What about Illustrator?

over 3 years ago from , Art Director (freelance)

I use Illustrator for work, as do a lot of my designer friends, but it seems that companies, like InVision or Mockuuups, aren't interested in supporting it. Which is a bummer because those tools would be great to have.

At the same time, you have design powerhouses like Area17 showing how great it is: https://guides.area17.com/design-techniques

Or tools like Specctr for redlines: https://specctr.com/cloud/home

What do you all think? Is it a nightmare to develop into Illustrator (but not Photoshop or Sketch)?


  • Andy MerskinAndy Merskin, over 3 years ago

    I think two of the main reasons we don't see much third-party support for our friend Illy are:

    1. Writing plugins for it is a nightmare.
    2. Its file format (.ai) is basically a PDF with no rhyme or reason to its structure. There's no way to extract Layers or other metadata from these files to the extent that PSD and Sketch files can be read and manipulated. Sketch provides their Sketchtool CLI to interact with Sketch files.

    Despite all that, I still prefer Illustrator over any other design tool right now. Its path manipulation features and SVG support are still the very best.

    17 points
    • Jon Schafer, over 3 years ago

      Thank you!! This answer is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for the clarity. Good to know my hunch was right - it's more on the development side, than of demand.

      1 point
    • John PJohn P, over 3 years ago

      Worth pointing out Adobe has made it's file formats deliberately obtuse over the years to prevent competitors being able to work with them easily.

      This worked great for them as every new piece of software for a long time was thrown aside because it couldn't work with PSDs perfectly .

      1 point
  • Blake RutledgeBlake Rutledge, over 3 years ago

    i find Illustrator to be the most natural+powerful+flexible tool, as a designer/developer hybrid.

    12 points
  • Jrtorrents Dorman , over 3 years ago

    It comes down to numbers. While Illustrator is a very powerful and versatile tool, not many people use it for actual UI design work.

    If you're a company with limited resources, you focus on where your market is— Photoshop and Sketch is where the market is.

    6 points
  • Rhys MerrittRhys Merritt, over 3 years ago

    My two cents based on UI Design only:

    Illustrator was a great tool, when there weren't better tools that we have now (Sketch & Figma). Area 17 even have this to say in that link you provided "Foremost, it is a set of design principles and the techniques demonstrated in Illustrator can be applied using most modern vector-based tools, such as Sketch."

    Adobe are losing ground to Sketch, and will probably lose ground to the likes of Figma as they progress more.. I think this is mostly to do with the fact that Sketch & Figma are tools purpose built for UI design, and possibly a little bit about the price as well.

    As for Specctr.. It's not really a pull factor at all.. Zeplin, and Inspect have it covered in spades, and there is really no reason anyone should be redlining documents ever again, it's a total waste of time.

    As for whether it's a nightmare to develop automatic sync with Illustrator, I think it's more about the fact that there just isn't enough demand for it since there are so few designers who still use Illustrator for UI Design. That's not to say it's wrong to use Illustrator, it's just that the industry trend is much much more toward Sketch.

    I'm sure there might be a few people here telling me "hey, I love Illustrator and use it every day, so do all my designer friends!" - sure, that may be the case, but you just can't argue that a you and your friends are a minority.

    4 points
    • Jon SchaferJon Schafer, over 3 years ago

      Thanks for your input!

      You're right, Area17 does say that in their guide. But they go on to sell (in great depth) the virtues of using Illustrator (over these apps), so that doesn't seem substantive.

      Specctr - Oh, I agree. I mentioned this tool because it's the closest thing (to my mind) that is to InVision Inspect. But apps like InVision Craft would be much preferred!

      Heh. Are we a minority? That's the question. Based on this thread, Area17 and MDS, it definitely doesn't seem like it. But the question is - why not support it?

      And I don't do redlines anymore either (who does?).

      0 points
      • Rhys MerrittRhys Merritt, over 3 years ago

        "But they go on to sell (in great depth) the virtues of using Illustrator (over these apps)"

        Just out of curiosity - can you direct me to where it says this? I just CTRL+F'd 'Sketch' and came up with nothing.

        If you think Specctr is pointless, why bring it up at all? If you are trying to argue that Illustrator merits attention from Invision and others, then bringing up Specctr is sort of pointless, because as you just said - redlines are pointless.. It's weird that you mentioned the tool at all if you consider redlines to be pointless.

        Yes - you are a minority

        This thread with 12 comments doesn't point to the contrary. The Area17 article definitely doesn't point to the contrary, and I don't know what MDS is.

        The fact that the support doesn't exist is testament to Illustrator users being a minority. How is that not obvious?

        1 point
        • Jon SchaferJon Schafer, over 3 years ago

          In that, the focus of the guide is on using Illustrator for UI (not Sketch or PS). Sorry, I thought that was obvious.

