Recently I've been developing a new logo for a company that makes one of the best font management products on the market. While working on multiple versions with multiple variations I was reminded of how important it is to work non-destructively so you can always un-do any step along the way. I like to refer to this as "leaving a back door open." Working this way involves thinking several steps ahead, like in a chess game. It's not hard, but it does require a bit of forethought before changing a design element forever.


Specifically, working non-destructively in Adobe Illustrator, for example, means leveraging the Appearance panel whenever possible. Appearances, one of AI's most powerful features, allows designers to change how an object looks without altering the underlying object itself. In other words, applying an Appearance converts an object, non-destructively, leaving a back door open for future changes down the line.


In Photoshop, working non-destructively can be done a number of different ways. Smart Objects is one such way. Convert any layer into a Smart Object, and that layer will store an unaltered version of itself, too. With a smart object, designers leave a back door from which they can return a layer to its original state in the event of future changes. Layer Comps is another way to create multiple iterations of a Photoshop file without committing to one or another.


InDesign has no such backdoor feature, per se. There are workarounds like Alternate Layouts, for example, but I'd welcome the addition of an Appearance panel like the one in Adobe Illustrator. InDesign product managers, are you listening?