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Part: Three Type, Symbols, and Graphs > This is Your Brain on Graphs

Chapter 13. This is Your Brain on Graphs

This would seem as good a time as any to take a moment out of our busy Illustrator learning schedules and look back on the knowledge we've amassed so far. Just since Chapter 5, we've learned how to create almost every kind of graphic and text object on the planet, including geometric shapes, free-form paths, text blocks, path text, and hundreds of infinitesimal variations too tedious to mention.

That leaves just one more item that you can create in Illustrator—a combination of paths and text known as the graph. Yes, few folks know it (and even fewer seem to care), but Illustrator lets you create a graph from an everyday average spreadsheet of numbers. And it does a very good job of it.

Illustrator for graphs? I hear you arguing, “Aren't there are better products for this purpose?” Granted, Microsoft Excel provides better number-crunching capabilities, PowerPoint lets you build presentations around graphs, and no program competes with DeltaGraph Professional when it comes to scientific and highfalutin' business graphs. But if you're looking to create simple graphs with designer appeal—like those picture charts that are forever popping up in USA Today—using a program like Illustrator is your best bet.

But before I go any further, let me answer some important questions:

  • What is the difference between a graph and a chart?

  • Are these two terms interchangeable?

  • Will snooty power graphers look down their noses at me if I say “chart” when I mean “graph,” or vice versa?

The answers are: nada, yes, and who gives a flying fish? The term “chart” is a little more inclusive than “graph.” Television weather reporters use charts (not graphs) to show cold fronts, and navigators use charts (not graphs) to make sure your plane gets to its tropical island vacation destination, but basically anything that can be called a graph can also be called a chart. So for the purposes of this chapter, they are one and the same.

What I rail against is the use of the term “graphic” to mean graph in Harvard Graphics and Freelance Graphics, two PC charting programs that are altogether useless for drawing. A graphic is a brilliant illustration that sparks the interest, enthusiasm, and imagination of the viewer; a graph is a bunch of lines and rectangles that bore folks silly.

In Illustrator, a graph can be a graphic.



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