          I brought up Specctr because that is the only thing the Illustrator community has that is remotely like anything the Sketch community has. DM me if you're still unclear on that.

          Re-read this post, I'm not arguing for the merits of Illustrator over anything else, but rather asking why it isn't supported (which Andy answered already).

          0 points
          • Rhys MerrittRhys Merritt, over 3 years ago

            Christ - you sound condescending as shit. I don't need to DM you for clarity mate - I just think you are a little confused about things yourself.

            1 point
    • Jonathan SimcoeJonathan Simcoe, over 3 years ago

      I'm with you. I don't understand redlining apps like Inspect, Zeplin, Specctr, at all. At my past two jobs all the devs had Sketch and/or Figma and could setup the exports and get dimensions natively. Saves so much time and money.

      0 points
  • Vasil EnchevVasil Enchev, over 3 years ago

    I do everything there, UI, icons, logos. The only reason I use PS is to export a mockup :D

    4 points
  • Rey AlejandroRey Alejandro, over 3 years ago

    It's too expensive and too powerful if you will only do UI stuff. and the majority of designers are using Photoshop and Sketch that's why these companies only pick this 2 design tools to integrate well. Specctr? Invision already has Inspect – http://blog.invisionapp.com/insight-ui-designers-developers-collaboration/ . Easier to have 1 tool to prototype and show design specs.

    3 points
    • Jon Schafer, over 3 years ago

      Too powerful? Heh.

      I hear you on the price. I don't love having to pay $50/mo for it, but Photoshop is also apart of the Adobe CC family (e.g. expensive).

      Oh, Specctr is an Illustrator spec tool (like InVision's Inspect for Sketch). It's awesome.

      3 points
      • Lee HordLee Hord, over 3 years ago

        This is why I'd love it, if Adobe did a designer bundle similar in regard to the photography bundle they do. But, with Photoshop and Illustrator only.

        Personally I don't use anything else in the rest of the full CC suite.

        4 points
      • Greg Warner, over 3 years ago

        Hence why I switched to Affinity Designer and Photo—don't forget those apps too, though they still may be in the pro minority. I love Sketch as well, but when I bump back over to Illustrator it reminds me why I love Affinity a lot more for the times I need a more versatile drawing/design tool.

        2 points
  • David Gurney, over 3 years ago

    Illustrator is essentially abandonware at this point. To say that years-old glaring defects remain unfixed would be an understatement. This is a moribund product.

    Illustrator still doesn't have a competent selection mode (the ability to select only the objects that are fully enclosed by the selection marquee), and that alone makes it pretty insufferable to use. Corel Draw, Inkscape, Designer... they all not only offer this mode, but make it the default. Applications were doing this right 20 years ago, but Illustrator is still crippled by fundamental stupidity.

    2 points
  • John Sherwin, over 3 years ago

    I think Ai has improved over the years for UI Design. I used to use it myself as I liked how fast it was compared to Ps. I dropped it however when I began to realise how little support there was for it out there. It doesn't fit into how most companies work, using tools like Zeplin and Framer. Its still a winner by far for any illustration/icon design though

    1 point
  • Jernej Horvat, over 3 years ago

    With Adobe XD there really is no reason to use Illustrator for UI design. Since XD is a design and prototype tool you don't even need third party services to create and share prototypes. It's just so much faster to do it all in one app.

    Personally I still use Illustrator to recreate certain artboards from XD. This allows me to import the UI into After Effects and create animations for programmers or clients.

    1 point
    • louie solomonlouie solomon, over 3 years ago

      XD is still lacking features to make it a replacement for more powerful vector editing software. I still do most of my icon design in Illustrator, and import to Sketch because of this.

      0 points
  • David Wieland, over 3 years ago

    If you're judging the lack of integration based on, let's say, efficiency won or lost, I'd argue that we're personally not missing much there. Our process of exporting artboards --> uploading into a Marvel prototype is a matter of minutes.

    Exporting relevant code I very much doubt, do developers really find it useful? Haven't really heard this requested within our organisation.

    1 point
  • Jayesh Salvi, over 3 years ago

    I hope you find my comment topical and not just an opportunistic plug :)

    I'm an independent developer building Vector graphics tools. I've past background in CAD software development, but for a year now I've been applying my experience to build Vector graphics tools. I feel that there's very little choice of tools in this area and I was encouraged to read your post. My tools are definitely not a replacement for complete Illustrator functionality, however at the moment they are aimed at addressing niche needs of graphics designers. I recently released a demo of first of such tools. I posted on DN, but didn't get much attention. I'm looking forward to user feedback. If it interests you check out http://zector.io/trace (the DN story )

    0 points