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Creating many of the same graphs/infrographics

Mar 1, 2013 12:21 PM

I have created reports with infographics (bar charts/pie charts etc.) where the raw data and charts were created in Excel and then I copy it into Illustrator and tweak the design (colour, text, etc) and then drop it into InDesign.


I am now in the process of creating several (30+) reports that will use the same design template from InDesign - but all of the garphics will be uniqe. 


What is the best approach to create all of these graphs? Is there a script or macro that I can create and save when I tweak one graph, and then apply it to the subsequent graphs?


I know Illustrator has the graphing function but I havent had too much luck with and, and some of the graphs that I will create, such as donut graphs, cannot be created in Illustrator.



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    Mar 2, 2013 12:39 AM   in reply to opendatarocks

    Same old gag: Don't use AI but rather tools liek Mathematica, EasyStat or whatever. Even some websites can create pretty nifty SVGs or render images based on your pasted data....



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    Mar 2, 2013 10:55 PM   in reply to opendatarocks

    I don’t know of any way to make this easier other than modifying them each individually in AI.  (Particularly because it sounds like there are fundamentally different types of graphs within your group of 30.)  AI is the best way to make them look exactly how you want.  Perhaps utilizing the graphic styles can help a little if you want to make changes later to all your graph color choices.    I bring a lot of graphs in from excel, and my best tip is the ‘release ALL clipping masks’ function at the bottom of the objects menu, because (as you know) excel graphs paste in with a clipping mask around every object and they just get in your way.  If I have a series of graphs with the same type of y-axis, I will make one nice y-axis and recycle it.  As long as I perfectly resize the Max and Min of the new graphs I paste in, then I can reuse the axis.  Good Luck!

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    Mar 3, 2013 8:58 AM   in reply to opendatarocks

    ...(30+) reports that will use the same design...but all of the garphics will be uniqe.


    Is there a script or macro that I can create and save when I tweak one graph, and then apply it to the subsequent graphs?


    It depends on what exactly you mean by "tweaking one graph" and "the garphics will be uniqe".


    Graph Data is one of the four kinds of Variables supported by Illustrator's Variables feature. So you can design a graph using one of Illustrator's limited graph types, leave it "live" (don't deconstruct it into mere graphic elements), and import any number of different DataSets into it to automatically generate dozens of similar graphs based on different values.


    But the Variables feature is based on XML and therefore requires import/export of XML files properly formatted for Illustrator's feature. Illustrator does not provide the detailed documentation on how to do this; you have to know (or learn) an amount of XML esoterica on your own.




    ...some of the graphs that I will create, such as donut graphs, cannot be created in Illustrator...

    There's your answer. If you need graph types other than those few which Illustrator can create, you really need to use some other software.


    Nowadays, for my own graph needs, I use FileMaker Pro whenever I can, because of its full relational-database functionality. That is, it can generate graphs in real-time based not just on data from a single flat XY table, but from any aggregate (summary, etc.) data that is modeled in the multi-table relational database. For example, FileMaker can individually graph the sales history of 30,000 different items over time. I can setup the graph once and instantly have as many different graphs as I have records in the database--and they automatically update in real time whenever the data changes.


    But FileMaker is not a "graphics program" per se. So I can export the graphs to PDFs if I need to, but I cannot, for example, tell FileMaker to use a drawing of a skyscraper in place of a column bar. That's the kind of "illustratorish" functionality you need a drawing program for--and for which you have to make trade-offs between fast and practical data-driven functionality and time-consuming "info graphics" illustration customization.


    And FileMaker probably cannot do whatever you mean by "donut graph". So it's a matter of what specifics you actually need, and what trade-offs you are willing to accommodate.



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