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Why not just combine Illustrator with InDesign?


Senior Member
Recently, I've begun to realise that nearly everything that can be done in Illustrator can be done in InDesign and more productively. It got me thinking. I know that Adobe won't be doing it any time soon, but why not just combine Illustrator with InDesign?

So many of the features of both applications are the same, with a few exceptions such as InDesign's print-specific qualities. But overall, I don't actually see a reason why the two applications are separate anymore.

Macromedia's Freehand was almost the parent of Illustrator and InDesign, as I've recently been discovering. The ability to create a multi-page document along with artistic renderings was all contained within one application and from that, Illustrator and InDesign were born. But was there a need to separate the two?

I realise you could argue that you might as well bundle Photoshop into that equation too but Photoshop is bitmap-specific, whereas InDesign and Illustrator follow the same sort of laws when it comes to illustration and print design.

What do you think? What redeeming qualities does Illustrator have over InDesign? Does it have enough features to make it worthwhile having it as a completely separate application to InDesign or can you see how both of them could be incorporated into one?


Junior Member
oooooooo! for me keep 'em completely separate, one is great for page layout and continous publications, the other is great for complex illustrative and complex layered packaging artwork, remember the saying 'jack of all trades - master of none' - when building a house you get a bricklayer to lay bricks, plumber to do the plumbing, sparky to do the electrics...... in my experience if you try and combine all the elements you compromise the finish product - besides Adobe would only have less products to sell if they were combined and the Marketing department will not allow that would they, less revenue etc. if you create a demand for something, exploit it! Not my view I just heard a marketing guru say that once.... that's my rant over!


Senior Member
I personally wouldn't even think of doing half the things I do in Illustrator with InDesign.
I view InDesign as a structural program, and Illustrator as a creative one.
It's all about using the appropriate tool for the job, you don't use a hammer to cut a piece of wood.
Then again if you can achieve the same results by doing it a different way, more power to you. We all have different working practices. that's why design is such and varied and interesting profession.


Senior Member
I agree that using the appropriate tool is of course good practice, but what if that tool combined the best of both worlds in one application? InDesign has so many similar tools to Illustrator that it just makes sense at least in my head to incorporate them into one application.

Yes, I know that from a financial and marketing perspective, that's not going to happen any time soon, but from a usability point of view, I think it would make sense. I personally don't think there's much in Illustrator that separates it enough from InDesign to warrant it being a separate application.

Illustrator was first released in 1986, while InDesign was released in 1999. I personally believe the reason that the two applications exist is simply that Illustrator has been around so long, while there's now a need for InDesign. But again, from a pure usability point of view, I don't see why they shouldn't and couldn't be combined.
why not just use CorelDraw the great layout and vector editing program. I think thats probably what you would get if you combined the two. Neither really very good at anything.

God I hate CorelDraw, keep em seperate and get the best of both worlds.

Anagoge checked your site some nice work.


Senior Member
Perhaps a simpler question is this: What can you do in Illustrator that you can't do in InDesign? And is x feature so big that it'd be silly for InDesign to adopt it?

And thank you, Naga. I appreciate it. :)
Easy one, 3d extrude and bevel, create graphs charts.

I know you could do some workarounds to get same look and feel.

But can you really do complex Illustrations in Indesign?

I understand what your getting at and am using Indesign for more and more but really only for layout. Used to do bcards, flyers etc in Illustrator but now only really do illustrations, logos, charts in Illustrator. Easier to do more complex Pathfinder tools, blend tools etc.


Senior Member
I'm very much like you, Naga. I used to do all stationery design in Illustrator, but more recently, I've realised that it's a lot easier and more accurate to set things up in InDesign instead.


Senior Member
Before I type what I'm going to say I just want to state that this isn't a direct assumption made against you Anagoge.

A while ago I was speaking to an IT trainer friend of mine and she shared a quite startling statistic with me. She told me that any given person in any field when they use a computer for their job, on average only utilises about 10% of the capabilities of the programs they use.

Maybe it's slightly different with design programs in particular but the argument still stands that there are so many functions etc written into programs now that you would never using all of them on a particular job or on a myriad of jobs.

I'm not assuming anything about the scope of your work Anagoge (I've looked at your site and your portfolio is impressive), but if you truly feel that you can do everything in InDesign that you can do in Illustrator I would argue that you might not have explored the extent of the programs functionality.
Then again maybe I haven't experimented with InDesign enough?

