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Mark Twain said “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” That may be true. Well, consider yourself an interpreter of those lies. Columns representing numbers are pretty lame. As designers, it is our job to represent information in an interesting and informative manner. Luckily, Adobe has provided some really great graphing tools in Illustrator. This is what we are going to explore this week.

About Illustrator Graphs

An Illustrator graph is special type of live, grouped object. When you select a graph, Illustrator’s Object Type Indicator tells us it’s a live graph object.

graph-object-type

If you ungroup a graph, Illustrator will put up a warning that it won’t be live anymore. This means the data won’t be editable. If you absolutely must ungroup a graph, make a copy of it first, so you can go back to the live graph if necessary.

How to Draw a Graph

To draw a graph, it’s important to have data well formatted ahead of time. Simply take one of the graph tools and draw a rectangle where you want the graph. The data window will open automatically. Type in your data. Once you’re done, hit the check mark button or hit Enter (not Return)

graph-example

Once you hit Enter, you’ll get a live preview of the graph. If you find you’ve entered the data on the wrong axis, just hit the Transpose button in the graph window.

graph-number-labels

If you want to use numbers as a label in the graph, you need to wrap the text in quote marks.

Working with a Spreadsheet

Typing your data manually is fine if it’s a small graph as shown above. If you have something more intricate, it’s better to have your data in a spreadsheet.

Clicking on the Import Data button in the data window rarely yields satisfactory results.

graph-spreadsheet

It’s best to open the spreadsheet to copy/paste the data into the Graph Data Table. You can then click the Apply button (check mark). The graph will be drawn on the artboard. If things don’t look right, click the Revert button. Fix your data file and try again.

You can edit the text in the graph at any point. Simply select it with the Group Selection Tool. Change the text formatting until you are satisfied.

To go back to make changes to the graph, select it with the selection tool and double-click on the graph tool. You can also control-click on it and make various changes.

You can make two types of graphs in one. To do so, select on of the data sets with the Group Selection tool. Double-click on the graph tool and select the desired type of graph from the icons from the dialogue.

Graph Designs

Illustrator Graphs really come to life when you replace the bland, greyscale shapes with novel designs. you need to define your design first. Go Object > Graph > Design…

graph-design

Once you define your design, you need to select a data set to apply the design to. Use the Group Selection Tool. Once it’s selected, go Object > Graph > Column… Choose the settings which suit your graph design.

graph-column-design

You actually have quite fine control of how the design can stretch. You can determine which portion of the column stretches using guides.

graph-sliding-column-design

Draw lines where you want the graph to stretch. Convert them to guides using ⌘-5. Make sure the guides are unlocked by hitting Option-⌘-;. Create a new graph design with it set to Sliding, as shown.

Outlining Your Graph

When you place an Illustrator graph in an InDesign document, you need to ensure it no longer has depencies on fonts or images.

In a duplicate of your graph file, select your graph and ungroup it with Shift-⌘-G. Illustrator will put up a warning. Click OK. Outline all type by using Shift-⌘-o or Type > Create Outlines.

Make sure to check your Links panel in Illustrator Window > Links to ensure it’s empty. If it’s not, delete any placed images from your file.

You can also check the Find Font dialogue to ensure there’s no live type in your Illustrator document. If so, outline it using Type > Create Outlines.

Formative Activity

Info Porn — Take Delight In Numbers.

Choose a topic of interest. It could be baseball, motocycles, Barbie Dolls … it’s on you. Find some numbers related to it. So, for example, you could graph the powerband of the Harley Davidson Soft Tail Fat Boy. In this specific example, you would graph horsepower on one axis and RPM on the other. Don’t hesitate to pass your idea by me before you start.

To make sense of your graph, you’ll give me an explainer. Put your information in context, graphically. Your graph needs to be delivered in the form of a cohesive, unified page design — a letter-sized page. Create this layout in InDesign.

When you place your graph in InDesign, you should place a native Illustrator (.ai) document. Before you place your graph, make sure you duplicate your document. Outline all fonts in the graph.

No raster images (photos) are allowed in this assignment.

Elements of your design:

  • A title — Make it zingy.
  • Some explanatory text. Make it interesting, well written and error-free.
  • A graph — This is the visual centre piece of your design.
  • Other graphics to create a cohesive, topical design.

graph-example-exercise

The above example shows the elements of the layout. It’s quite elaborate. Yours will be vector based – more illustrative.

Your Submission

This assignment is due before the start of your next class.

Folder structure:

graph-submission

Make sure all your layers are unlocked in all your files. Check your Illustrator Links panel to make sure there are no placed images in your document. If there are, delete them.

Once you’re done, submit your file as shown above on this page.