You may know me (not that I am worth knowing) from my first question. I am a noob in web design, graphic desgin, font theroy, color theory, guess all of the mixes that are crucial. My expertise (whatever level that maybe) is in web coding (html, css) and RDBMS with strong skills in Database Modeling. Having successfully (to some extend at least) designed a logo, letterhead, small and big enevelops (maybe a corporate portfolio?), I was asked by the customer to design a company brochure as well. Having learned AI-CS5 (to some extend atleast) and helped by the Graphic Design Community (a million and three thanks to them), I designed the brochure in AI-CS5 and was very happy (as a noob) since it came out really nice (to me & the customer atleast).

The problem as it happens, comes (as it always comes when new knowledge is acquired) when I read that most if not all brochures are designed in Adobe InDesign and not Adobe Illustrator. That really put a halt (stop! you are going to the wrong road) in my learning of AI-CS5. Please see the below images for samples of what I have come up with.

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Now I will try to put my question. Why are the brochures designed in indesign rather than illustrator OR more importantly do I really need to or have to "re-design" the above in indesign due to the benefits it offers (as some say given my readings on the net)?. Does it mean I am going to the wrong road and using the wrong tool for the job.

You really can't teach an old dogs new tricks and it has been difficult for me (not that I am excusing my short comings of which I am well aware viz. I have not creative talents and am dull as ditch water) to learn AI-CS5 and now I have to shift/move to InDesign just because (beacuse what?).

  • 2
    Generally: Raster graphics = Photoshop. Vector graphics = Illustrator. Multiple pages = Indesign. However when using indesign, you're still very likely to have to use photoshop and illustrator to produce vector or raster images to place in your indesign document.
    – Joonas
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 6:52
  • 3
    The very short answer: don't panic about needing to forget Illustrator and master InDesign overnight. First, simply set up an InDesign document with the right pages, margins etc, do the design work in Illustrator, then place (file > place) the Illustrator files (don't panic that they look pixelated - Indesign shows low-res previews to save memory). Then gradually phase in features of InDesign as you learn them. A good first one is to add the block text text boxes in InDesign, and get used to its type features like linked text boxes and character/paragraph styles. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 9:58
  • 2
    Two tips for when using InDesign as page management placing lots of Illustrator files: 1) Illustrator's Save As option "Save each artboard as a seperate file" really helps, 2) Delete and re-place files rather than re-linking them to get the exact size of the illustrator file in InDesign, to keep font sizes etc consistent. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 10:00
  • To clarify my first point (maybe should have made this an answer, not comments...) even if/when you master InDesign completely, you'll still likely use Ilustrator to design very graphical elements (and photoshop for anything based on photos), so I'm not saying InDesign will ever replace Illustrator in your workflow, but for multi-page designs as you get better at InDesign, Illustrator's role will shift to creating the various individual graphics within documents. Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 10:54
  • See also: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/7453/…
    – e100
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 23:13

3 Answers 3


In reality, since the implementation of multiple artboards in Illustrator the reason for using Indesign compared to Illustrator changed a bit. Pre CS4 the immediate reason was a single Indesign document rather than separate documents for each page with Illustrator.

Nowadays, there are still reasons one may prefer Indesign over Illustrator but, similar to the Mac OS vs Windows, the reasoning is often based more on preference than actual hard limitations of either app.

Few of the items below are black and white, right or wrong, reasons. Rather they are more strengths in the particular app. There is some crossover and some items possible in Illustrator are possible in Indesign and vice versa. The primary difference is which app has a stronger code base for a particular feature set.

Indesign benefits:

  • Better text handling. Indesign handles a lot of text editing much, much easier and more fluently than Illustrator. While some of the text features can be similar between the two apps, only Indesign has a story editor, column settings, column splitting/spanning, grep searching, etc. Setting massive amounts of text in Illustrator can be a lesson in frustration due to how little management over columns Illustrator contains. In addition things like Character and Paragraph styles in Illustrator are, to me, backwards. AI : Paragraph style dependent upon Character style. ID : Character Style dependent upon Paragraph style. Indesign's text engine is simply more intelligent and better developed.

  • TOC and indexing. Indesign contains automated tools to control a Table of Contents, indexes, hyperlinks, bookmarks, etc. There's absolutely no such tools in Illustrator.

  • Master Pages. Indesign's master pages far, far, outweigh anything in Illustrator which may have similar functionality. In reality, all you can do with Illustrator is symbols and a common layer. Not anywhere near the master page logic in Indesign.

  • File sizes. Since Indesign is a "container" app it doesn't store images and placed artwork within the file. This allows for much smaller file sizes in general and the ability to use one image file for multiple documents rather than having to embed the same image data in multiple files. I'm referring more to embedded images in Illustrator or original artwork in Illustrator. Illustrator, does of course, have a link option. But many things need to be embedded within Illustrator to achieve desired appearances.

  • Output. From a single Indesign file I can export or save to a wide variety of necessary formats with little post-processing. For example one Indesign document can create a press-ready PDF-x1a file, an interactive pdf file, or an epub file. Illustrator will save to PDF, but forget about epub or interactive pdf.

