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Abstract explorations: Before and after merging

A 3-minute guide to preserving and reviving your designs.
Abstract explorations: Before and after merging

Creative exploration is key to a successful design process. Designers need space to try things out and—if things don’t work out—scrap ideas and start over. You can’t predict whether your explorations will make it to your final designs, but that doesn’t make these explorations less valuable. In fact, sometimes you need to revisit previous explorations to seed your current project.

Abstract makes it easy to store, dig up, and dust off old explorations. We have a few tips for keeping your old ideas safe and easily retrievable.

Where design explorations are stored

In Abstract, there are a few places to find your past work, including the Branch archive, Commit history, and old Collections.

Branch archive + Commit history

When you merge a Branch to Main, your Branch (with all of its Commit history) doesn’t just disappear. It’s relegated to the Branch archive. Every Branch you’ve ever merged or archived is not only preserved, but also made searchable through the Branch archive. As you branch, commit, and merge in Abstract, you begin to document your work automatically.

To find the Branch archive:

  1. Select Branches from the left side pane.
  2. At the top, select the Archived tab.
Archived branches in abstract

From here, you can search for the Branch containing the designs you want to track down. Searchable fields include:

  • the Branch creator
  • Branch name
  • the Branch summary

Once you find the Branch with your designs, go straight to the Collections or the Commit history on that Branch. Every single time you commit, not only are your changes (and the context around them) documented, but your files are preserved exactly as they exist when the Commit is created.


Collections. I seriously can’t talk enough about Collections. Designers can use Collections to preserve their work and provide clear asks when requesting feedback.

To preserve your designs using Collections, simply create a Collection on a Branch before merging and turn off auto-update. These Collections will persist even after you merge your Branch to Main. You’ll be able to access these Collections via the Branch Archive (go to Branch archive > archived Branch > Collections) or via the Collections tab at the project level (shown below).

collections view in abstract

You can access any artboard showcased in a Collection. Open the Collection and click the artboard you’d like to access. The Layer detail will open. In the bottom left corner, you’ll see a Details section where you can access the file, Branch, or Commit of that exact artboard.

Pro tip: Right now, you can search for Collections by name and creator, so be sure to give your Collection a meaningful name to make it easy to find.

How to revive old designs

Once you’ve located the design you want to revive, you’ve got a few options for re-engaging with it.

Open untracked

If you just want to poke around at how things looked back when, open your file untracked in Sketch. Note that by opening untracked, you won’t be able to save any edits you make to the file.

Unarchive the Branch

Decide you actually do want to go with an old design direction? Unarchive one of your old Branches and get to work. You’ll have the option to merge the Branch to Main.

Create a child Branch

Want to riff on an archived Branch that you don’t own? You can create a child Branch from an active or archived Branch to jumpstart your design process. Keep in mind that older Branches may require some updates from Main.

Reviving old design directions, of course, saves you time. But, more importantly, it also provides us a psychological ease that your work (and effort) is never lost or wasted.