making a cartoon graph
July 31, 2007 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I would like to make a bar graph that looks more like an drawing then a graph. Any ideas on software?

I have a series of data with three columns of information:
-elevation range (categorical)
-total area of each class
-area of a subsection of each area

I have made a graph that looks like a standard horizontal bar graph, however I would like to make a more 'cartoony' graph that looks like a crosssection of a mountain, kinda like this crude ascii art

400m      *#
300m     ***#
200m    **####
100m  **######

This data is to show that the higher that you go up on the mountain the greater the percentage of protected land there is and I think this may be an effective way of communicating this to my audience.

Any ideas of how to make this graph easily? I have some access to Deltagraph and other graphing software as well as Illustrator.
posted by buttercup to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can make graphs in Illustrator directly. Drag out a graph area, type in your data, select the graph type, and you're most of the way there.

Once you've got the data taken care of, you can "expand appearance" to turn it into a bunch of vectors not tied to the underlying data, and you can then format it to your heart's content. Even without doing that, you can apply a lot of effects (like "scribble") that give the graph a hand-drawn appearance.
posted by adamrice at 10:42 AM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

A Caveat: as the total area for each height range changes as well the proportion of protected land, the changing proprtion is hard to read.
In your ascii art version, even allowing for the crude medium, your point is not obvious without your explanation. IMO, you should do a line (or scatter) plot with 2 axes:
  • X elevation range
  • Y proportion protected
And leave out the third data point: total area.
posted by signal at 11:24 AM on July 31, 2007

Hand-draw it out on paper and scan it.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:25 AM on July 31, 2007

Best answer: To round out my answer: draw the line plot with the proposed axes in Illustrator, then (if you really, really must) add the drawing of the mountain under it, so the line plot is the left side of the mountain's profile. Make this line much thicker and darker than the "illustration" lines, as it is the relevant part of the graph. Whether or not the width of the mountain corresponds to each elevation range's area is not really crucial.
posted by signal at 12:16 PM on July 31, 2007

Best answer: This is one of those things that noted information designer Edward Tufte would probably tell you not to do.
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 1:01 PM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've done this sort of thing before. I find the quickest and easiest way is to draw it on paper with a pencil, scan it, then use photoshop (or whatever) to colour it in and clean it up.

If you want it to look handdrawn overall, but you don't want the lines themselves to look handdrawn, you want solid consistant graphic-like lines, then either: hand-draw it and spend some time cleaning it up in photoshop, hand-draw it and use a trace-the-paths feature in software, hand-draw it then "ink" it before scanning it, like how comic-books are made, or hand-draw it directly in the computer using a digitizer tablet. (I would suggest the last one if you have tablets around).
posted by -harlequin- at 6:24 PM on July 31, 2007

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