How to Make a Basic Pictograph in Illustrator CS

show more Making a basic pictograph provides you with in-depth training on Design. Taught by Deke McClelland as part of the Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery show less
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Making a basic pictograph

In this exercise, I'm going to show you how to create the most basic pictograph possible, by converting these columns into a pattern of repeating birds. I've saved my progress as Legendary, found inside the 27_graphs folder. I'll tell you something about these legendary birds here. They are driving me nuts. Fortunately, I came out with something that will prevent the legend from breaking down to quite this extent in the future. So let me show you what I mean. I'll press Ctrl+Y, Command+Y on the Mac, to switch to the Outline mode. Using my Group Selection tool right here, I'm going to go ahead and marquee around this square and this hummingbird, so the very first square and hummingbird pair.

And then I'm going to drag the bottom-right anchor point until it more or less aligns with that point in the Peaceful point text. You may recall that you can drag point text by its point, and it'll snap into alignment with other things, but the other things will not snap into alignment with the point text. It's so great that we're experiencing this culmination of all the weird little things about Illustrator all at once. I'm really enjoying myself here. Now I figured out that the distance between the line PEACEFUL and JOYFUL, and in between JOYFUL and LIVING IN HARMONY is 31-and-a-third points.

So what I'm going to do is marquee the next square in hummingbird pair using my Group Selection tool. I'll grab that bottom-right anchor point again, and I'll go ahead and snap it into alignment, not with the point text, but rather with the other hummingbird. So now that I've got it locked where I need it, I'll all go ahead and double-click on that Group Selection tool in the toolbox, and I'm seeing the last move I made. That is, the one where I dragged the second bird into alignment with the first bird. Instead, I want a Horizontal movement of 0, and a Vertical movement of 31.3333, and just jam on the 3 key a few times and then press the Tab key, and Illustrator will go ahead and round it off to whatever is the most threes it can handle.

Then go ahead and click OK, and you get this beautiful alignment right here. I'll go ahead and marquee the third bird and its square. Go ahead and drag up bottom right point until it snaps into alignment. Double-click on the Group Selection tool here inside the toolbox. See the last movement you just made, which is not right at all? Enter 0 for Horizontal, 31.3333333 bunch of times. Press the Tab key, and then click OK in order to achieve this effect here. Press Ctrl+Y, Command+Y on the Mac. Looks decent. Not perfect, but it looks pretty good.

Now then, hopefully it won't be fallen apart anymore. I've got to tell you something. Look at those darn blue lines. Remember how we hid them? They came back. Don't you know? You just can't do anything until you're really done. We'll get there. I'm going to go ahead and let's say with my Group Selection tool, that I think the best place to start is with the green column. So I'll go ahead and click once on the green column and twice on the green column. Don't be clicking it third time, or you'll grab the bird that's inside the legend.

We definitely don't want that at this point. Now go up to the Object menu, tediously choose the Graph command, way here at the bottom, and then go ahead and choose Column. A few things you can do-- I'm going to go ahead and grab Bird 1 green right there-- you can either vertically scale them. I'll just ask you to imagine this, because if I have to apply every one of these modifications here, it is going to take us days. But I think it's pretty easy to imagine. If you choose Vertically Scaled, you're going to stretch this bird like crazy. It's not even going to look like a bird anymore. It's going to look terrible. If you want to try it for yourself, go ahead and click the OK button.

You can also uniformly scale. That means that the first bird is going to be quite large, and the last bird is going to be gianormous. It's going to take up this huge part of the graph, and the graph is not going to make any sense anymore. So you don't want that. Then down here at the bottom, we have Sliding, and that takes a specific portion of the graph and stretches it apart, much like nine-slice scaling, and I'll show you how that one works later, because it's really cool. But in the meantime, I want you to choose Repeating. It doesn't really matter what Rotate Legend Design is set to, because we don't have the legend selected.

But I'm going to go ahead and turn it off, just to be careful. And then For Fractions, let's say at a point the bird gets cut off, because there are only so many birds that fit into this repeating pattern here. Do you want to scale that last design, have a squished bird at the top? No. Or do you want to go ahead and chop it? Yes, you want to chop it. This is a new word for crop or clip or something like that inside of Illustrator, but whoever designed this feature decided to call it the Chop. So go ahead and choose that one. Before you click OK, you've got to say Each Design Represents so many units, and in our case, it's so many percentage points.

You could say something like 2. However, it's possible that any one of these items is divisible by two. If so, then you're going to have problems. But there is a bug that basically doesn't chop things properly, and so anything that's divisible by two is just going to sail through the roof. You'll see the full height of that column. It won't be scaled within the 80 to 100 range, in other words. You could also set it to 3. But if something is divisible by three, you have the same problem. So what I'm going to suggest you do is 2.8. Nothing that I know of is divisible by 2.8 in this graph. And then click OK.

Hopefully, I got it right. Look at that. Nobody is just sailing to the top of the screen. So that's good. But we did go ahead and select the entire graph. So I'm going to go ahead and click off the graph to deselect it. That's the part that drives me nuts. And then I'll click on one of the orange rectangles, and click again to select all three of them. And then I'll repeat that process of going to the Object menu, choosing Graph, and then choosing Column. And then I'll click on Bird 2 orange, and I'll say, you know what, I want Repeating. I want that off. I want everything to represent 2.8. I'll choose Chop Design.

Click OK and we end up getting this effect. Awesome! Click off, click, click, so click twice on one of the blue rectangles. Then go up to the Object menu, choose Graph, choose Column. I think you know what to do by this point, but click on Bird 3 blue, and then we'll go ahead and say Repeating for this one. Turn that check box off, say 2.8 for the units, and change For Fractions to Chop Design, and click OK, and you end up getting this effect. You might look at and say, well, that's not necessarily ideal, because when you click off in order to deselect, it gets a little bit confusing.

However, we were able to come up with a reasonable pictograph, but just not what I would call perfect. And you know I could have somehow modified that design, so it had a little bit of a background so we still see a rectangle. You can still make modifications. You could go in there and hand-modify this graph if you wanted to, to sort of fill in the rectangular areas. However, what we're looking for is this. I'm going to switch back to that Moku Ka' file. I want to see the sort of gradients dropping down from each one of my hummingbirds, and I just want one hummingbird a piece.

That's a function of a sliding graph design. I'm going to show you how that one works, with a whole lot less exasperation, in the next exercise.

Making a basic pictograph
Video duration: 6m 47s 13h 5m Advanced


Making a basic pictograph provides you with in-depth training on Design. Taught by Deke McClelland as part of the Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Mastery

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