Design: But I still have a versioning problem

Following on from my recent blog post, A lesson in design processes for 2020, I wanted to address versioning in design.

Design working shifts are history

Sketch files are managed locally and we still have the problem of how to manage versions on different people’s machines. 

For example, you could try design working shifts. You might have Jane, who will work on the website file from nine to twelve and she will make edits to a couple of banners but Jim will work on the website after that from twelve to three because he is going to make changes to the footer. But then Alice might need to work on the main navigation and she will take that from three to six.

This isn’t good enough. We need something that is better able to:

  • Manage our files.
  • Work together in parallel. We do not want to work in design shifts.
  • Preserve the thinking and history of designs because clients might ask for something and we will make a change, but then another designer might be freed up and they will jump on board the project but they might not know the history or the context that they are jumping into and make changes that aren’t based on current information.
  • Communicate and collaborate
  • Scale: onboard new team members, preserve team knowledge and have context around all design decisions

This is where Abstract helps

Abstract is one place to manage your design versions and collaborate in the one platform.

We have borrowed certain concepts like branches, you have got master. We also have merge branches as well. And of course there are tools around that offer version history, but in terms of version history and version control, it is not exactly the same.

A quick definition: version history vs version control

Version history is still working on a single timeline, and this sort of goes back to that design shifts problem mentioned in our first design blog post. What we really need is version control where multiple designers can work on different branches and they can’t intermingle with other people’s work. And then, we merge that back into the master file after we have all decided which ones meet the requirements.

Until now, designers have mostly been working with version history. Version control is common for developers but is a very new but powerful concept for designers.

Quick recap of the benefits:

Single source of the truth

  • All work is located in one place can accidentally be overridden or lost.
  • Master files, they are all centralized.

Parallel design

  • Multiple designers can work on the Sketch files without overwriting each other’s works.
  • Designs are branched, committed and merged.


  • It is no longer my file. It is our files.
  • All design work is visible, and you can track progress and changes, as well as see feedback and understand context.
  • Designs can be reviewed and approved before merging.
  • Create a smoother transition from design to development.

Check out the next blog in the design series: Design: Your Questions Answered.

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