How? Do I position artboards carefully and give absolute values when moving copies so as the replicated copies land exactly right on the other artboards, or is there a possibility to set the effect to dirrectly reffer to a different artboard for a copy and not move the item? I would love something that can be replicated on different artboards, not moved to fixed positions.
A symbol? Can you detail just a bit?
You can create a symbol just by dragging objects into the symbol panel. Then drag out again to place an instance. Double-click to edit the symbol, instances will be updated.
Artboards in Illustrator are just regions that print (or export), no logical units. So, no, you can't use the transform effect to move anything to a specific artboard. You can only position stuff by moving/duplicating it.
Another possbility to achieve what you want would be layers. But you'll have to figure sth. out to output them correctly. This might be done with variables. Only the concept of variables in Illustrator is not very practical.
When planning small-size documents like business cards, you need to consider two kinds of replications:
- First, there is the replication of the design elements which remain the same for each person's card.
- Second, there is the replication of a given person's card for printing on a press sheet. (Nobody prints one card at a time on tiny little 2" x 3.5" press sheets, so why set them up that way?)
I don't think I've ever set up a set of business cards using a separate Artboard for one copy of one person's card. Are you sure that it is most expedient for whomever is going to print the cards?
A large printing house or online business card printing service may want one-card press-ready PDFs because they may have automated workflow routines to gang up multiple instances on the press sheet. Or, such houses often provide simple layout templates to show you how to arrange a multi-up business card sheet.
But if you are going to have the cards printed at a local offset printing house, as is commonly done, that local shop probably doesn't have that kind of automation. They will still run the cards mulit-up on a standard size press sheet (e.g.; 8-up on a letter-size sheet), and if you give them a bunch of 1-up layouts, they'll have to either accomplish the multi-up layout by importing your single-card PDFs into layout software themselves, or they'll do it in striping. You can save yourself (or the Customer) money by saving the printing house unnecessary work. It usually makes more sense to gang up eight people's cards on one letter-size artboard, and include trim marks. To do that, use Transform Effect (or Symbol Instances) for the multiple instances of the static elements, and individual textFrames for the changing data; but all on one press-sheet size Artboard.
On the other hand, if you want to be able to re-order cards for each individual on an as-needed basis, it can make more sense to use Transform Effect for the whole card design (not just the fixed graphics) on the same n-up arrangement on a single Artboard, but designate the textFrames that contain the changing data (name, title, phone, etc.) as text Variables. Then, you just enter all the names, phones, etc., as DataSets in the Variables palette. You can then batch-save press-ready PDFs, cycling through the DataSets to generate an n-up sheet for each person.
If fine typographic control (careful kerning, tracking, etc.) is not requred for the changing data (most designers seldom do this), don't overlook the option of building the job as a multi-up layout delivered to the Customer as an enabled PDF. Do the multi-up design containing only the static graphics. Save it as a press-quality PDF. In Acrobat, add form fields for the changing data (name, phone, etc.). Enable the PDF for Adobe Reader. Whenever needed, the Customer can open the PDF in Reader, key in a person's data, save it, and send the PDF for printing. Customers love this, because it can be easily handled by an office clerk, instead of having to go back to a design house (you) for every little niggling text change on something as mundane and subject-to-change as business cards.