InDesign and Illustrator are part of the Creative Cloud application suite. They work very well in conjunction with each other but are considerably different.
InDesign differs from Illustrator in being a Multi page publishing application. It is capable of file sharing and data merge but the vector manipulation is not available as it is in Illustrator.
As a graphic designer for 25+ years, I have always used Adobe products to some extent. Each product has different capabilities and good at doing different tasks. Let’s look at the options available for each.
Multi page Documents
InDesign was first introduced to the masses in 1999. It is undoubtedly the best publishing application on the market. (IMO) It is used predominantly for magazines, books, eBooks, flyers.
Illustrator has the capability of more than one page – this was introduced in 2008 – but InDesign is specifically designed to have multi pages. The Master Page functionality is possibly the best part about InDesign.
On the Master Page you can insert headers and footers but also page numbers. You can have more than one master page, which allows you to have left and right pages in a book or magazine that have different information on each.
Allowing page numbers to be inserted on a Master Page eliminates so much work. You can allocate which page the numbering begins and also at what number the pages begin.
Although Illustrator has the ability to have more than one page or artboard it cannot number each page. This has to be done manually which, let me tell you, is more than a chore. Especially if you have to insert a couple of pages at a later stage. The page numbers then have to be changed individually.
InDesign as A Drawing Package
Ultimately InDesign is not a drawing application but a publishing application. In saying that it has certain drawing capabilities, that could get you by if you were stuck. You can insert shapes and add color if needed. You can draw with the line tool or pen tool and even create curved lines with Beziers. But it’s not a drawing package. It is realistically designed to work in conjunction with both Illustrator and Photoshop.
You can’t edit vectors or placed images in InDesign apart from scaling and transforming or changing the opacity of an item.
InDesign is fine if you are doing a simple graphic or designing a basic business card. You can add any text that is needed and all elements can be completed with the app but anything more complicated should really be completed in Illustrator.
Illustrator has the ability to draw all kinds of vectors. It also allows you to manipulate text by generating ‘Outlines’. In theory your text becomes a piece of artwork, that you can move or shape into any position.
This is what Illustrator was created for. You can of course design business cards within Illustrator but it’s often easier to generate the vectors needed and then place them in InDesign.
InDesign Incorporating Illustrator
This is also a great tool available in InDesign. The ability to place images and vectors in InDesign is fantastic.
InDesign is where everything comes together. You have your layout completed and now can start to place any graphics into the file. These can be from Illustrator or Photoshop in a range of formats, ie jpg, eps, png
But the great thing is that you can place the image or vector in a frame and scale them up or down and crop out any details you don’t want.
Sometimes the size needs to be manipulated and with this option available you no longer need to go back to the master file.
You would never do this in reverse as InDesign files imported in to Illustrator doesn’t make sense.
Illustrator is where all the design happens and as I say InDesign brings it all together.
InDesign files can be worked on by multiple people at once by clicking ‘Share for Review’. There’s no need to generate a PDf and send it on to colleague or client. They can comment with an edit tool or pin process.
You have control over who can do what or even who can open the file, the most secure aspect in they need an Apple id to open it.
Feedback can be generated in real time without even leaving the app. Amazing!
You can also collaborate in Illustrator but it’s not as intuitive. It’s done through the Cloud and so you must first make sure your artwork is a cloud document. Full Internet access is also required. After any changes are made you receive an email to a link to your file.
As I say it is doable, but not as easy to navigate as InDesign.
In regards to differences between InDesign and Illustrator this is probably the last big one. I used to do a lot of mail shots for Car Salesrooms and Fund Raising Societies. The ability to pull hundreds of names and addresses from an Excel Spreadsheet into a nicely designed Mailshot in InDesign was fantastic. It meant really just designing your layout and importing your database and hit print. The program knows exactly what to do to join the two together.
This is not something you can do in Illustrator. It was never created to generate mailshots. No one would even consider taking this on in Illustrator.
InDesign is so versatile at integrating with other apps, even when they are not Adobe products.
Although there are large differences between InDesign and Illustrator, they are all specific to the app. Each does a particular set of tasks but both apps can be integrated within each other.