Don't mess with this classic

Playfair's line chart copied with Datylon Graph

“Don’t mess with a classic” is what our CEO said when he heard we were creating a copycat of William Playfair’s famous chart. This particular time-series chart represents the trade balance between England and Denmark/Norway. Might be relevant again with the Brexit coming up, but the chart itself was published in 1786!

William Playfair does not need an introduction anymore to the dataviz community as he is considered as the founding father of “graphical methods of statistics”. But next to that, Mr. Playfair had quite an adventurous life and a variety of careers including engineer, secret agent, banker, blackmailer* and journalist. A man worth investigating.

But not now. Back to his chart. Why did we choose this chart as a sample to copy with Datylon Graph for Illustrator? First of all the chart is a beautiful and pure example of a time-series line chart. Very well chosen -or better said originally designed from scratch by Playfair himself- for the data it represents.

The second reason is that this chart perfectly illustrates the dataviz power fueled by the combo Datylon Graph and Adobe Illustrator. Look at the labels created with Illustrator’s "Type on Path" tool, or the advanced character styling matching the classic calligraphy of William Playfair.

This, combined with Datylon Graph’s extensive styling properties allowed us to reproduce the chart very closely ánd adding an essential new feature: re-usability. The data can be updated in snap. In fact, this means you have a new chart based on Playfair’s design just by uploading new data.

We did not go that far to implement “Type on Path” in Datylon Graph (yet), but we are getting very close. These labels can be replaced by horizontal smart labels, but as mentioned earlier, we were not allowed to alter the chart.

You can try it out yourself with Datylon Graph for Adobe Illustrator. In case you do not have it yet, download a trial version here. The native Illustrator file with the Datylon Graph copycat can be found here. But remember, don’t mess with this classic ;-)

*Blackmail originally meant payments rendered by settlers in the counties of England bordering Scotland in exchange for protection from Scottish thieves and marauders.