Conceptual Integrity

Conceptual integrity is central to product quality.
— Fred Brooks

As the designer of an information environment, you will sometimes be called on to help define — and often, defend — its conceptual integrity. This means every element in the environment contributes to the coherence of the whole — towards a gestalt.

Complex design projects involve multiple stakeholders. Many of them will have directions which are at odds with those of other stakeholders. The marketing executive may want to feature more products on the homepage, while the executive in charge of the overall experience wants to limit how many products appear there. How do you resolve these conflicts as a designer?

To begin with, you must understand the project’s strategic objectives. This requires that you grok the objectives and context for:

  • Your customers/users
  •  Your team
  • The broader organization (e.g., your company)
  • Society as a whole

Stakeholders will be more willing to engage in generative dialog with designers who can articulate a competent understanding of the drivers behind the project. These stakeholders will then be more willing explore and test possibilities. How would the homepage function if it had more products in it? How would our users respond? Etc.

The designerly way of approaching these issues is through making and testing possibilities. But you shouldn’t waste time by iterating arbitrarily. A clear understanding of strategic intent can help give you a sense direction and help define the boundaries for these explorations.