The Ingenious Chartwell Font for Making Graphs in InDesign

Have you ever been disappointed by InDesign’s lack of charting features (and really, how hard is it to be disappointed by something that’s non-existent)? Over at, Anne-Marie Concepción has a solution in this week’s free InDesign Secrets episode. (Note: InDesign Secrets is David Blatner and Anne-Marie’s bi-weekly series that gives you a free movie on some InDesign insight every week—think Deke’s Techniques but with InDesign and slightly more sanity.)

The Chartwell font (yes, it’s a font, I know!) from the inventive mastermind at TK type makes ingenious use of ligatures in order to turn simple text numbers into bars, lines, and pies.

In the movie, Anne-Marie shows you how to start by typing the mathematical equation that represents your chart numbers. You’ll turn off InDesign’s ligatures at first (seriously, part of the delight comes from having ligatures off, seeing normal text, then watching the magic happen when you turn them back on), then you simply apply variations on the Chartwell font and turn those numbers into corresponding charts when you turn ligatures back on. I’m pretty sure it’s magic. It’s definitely fun.

So, for example, let’s say I started with this percentage breakdown, typed into InDesign, set in Chartwell with ligatures turned off, and each of the different values styled in a different color:

Looks like normal friendly text, right? But, if I set the Chartwell option to the Pies font style (it’s like setting a regular font to Italic or Bold) and turn the Ligatures on, the result is an automatic transformation into a pie chart that’s set to those percentages:

Tip: In the video Anne-Marie explains how to turn your pie chart into the ring chart on the right by adding an alphabetical character to the equation. For the ring on the right, I added a +A to the equation, which is halfway on the a-Z continuum.

If I change the font family to Bars, the result is a bar graph:

I’ll admit, my data visualization friends would be mildly critical of a single-line bar chart. But it’s a font, right? So all you need to do is add some carriage returns between the numbers, and:

And if you really want to get fancy (and old-school bar-charty), add an equals sign set to black and turn the whole text frame 90 degrees:

Note: I changed each of the values by a factor of 10 to make a better visual example. Also, if you try this step, add a plus sign after the final value to keep the spacing (which is, of course, actually leading) between your bars consistent.

Did I mention there is no drawing going on here whatsoever? Just want to make sure you’re properly amazed.

Finally, I can change the font family to Lines to get what Anne-Marie accurately points out is really an Area Chart.

Tip: Add a 1+ to the beginning of your equation for a line chart so that your graph has a starting point. (Unfortunately, the more accurate value of 0 won’t work properly.)

Anne-Marie has some other handy Chartwell tips for applying color quickly with the use of a nested character style and using InDesign’s Story Editor to quickly make adjustments to your charts without having to turn ligatures on and off. It only adds to the coolness.

Chartwell is a for-purchase font, available at TKType. Each type of chart is $20 and you can get the whole deal for $50. If you have to make a lot of charts, or you just love ingenuity, definitely check it out.

By the way, Anne-Marie and her partner in InDesign Secrecy (the aforementioned David Blatner) have a new free movie every other week. And on opposite weeks, there’s a free InDesign FX video by that whippersnapper Mike Rankin. So really, InDesigners can’t go wrong with stopping by on Thursdays.

Great to see you dekeItarians. I’ll be back the next time something is so cool I must share.

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 039: Creating the Perfect Command Key

Previous entry:My Latest Video Course, Photoshop Extended One-on-One: 3D Type Effects, Is on Its Way


  • Does font ship with InDesign CS6

    I realize this is an older posting, but I just watched Anne Marie’s video.  She chooses the font from InDesign’s font menu, but when I go to my menu, the font is not available.  Is this a font that I need to download elsewhere or purchase from another source?

    Oops, I just read the last paragraph of your blog post that mentions that it is a font for purchase, and where to buy it ... my question has already been answered, thanks!  It would have been great if the video had mentioned this because I wasted a lot of time searching my hard drive and scouring my font management system in case the font wasn’t activated, but alas, the font is a commercial font that doesn’t ship with InDesign.

Share your feedback, work, homages, questions, wisecracks, advice, critiques, riffs, derision (within reason), frustrations, and love of all things graphical. Log in (or register) to lend your voice.