Information Architecture
COMD 311/312 section 1.
Mondays 4pm. Steuben 407

Using Adobe Illustrator's Data Driven Graphics
Tuesday, 18 November

As of version 10 of Illustrator, you can load external data into your document and generate many variations of the document based on the external data.

On November 17th, I went through the process of using these tools in Illustrator. This document serves as a reminder and a brief overview of what was discussed in class.

The handouts I distributed in class are from the Adobe website: (Registration required)

What we did in class
* Created a new document in Illustrator and used the “Variables” palette to make multiple versions of the same document
* Created an Excel spreadsheet, converted the spreadsheet to XML and loaded this XML into Illustrator’s “Variables” palette to make multiple versions of the same document

The following is a step by step account of taking your Excel spreadsheets (where you worked through categorization and controlled vocabulary exercises) and integrating it with your templates in Illustrator.

Format your Excel spreadsheet so that the first row contains labels of all of your data and each row below represents the data for a single item. This is the example spreadsheet we made in class:

excel sheet

Notice the labels in the first row. If you begin a label with “v ” (a letter ‘v’ and a space) the script that we use to convert the Excel document will treat the data as visibility data — whatever element you link this data to in Illustrator will be invisible if the contents of the Excel cell start with an ‘F’ or are an empty cell. If you begin a label with “f ” (a letter ‘f’ and a space) it will treat the cell has a placed image file. If your images are in the same folder as your Excel document, you can just use the image’s name. Otherwise you will need a file:// url that points to the image.

(Being able to just use the image’s name is something I added after class, since using the file:// url syntax looked like it was going to be troublesome)

After the Excel document is correct, save it as a tab delineated text document.



Now, take the tab delineated text document that you just made and drag it on top of the Applescript that I gave the class. (You can download the script and these example documents at the bottom of this page). This script will create an XML file suitable for use in Illustrator from your tab delineated text document.

convert to xml

Create a new document in Illustrator (or open an existing one) and make the “Variables” palette visible by selecting it in the “Windows” menu. Load the XML file you just made as a variable library.

load vars

load vars

Notice how the variables loaded have the same names as our Excel document, and the the Photos variable is a file type and the over21 variable is a visibility type. (Designated by the icons in the “Variables” palette)

Select an element in your Illustrator document and then select a “variable” in the “Variables” palette. Click on the gear icon in the “Variables” palette to link the selected illustrator element to the variable. Variables that deal with visibility should use the gear + eye logo and text or files should use the gear + lego icon.


After all of your variables are mapped to elements, you can cycle through each “Data Set” (or rows in your Excel document) and see each iteration of the Illustrator document.



You can download all of these example documents and the Applescript from here:

DataDrivenDemo.sit (for Mac) (for PC — although the script will not work)

Information Architecture :: Resource

hi nice tutorial but I seem to have problems with the applescript. If I drop the textfile on the apllescript nothing happens

Comment by: artdepoo at November 24, 2003 07:25 AM

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