What is the best way to utilize graphs and charts in either Indesign or Illustrator?


I am trying to create a one page fact sheet in InDesign or Illustrator. What is the best way to create/show charts and graphs in either application? Should I create the graph in another program like Excel and save the graph as a JPG and import it into my InDesign document?

12/15/2015 3:52:00 PM

Accepted Answer

Illustrator has a graph tool. It's very customisable, but it hasn't been updated for decades (literally) - it's very frustrating to use because it's based on UI standards from another era, all sorts of basic things don't work as expected, in particular:

  • Graphs can't be scaled or rotated the normal way. If you try to scale them the normal way with other things selected, everything else scales, they just sit there. You need to use the scale tool (s) and rotate tool (r).
  • It's full of bugs. Lots of edits get forgotten or go strange when you update the data, and files containing graphs (in my experience) often get corrupted (they can be mostly fixed with this trick). For best results, apply styles using the little-used group select tool (white arror with a plus sign), keep lots of copies of graphs, and save lots of backup files.

But the Adobe help page is very thorough, and you can do quite a lot with it when you figure out its quirks. Here's an example image that illustrates a) just how dated it is but also b) that it allows a lot of stylistic customisation:

enter image description here

The Adobe Help pages on it are pretty good though. 2) InDesign has tables, but no graphs. I recommend making graphs in Illustrator, then File > Placeing the AI files in InDesign. 3) If you prefer to make graphs in Excel, paste them into Illustrator as vectors, so they're completely customisable. They're a little messy (lots of groups and clipping masks) but when you release the clipping masks, they're easy to modify

InDesign has nothing for charting. There are some expensive charting plugins (I won't link to them because I've never tried them, so I don't know if they're any good), and there are some crazy workarounds using the font Chartwell or abusing Excel and data merge, but nothing built-in. It does, however, have good tables.

Typically I'd create a data sheet in InDesign, create the charts for it in Illustrator, save them out using Illustrator's feature to save each artboard as a seperate file, the File > Place them into Indesign.

You can also use anything that creates vector graphics to make charts that can be edited in Illustrator:

  • Excel: If you copy-paste an Excel chart straight into Illustrator, it pastes as vectors. If you remove the mess of clipping masks it creates, you can get the underlying lines and edit them just like any other Illustrator paths.
  • SVG: Anything that creates SVG graphs and charts can be imported into Illustrator. For example, if you how to code, you could:

  • Use the Javascript data visualisation library D3 to create some fancy data driven graphics in a web browser,

  • Find the SVG in the markup of the page, copy it to a text editor, and save as an SVG file
  • Open the SVG file in Illustrator and edit it any old way.
12/15/2015 3:57:00 PM