Illustrator benefits:

  • Easier custom layouts. It's much easier in Illustrator to create layouts which have some variety in both object placement or trim dimensions. For example, an oddly shaped piece where a die cut is needed is easier to see and use in Illustrator than it is in Indesign. It's not impossible with Indesign, it's simply easier with Illustrator.

  • A perceived design freedom. Illustrator, and the nature of the object-based elements, lends itself to an aire of less restriction. Allowing a user to more quickly draw, paint, or rough out something then refine it. With Indesign it's often a matter of needing to plan the layout first, then implement it.

  • More visual versatility. This may simply be my opinion, but I find the ability to alter the appearance of any item much easier within Illustrator. This is primarily because Illustrator is a drawing tool first then a layout tool second. Where Indesign is a layout tool first, then a drawing tool second. Things like custom designed headlines go much faster with Illustrator, and even faster than if one were to create them in Illustrator and place links in Indesign. Things like Text on a Path, or envelope warping, are much easier within Illustrator as well.

  • Drawing tools. While Indesign does contain some basic drawing tools, they are rudimentary when comparing them to Illustrator tools. This may not be a "deal-breaker" where layout is concerned however. It depends a great deal on the desired appearance. I've created layouts in Indesign and used the drawing tools there for some simple items. Using Illustrator simply makes more sense to me if a layout is highly illustrative in nature.

Since the release of CS4 I've relaxed a great deal on which tool should be used. I used to be adamant that any document containing more than 2 pages should be done via Indesign (Or XPress, heaven forbid). However, with multiple artboards in Illustrator I've found myself using Illustrator for very custom layouts where it simply makes more sense to have the freedom of layout as opposed to beefy text handling.

The decision for me has now become,
"How much text handling do I need here?
An Index?
Page Numbers?
Table of Contents?
Active hyperlinks?"

As well as,
"What output is needed?
Interactive PDF?"

IF I answer "yes" to any of these, I'll still use Indesign just to make my life easier. However, if I'm asked for a poster, simple brochure, flyer, etc. I have no issue using Illustrator for the layout. I still tend to jump to Indesign if a project contains more than 2 signatures. But anything with 1 or 2 signatures I'm up in the air about which app I'll use until a design has been roughed out.

  • I am sorry. But I was looking for a simpleer answer. Yes or No for me to Learn InDesign?
    – Jawad
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 23:42
  • 4
    It's not a stupid comment. If you don't know Indesign, you don't know what your'e missing. There is no simple answer. Indesign is a staple of any good designer's toolbox. But then, so is Illustrator. You'll want to know Indesign as soon as a client asks you to create a file for the iPad.
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 23:45
  • You use whatever you need to so that you get the desired product. If you can manage with Illustrator, and the printed product is what you expected and desired, you have your solution. Most design workflows are based upon using multiple programs on a single product, much like a real-world toolbox one would use on a woodworking project. Scott gave you a great rundown on the benefits of each. Your sample is very text heavy and it strikes me as something that would have been easier for you using inDesign features.
    – horatio
    Commented Aug 29, 2012 at 14:55
  • Oh. You changed you name! Scott Right?
    – Jawad
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 20:16
  • Yea.. it's the modern, mew millennium spelling.
    – Scott
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 20:18

I was in a similar situation...I knew Illustrator but not InDesign and I had a lot of our marketing materials done in Illustrator. But I eventually switched the bulk of those materials to ID, and here's why:

  1. Better compression upon export. PDF exporting is a tricky animal to me, but when I made the switch it seemed like I was able to get better file sizes out of InDesign.
  2. Better management of multiple documents. ID performs better with larger files and assets in the files because it's built to do so. If your system specs are on the softer side this could really help you. Also, I find managing character and paragraph styles to be more effective in ID, though this is admittedly a subjective thing.
  3. Easier to work with external assets. May be preference, but there are a lot of little things that make it easier to update modified assets or reveal them in Explorer or whatever.

I still prefer Illustrator for mocking up ideas, drawing, etc. It's a simpler programs that's more suited to art and design. But once you have the layout and you want to start publishing ( and if you ever want to get into scripting), InDesign is so robust.

My advice? Try to learn it. InDesign has a steep learning curve that's best overcome by using it. If not it's not the end of the world, but go for it!


I think it's a matter of personal choice when a relatively inexperienced user goes through the selection thing. When I had first started designing, I did everything in Adobe Photoshop and I was happy with the result. I did everything from print media to web interfaces and there wasn't a single complaint from clients' side.

It was only when I came to know how a lot of time can be saved by using InDesign and Illustrator alongside Photoshop for specific tasks, I couldn't hold back but to jump into learning it. Though there is a learning curve especially when you come from a Photoshop background. Of course, there are pros and cons of each software but it's really worth the time you put into learning

From my so far experience I can tell:

  • Anything print related, go with InDesign
  • Anything vector, go with Illustrator
  • Use Adobe Lightroom for image manipulation
  • Use Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing.
  • Everything else, go with Photoshop.

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