Design with Git

Git is a distributed version control system wildly used in the open source world to keep track of source code. Since designers today use more and more code to create their work, they naturally turn to git to keep track of their work in progress. With the project “Design with git”, the goal is to see how Git can be integrated more into a designers workflow and work on tools that would give a visual feedback of design changes and collaborations.

Medialab Prado

This idea has been looping around in my head for a while and I'd like to present it it has been selected for the Tools for a read-write world Interactivos?'13 at Medialab Prado.

Text for the open call

Draft for the Medialab Prado forum call for collaborators.

Medialab Prado Log

Some examples of designers using Git

File formats

Since version control systems work best with text, we are looking for file formats that are represented as such. Not that it's impossible to use a version control system with binary files, to my knowledge, you get all the benefits from using it by using mainly text files. For example, a version control system can tell you exactly the differences between two version of the same text file and point you exactly where those differences are but it can only tell you that a binary file has been changed but not how.

So we are looking for design files that are represented in a textual format. As an obvious basic examble, any html/CSS files work. Obviously also, most vector graphic files are written in plain text. For raster images, textual file formats are quite rare.

The case for SVG, Inkscape and Git

SVG is a becoming a wildly used format. Most modern browsers can display it. The format has been around for quite a while and many (if not all) graphic softwares support it. It's also quite an easy human readable format.

Inkscape is also becoming a well respected graphic tool in the open source design community. It can import and export multiple graphic file formats. The interface is quite easy to apprehend and it uses SVG as a base file format. Inkscape is also extendable and uses python as scripting language. Inkscape is a tool used by webdesigners, illustrators, font designers and graphic designers in general.

Git is the trending version control system of today. His popularity (with websites like Github or Gitorious) and distributed capabilites make it a tool of choice for every designer concerned with efficient production workflow and collaboration.

As stated, SVG and Inkscape are already well interdependent. It seems obvious and almost trivial to integrate the features of git to this already excellent tool.

Possible integrations of Git into Inkscape

  • Have the basic git commands integrated in the GUI (like init, add, commit, branch, push pull,…)
  • Have the commit history displayed as a list or graph so the designer can go back in time and recall older versions.
  • Have a special viewer that can display the differences between two commits in different ways.

Graphical Diff Suggestion

Very cool project!

As a “getting started” idea for a graphical diff of two commits, here's a way to use ImageMagick's “compare” tool via git-difftool.

First, a python script (e.g to render the two SVGs to bitmaps via Inkscape and then do the final diff via ImageMagick:

#!/usr/bin/env python
import sys, os
inkscape = "inkscape"
local = sys.argv[1]
remote = sys.argv[2]
tempdir = "/home/markv/gittemp/"
localpng = tempdir+"local.png"
remotepng = tempdir+"remote.png"
if(not (remote.endswith(".svg") and (local != "/dev/null"))):
    os.system("xxdiff %s %s" % (local, remote))
    os.system(inkscape+" "+local+" --export-png="+localpng+" -w600 -h900 -C -bffffff -y1.0")
    os.system(inkscape+" "+remote+" --export-png="+remotepng+" -w600 -h900 -C -bffffff -y1.0")
    os.system("compare "+localpng+" "+remotepng+" - | display")

Then add a hook like this to your .gitconfig:

[difftool "compare"]
        cmd = "/home/markv/bin/ $LOCAL $REMOTE - | display"

Then “git difftool -y -t compare” will display bitmaps of changed SVGs, one at a time, highlighting changed regions in red.

Hope this helps,


Thx Mark. Will look into that. If you want to give a hand during the worshop, you're welcome. — Ju 2013/02/07 01:25

Possible screenshots

Visual libs to try out