Tools of the Trade

Why is there no design source control?

When you really sit down and think about it there’s a huge, glaring omission in a designer’s toolkit. In our co-operative world of cloud-sharing files with two or more designers working on a single file you have to ask: where is our source control?


Every developer has a choice of source control from github to bitbucket and any of the various permutations of those that exist. Contrast that with the design world. Now, it’s true that committing a binary code file is a lot easier than trying to work out the changes between two Sketch files (just imagine the merge conflicts!) but surely there has to be some simple way to allow two designers to work on one file without creating hundreds of copies!


I’ve gotten used to people giving me odd looks when I start to rhapsodise on a new potential solution but this really is one of the biggest failures in our industry. So far I’ve tried Pixelapse (which is now becoming part of Dropbox and may yet solve all my troubles), Git (via a nifty little Sketch Plugin), ViewFlux and Invision. Not a one of these gives me the abilities that I’ve become used to having when I am forced to touch code.


The ideal design source control would have many of the features you can find in the development world. The ability to “branch” a design, the opportunity to roll back to other versions of the design, when two designers work on the same file at the same time it doesn’t create multiple “conflicted” copies but allows the designer to commit work, the option to keep multiple files in one repo (think how useful that would be when you’re doing a big marketing campaign) and of course being able to see which designer added which change and when.


So, while Dropbox may soon fix all these issues for me, for now I remain frustrated that my only options are to either split each design element out into individual files and yell across my desk “is anyone using the email design file?!” or to spend half an hour at the end of each week working out which “conflicted” copy is actually the most up to date, and in the really irritating sessions, stitching together the latest design from two or more files.

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