artboards or indesign

Since publishing Wireframing with Illustrator and InDesign I've gotten lots of questions about the why behind the process.

Why not use artboards in Illustrator rather than using InDesign and individual .ai files? This was the most popular question so here's a breakdown for you.

Reasons Not To Use Artboards

  • Artboards don't have page numbers. InDesign does.
  • Artboards can't have master element templates. InDesign does.
  • Artboards become unmanageable if you need to move pages around or make lots of revisions to your existing flow. This is easy with InDesign.
  • Artboards can get misaligned very easily even if it's just a few pixels. There's nothing more annoying that flipping through a pdf of similar pages and have things shifting here and there on ever page. It just looks unprofessional and not polished. This is easy to prevent with InDesign.
  • Artboards are a mess for large projects with 20+ pages.

These aren't exhaustive reasons, but rather my preferences. InDesign is great for large client projects like apps, etc. Not so much for a marketing site, or a simple little app.

Reasons To Use Artboards

Artboards are way faster than doing the InDesign thing. If you don't have a good reason to use it, don't. If presentation quality isn't an issue for whatever reason, save yourself some trouble and use artboards. I do.

If you've designed a whole sequence of screens (10-12) in a row and want to share them with someone use Artboards. In these moments I'm much less concerned with looking polished for a presentation. I just want someone to see check out my digital whiteboard and give me their thoughts.

To do that create an artboard around the sequence by clicking "Document Setup" in the top bar.

top bar

Then "Edit Artboards"

edit artboards

Click and drag an artboard around your sequence of screens. Or you can resize the existing artboard.

draw artboard

Finally, save that as a pdf with using artboards selected.

save artboard as pdf

Closing Thoughts

To sum it all up, I'd say for larger projects that need super polished presentation, use the Illustrator and InDesign process. Create a nice template or modify mine and let your work shine.

If you're working on a smaller project and don't see the point, trust your gut and go with what makes sense for you. Artboards can be great for that and InDesign can be overkill.

The technique is less important than accomplishing your task at hand. Think more about the problem you're trying to solve rather than what tools would be the best.

Now, go wireframe all the things!