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Adobe Illustrator and Data-Driven Graphics

Using variables to streamline design work By DMN Staff Writer
[Editor's note: Every now and again, the good folks at Adobe supply us with tutorials designed to help our professional-level users through some of the new features in their software. This is one such tutorial. This week, we take a look at data-driven graphics in Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator 10 introduced data-driven graphics as a way to move quickly through repetitive design work, such as in the example below, where a designer might have to produce essentially the same business card for hundreds of company employees. Please enjoy, and make sure you let me know whether you'd like to see more tutorials supplied by Adobe and other manufacturers in the future.--Dave Nagel]

Some design tasks are tedious and repetitive (like creating dozens of related Web banners or designing business cards for 800 employees). With data-driven graphics, Adobe Illustrator 10.0 lets designers and developers collaborate to generate highly formatted graphics automatically. In this new workflow, designers focus their time and talent on designing, rather than cutting and pasting, and developers control the links between a template and its content. Follow along and learn how you can use data-driven graphics to streamline the design process.

1. Design a template. Create a basic design to use as a template. The template must have one or more of the following objects: a linked image, a text object, a graph, or an object that will be visible or hidden. Later in this tutorial, you'll use variables to make these objects dynamic (changeable) and create different versions of the design. But for now, just think of these objects as placeholders. We designed a template for business cards, in which the name, title, image, address, phone number, fax number, e-mail address and URL are objects that will be dynamic.

2. Assign variables to objects in the template. Select an object you want to make dynamic. (Again, the object must be a linked image, a text object, a graph, or an object that will be visible or hidden.) Then click the Make Object Dynamic button or the Make Visibility Dynamic button in the Variables palette. Clicking the Make Object Dynamic button creates a Linked File variable, a Text String variable or a Graph Data variable, depending on the object that was selected. Clicking the Make Visibility Dynamic button creates a Visibility variable.

The type of variable you create determines which attributes of the object are changeable. For example, you can use a Text String variable to change the string of text in a text object. In our business card template, we assigned a Linked File variable to the image, and Text String variables to the name, title, and contact information.

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