A Concise Guide to Archiving for Designers
A Concise Guide to Archiving for Designers
A Concise Guide to Archiving for Designers

AIGA strives to meet professional standards in our quest to document the history of AIGA's role in a dynamically adapting profession as well as sharing standards that our member designers should use in protecting their own history.

To demonstrate this, two publications on the preservation of physical and digital materials offer guidance:

AIGA worked with the Dutch Archives for Graphic Designers (NAGO) in the Netherlands to publish an English version of A Concise Guide to Archiving for Designers. In 10 short chapters the guide provides designers with the proper ways to store and describe their collections. The author, Karin van der Heiden, provided the translation.

Ten tips for designers to avoid an archiving disaster:

  1. Do not keep everything. Archiving is identifying.
  2. Keep the process, not only the final result.
  3. Keep items that belong together, together. Archiving is organizing.
  4. Describe what you have and where you have it stored.
  5. Keep your archive in a safe place-high and dry.
  6. Remove the enemies.
  7. Protect your archive from mold, animals and bugs.
  8. Safely house your archives in suitable boxes, files, folders or tubes.
  9. Think about digital durability.*
  10. Keep old technology and equipment.*

* Updated December 2010

With the rapid advancement of information technologies, the recommendations for digital archiving have changed. Tips 9 and 10 have been revised since the guide was published in 2008:

9. Think about long-term access.

The sustainability of digital storage is limited. Keep backups on several types of storage to minimize the risk of losing your data. Be mindful of magnetic fields that may wipe the data from the device. Consider remote storage for archival masters and digital backups. Transfer the data to newer storage from time to time.

10. Prevent obsolescence.

The readability of your digital data depends on a specific combination of equipment and software. At least once a year, check whether the file formats in your digital archive can still be read. If they are in danger of becoming obsolete, migrate the data to a current format or to an archival file format. Media failure is a real threat for machine-readable formats when the technology becomes obsolete. Technology may be discontinued every couple of years.

A Concise Guide to Archiving for Designers is a publication from NAGO, a foundation that seeks to collect, preserve and provide digital access to the archives of prominent Dutch designers. The archives are published on the NAGO website.

About the author:

Art historian Karin van der Heiden has been in charge of the Dutch Archives for Graphic Designers (NAGO) in the Netherlands for more than nine years. She was responsible for the digitization of the work of various Dutch designers and studios. She moderates discourses, gives workshops and lectures on design history and design archives at universities, colleges and conferences. In 2006, she published the Concise Guide to Archiving for Designers, a comprehensive manual on how to preserve and organize designers' archives. Currently, she consults archival institutes, museums and design bureaus on collection accessibility and digitization. She also develops new projects with her own company, PARKC.

Updated October 2011

As the field of digital archives evolves, a follow up guide was created to help designers care for their collections. To learn more, read: Save As...Basic Rules for Digital Preservation