75. Integrity.
76. Be what you say you are.
77. Own your failures and faults forthrightly and with contrition if necessary.
78. Integrated. Unified. Complete.
79. Integrity. Honest. Consistent.
80. Be true, through and through.
81. Well-integrated is integrity.
82. Design Integrity.