I believe Illustrator has a lot more to offer creatively, and it's a much more intuitive interface than InDesign. I feel like the InDesign interface is pointed towards order and structure, I just wouldn't be able to experiment in that program as much as I feel I can in Illustrator.

Even though a combined program might be cheaper like Naga says above it's better to have two programs that do their jobs independently than one that does either job well enough.

How do you think you would benefit from combined program?

I really am intrigued with your thinking on this because to me these two programs are worlds apart.

One major thing Illustrator has that InDesign doesn't is the gradient Mesh tool, which is one of the most powerful in Illustrator. There are a host of effects, as well as live trace etc.

I would argue the creative tools in InDesign are there to enhance the images that are imported into the program rather than to originate them.

Again I plead ignorance with InDesign, I know only enough to label it as a structural program because I've found my creative needs met by Illustrator already.
I agree with you Krey, just didnt have the words to say it. To me Indesign is a fairly rigid structure great for layouts, but I feel Illustrator has less constraints.
Although one problem I find is doing a layout in Indesign and the needing elements from Illustrator sometimes can be a pain to match things up between the 2 programs


Senior Member
I completely agree that you only use 10% of an application's potential. There's just so much bundled into any of the Creative Suite applications now that you would simply never have to use them all. However, in what way would you say that the two applications are worlds apart?

Ironically, I've been using Illustrator much longer than I have InDesign. It's only over the last three years or so that InDesign has come into play more in designing anything, but especially over the last year, I've begun to see how things could easily be brought over from Illustrator to make it a dual purpose application in the same way that you could argue Photoshop is now. Photoshop was of course originally just an image manipulation application but it's so much more than that now and rightly so.

You mention things like the mesh tool (which I love too) and Naga mentioned the 3D tools and charts/graphs. Again, great features. But, I suppose that sort of reinforces my point about ease of use. You could argue that the 3D tools should stay in Cinema 4D and that charts and graphs are for Excel. I know that's not true of course, but strictly speaking, I think it's the same sort of point that I wanted to make about incorporating Illustrator's features into InDesign - Ease of use and higher productivity.
Styling charts and graphs in excel is a no no, they look awful. A lot of my work is book, layouts, for NGO's and Governmental Organisations, which require a lot of graphs charts, in Illustrator I can import all the Excel data, not the final charts and then style them. A much better and more usuable work flow. Have you ever tried placing excel charts in to documents?

Anyway I really feel that if you combine the two you end up with less than what you had origanlly.
Have you tried CorelDraw? If not try it and you'll see what I mean.


Senior Member
From one of the features added to Illustrator in CS4 maybe the migration is going in the opposite direction than you would suggest. The fact that you can now have multiple art boards in Illustrator is quite a big step and a tip of the hat towards InDesign.

I'm guessing there isn't a satisfactory answer for you in this debate Anagoge. I would imagine that in your particular case, and the way you use the programs (the specific tools and features), that a migration of the two would be ideal, but I'm guessing out of all the thousands of people that use Creative Suite you would be in the minority.

Because of the diverse nature of Design, and personal design processes from one creative person to another, we al use the programs producted for us in very different ways.

For example: If we were both given the same logo/stationery set/magazine layout to reproduce, with a set of provided elements etc, then we made notes (like a tutorial) on how we did the job, I'm pretty sure there would be some stark differences.
(In fact that might make quite an interesting blog post!)

Adobe have to create the programs with the vast variation of methods in mind.

As for ease of use and productivity, I would argue that the two programs in question are part of the same family, they are completely compatible with one another, and they work well in tandem. I would say it's not all that much of an extra strain to switch between the two.

As for my comment about them being worlds apart, they are in my mind. Beacuse of they way I use them, and the jobs I use each to complete. For all I know InDesign might well be capable of doing the things I do in Illustrator, but it's simply the way I work that differs from you.

The whole reason we are having this debate is because of the diversity of the programs themselves, and the huge variation they provide in the methods you can use to create a host of similar results.

I would argue that it would be easier for the design community as a whole if they made another program entirely by picking features form each. It might just open up new ways of thinking about how the programs are used?

At teh end of the day the computers and programs are tools, and it's up to each of us to work out how best to utilse what is available to the best of our advantage.


Senior Member
I completely agree with all of your points, Ken and the fact that CS4 has the option of multiple boards in Illustrator is certainly a step in the right direction. It's that kind of migration of features that I like.