View Full Version : Question for graphic artist types

11-17-2008, 05:16 PM
OK. I'm an economist, and what trips my trigger is vast spreadsheets of data. But other people like information in a more condensed and colorful form, curse them.

Anyway, I'm feeling the need to get more adept at laying out a snappy-looking page of headlines, text, data tables, charts and photos. My memoranda and reports will have more impact if I pretty them up.

Does anybody have any suggestions for what I ought to be using? I learned PageMaker 2.0 on a Macintosh back in the late 80s, so I expect I'm pretty well up on the technology and software capabilities. Seriously, our office has one license for Adobe Illustrator (I'm not sure what version.) Should I be learning to use that, or something else? I don't have any immediate plans to make web pages -- only paper pages.

Thanks for any good advice.

11-17-2008, 06:59 PM
We are just switching over to InDesign at work and I actually just took a two-day class on last Thursday-Friday. While I've used the program before I haven't gotten to put the new stuff into practice, but it seems to be a very powerful piece of software and could be used for reports pretty effectively.

The ability to import Excel files directly as tables is the feature that seems like it would benefit you the most. If you have the info organized in Excel, you can place it right into the new document and then stylize it without too much difficulty. Headlines, text and photos are all easily managed as well -- although I reckon charts would still be best handled in Illustrator.

Additionally, InDesign has evolved from PageMaker and although I've never used that program, there are some similarities -- and InDesign is a sister program of Illustrator and PhotoShop so the general infrastructure will at least be somewhat familiar to you if you know those.

I'm sure you can do similar things and obviously even more sophisticated graphics manipulation with just Illustrator on it's own (and certainly probably do everything you want within Office much, much simpler) so InDesign is probably complete overkill (particularly if you already have it) -- but I'm sure some others here can inform you on that end.

11-17-2008, 08:04 PM
Thanks. as you suggest, working with charts and data tables coming from Excel is really key.

If I look at a recent issue of Risk Management, what will I see that was done with Indesign? Everything?

Los Angeles
11-17-2008, 09:10 PM
Whoa. OK, I'm going to dissent here.

I do exactly this kind of work for a living, and if you're already in a PC environment running the Office suite, then you don't need to buy anything new. All you need to do is learn how to make your stuff look awesome (or hire someone like me to make it look awesome for you).

The fastest way to do that is to learn these three tricks:

1) make a word document that's formatted into two columns and choose a classy typeface that comes built in. I highly recommend single spaced Arial Narrow at 10 point. Your report will automatically look like a magazine with this typeface and two column approach

2) learn to insert a picture directly into your text so that it is exactly the width of the column and will move up and down as you type or delete text above it.

3) learn to make classier looking graphics from your data. The fastest way to improve the look of your excel charts is to use the very much improved charts and graphs available in Powerpoint 2007. Here's what you do: Do not "link" charts to your original excel spreadsheet or data tables. That's a giant mess and limits the visual quality of the work you want to do. Instead, find the big take away points and write down or separate the key data into a new file. Think basic, like quarterly sales figures and their share of a 100% pie. Q1=15% Q2=20% Q3=25% Q4=40%. You have a lovely pie with 4 pieces that gets the ooohs and ahhhs.

So, once you have the data you need, how do you make the chart look good?

Go to Powerpoint 2007 and open up a blank file with a white background (not negotiable for beginners), choose insert>chart. select the chart style from the ribbon, enter your data points into the little grid, and you're on your way. play around with visual effects but remember that gaudy and cluttered are the two worst directions to go in. You're going for clean and simple.

This is an ugly pie chart made in Excel circa 2000:


The color palettes and design choices in 2007 are far superior:


OK, so once the chart looks awesome in PPT 2007, save this file as a PPT but also save the individual slide as a JPG.

Go to word. Place your cursor where you want your chart to appear. select insert>picture>from file.

Hope this helps!


11-17-2008, 09:46 PM
Or what he said. That's clearly easier. I'm just enamored with newness and unnecessary complication, and also dumb.

As for what was done in InDesign at work, Putty, it depends on the issue. Though I'd be shocked if you had ever seen one.

11-17-2008, 10:40 PM

I'll try the Los Angeles method. What I have in mind is a lot of inset boxes, etc. But I'll work with the 2 column idea. I'm a whiz with Excel, but admittedly my mastery of Word is imperfect. I'll dust off the Office Bible and go to work.

Thanks to both of you.

Los Angeles
11-17-2008, 11:05 PM
wraping text around a central box is an option in Word, but unfortunately I don't know how it's done. :sorry:

If you have any other questions, let me know.

11-18-2008, 09:20 AM
Whoa. OK, I'm going to dissent here.

I do exactly this kind of work for a living, and if you're already in a PC environment running the Office suite, then you don't need to buy anything new. All you need to do is learn how to make your stuff look awesome (or hire someone like me to make it look awesome for you).

I'm with LA on this. there is no need to get anything else for what you want to do.

Colors are the biggest issue here. Work the company colors into the into graphs. If the company logo is green, use shades of green and keep the same tones in all graphs. Don't over use colors.

Have a look at what other companies do.