Every now and then you may come into the situation that you have to present some sort of statistical data to your client. Of course you may use Excel’s graph tool to easily create a bunch of charts — but let’s face it, more or less all of those predefined designs suck. So you have to look for another option.
This tutorial will show you how to create visually appealing charts using Adobe Illustrator’s graph tool. Before we start, let us take a look at the potential outcome of this tutorial. In my case the graph shows the browser usage of Bartelme Design in January 2006.
In a first step open Illustrator and create a new document. Afterwards select the “pie graph tool” from the “tools” palette on the left. Note that by default only the “column graph tool” is visible. In this case just click on the respective icon for some seconds to unveil the other tools.
With the pie graph tool selected click somewhere on your working area. Illustrator prompts you to define the size of the chart — 200x200px should be fine. Now Illustrator will display a grid where you can enter your data. If you want to create a legend you just have to enter the respective label into the first row of the grid. In our case though we won’t make use of the automatically generated legend, so just enter the actual data. Click the “apply” button in the upper right corner to update the graph. You may now close the grid
By default Illustrator displays the different slices in shades of grey. But personally I prefer colored graphs — so we gonna apply some color: Select the “direct selection tool” from the tool palette on the left (Shortcut: A), click on a slice and select the desired color from the color palette. Note: If the color palette is not visible you may display it via “Window — Color” or by hitting the F6 key.
If you prefer flat graphs then you’re basically finished. In our case though we wanna make use of Illustrator’s 3D effects. Select the graph and open the “Extrude and Bevel” dialog via “Effects — 3D — Extrude and Bevel“. Choose ”Isometric Top“ from the dropdown menu, set the ”Extrude Depth” to about 25pt and confirm by clicking the OK button.
Afterwards your graph should look similar to the one on the screenshot on the left. Since you have just applied the effect rather than modified the object you may still change the graph’s data as well as the 3D settings.
Basically we are finished. Finally you may enhance your graph by adding a title, a legend or other descriptive elements respectively by adding some visual effects such as a drop shadow or something similar. Enjoy.