Design Version Control & Why It Matters

Apr 27, 2022

Design Version Control & Why It Matters

It is no longer accurate to think of design as a linear process. While it may have once been possible for one person with a pencil, some paper, and an idea to bring a product from conception to reality, that simply isn’t the case anymore.

Today’s designers are working on projects that are far more complex than they were in the past. We’re building systems. That complexity requires teams of dedicated people collaborating across multiple disciplines. And often those teams aren’t even in the same room or time zone.

With so many different people working on so many different versions of a project, it’s inevitable that we run into problems.

First and most obviously: work gets lost. Maybe it was an exported file that never got imported into our design system. Maybe we didn’t save the right version of the file after making edits based on feedback. Either way, things get lost.

Design is an iterative process that involves more and more team members. We’re working with more tools than ever before, and the whole process is collaborative.

But what if we reimagined our workflow? What would we gain? Let’s take a look!

Right now you might be wondering what exactly version control is (besides something your engineering team needs). Version control is an organizational system that allows designers to create multiple versions of their work in order to make decisions faster and pursue creative ideas with confidence. In essence, version control allows us to store all of our different ideas in one place so that we can find them again quickly when needed.

As designers, we tend to work in a linear fashion. We work through different drafts until we come up with something that works. This can be an effective method, but it also means that we lose access to all the ideas that didn’t make the cut. What if you could find those abandoned ideas from previous drafts? And what if you could keep track of which team members contributed which parts of your latest project? With Quaaant, designers can now:

  • Easily see everyone’s changes in one place
  • Keep track of all their versions in one place
  • Get feedback from everyone involved in real-time
  • Maintain a consistent brand across all projects
  • Make sure no one gets left behind on old versions

What would a better design workflow look like? We think it would begin with version control—the same way that engineers have been using Git to manage their software development process for years.

So, how can I use version control in my team?

Designers have been using an ad-hoc approach to supporting multiple versions of their work. This means we’re left to fend for ourselves by maintaining copies of our files in different states and naming them based on some convention that makes sense to us (and hopefully to someone else). This way of working has led to some challenges:

  • For a team, it’s difficult to track down the right version of a file if we’ve all been using different naming conventions.
  • For stakeholders, it’s hard to visualize how a product is evolving over time if they don’t know how each file is related.
  • The ad-hoc approach doesn’t scale well for teams as there isn’t any way to collaborate on the same file.

Version control is the foundation of a modern design workflow that’s able to support all these different requirements.

Version control lets you work across time and space by allowing multiple people to edit files concurrently while maintaining an unbroken history of every change.

The result is an approach that improves both efficiency and productivity — not only of your internal team or agency but also by helping you collaborate with your clients on final deliverables.

Imagine being able to track every step of a project from concept through delivery with one workflow that lets anyone make changes while still seeing work in progress — all without overwriting anything.

This is a huge shift. For many of us, version control might be a completely new way of operating—but it sure does have its benefits.

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