In search of a better Adobe workflow

Our team at Colette HQ has grown from two to five people this year. Having people dedicated to pattern development and graphic design has been a huge help where production is concerned. Having a larger team also introduces complications, of course, but nothing we haven’t been able to work with, so for the most part things are running smoothly.

The one issue we haven’t been able to figure out yet is a reasonable workflow for dealing with our various Adobe files. Most of our pattern production work happens in Illustrator and InDesign, with three different people working on the files at various stages of development. This, needless to day, necessitates a good, trusted system to ensure that everyone’s changes are tracked and preserved.

Software developers solved this problem ages ago with version control but, as far as I can tell, designers and others users of Adobe products have no reasonable equivalent, despite having the same needs. At one time Adobe had a product called Version Cue which seems like it filled this need, but it was discontinued with the release of CS5 in early 2010. Now, with Creative Cloud, Adobe promises some sort of versioning for files stored on their “cloud” service but this is obviously a non-starter for companies and teams that prefer to manage their own file storage.

I recently found a product called Timeline that looks promising: It provides plugins for Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign that talk to your own Subversion backend. But the last product announcement on the company’s blog was about adding CS6 support nearly a year ago and contains no mention of Creative Cloud support at all. A comment on their blog asking about this has gone unanswered for four months and their Twitter account hasn’t been used since June 2012 so I have to assume this is a dead project as well.

The basics of what we need are trivial: a) simple updating to the latest or earlier revisions of a file, and b) the ability to check in changes with notes. I’d just set up a central Subversion repository for these files myself but I’m not convinced that’s the best way to handle files like this.

I know our needs are not unique – surely every design team of more than a few people has run into this. How do teams at larger companies and agencies manage this?