FF Chartwell contains a multitude of chart styles.

They’re basically a clever hack of the ligatures that prevent certain combinations of letters from looking funky.

An example of an infographic made possible with FF Chartwell.

An example of an infographic made possible with FF Chartwell.

Turning a series of numbers (such as "55+67+89") into a chart becomes as easy as highlighting them, and changing their font.

You can then update the chart simply by editing the numbers.

A circular Gant-like chart available on FF Chartwell.

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Infographics Become Easy As Pie, With This Disruptive Font

FF Chartwell is an astonishingly clever hack of font technology, which allows you to build stunning graphs without spreadsheets.

This is part of a series highlighting notable entries in our Innovation By Design Awards. Finalists will be announced in September.—Ed.

Excel is my worst enemy, as I’m a firm believer that spreadsheets should be a punishment mandated only by the federal and state government tax code. And that’s a shame, because you can make some robust graphs in Excel.

FF Chartwell is like a graphing tool for the rest of us. There are no cells to highlight or windows for values. Instead, you simply type the values you want in a graph, separated by plus signs. Then, as easily as you would swap a font, you can highlight the numbers and instantly transform them into several different, sharp-looking graphs.

"If you want to get picky, FF Chartwell’s not really a typeface in the traditional sense," explains creator Travis Kochel. "However, everything exists within a font file. Each possible chart shape exists as a separate glyph. When the OpenType features are activated, the numbers [are] automatically swapped out with the corresponding shapes. Much in the same manner as a ligature."

Ligatures are not traditional characters. They’re actually cheats that prevent glyphs (letters) from crashing into one another and mucking up the text (they’ve actually been around since the advent of written language, but have only been popularized again more recently on digital platforms). So where an "f" and an "l" would naturally intersect, a properly spaced single unit "fl" may take its place, and none of us are any the wiser. Kochel illustrates the principle well on his blog. And the only way Chartwell was possible was by exploiting these ligatures.

So if a bar replaces the number 55, know that a bar of that exact length was pre-rendered by Kochel long ago—it’s hiding within the files of your computer, along with a bar for 54 and 56. Because of ligatures, these complex graphical symbols can be swapped in just as easily as any letter is typed on your screen. You type 54+55+56 and you get three bars (or wedges, rings, radar chirps or lines) of corresponding bulk. And making graphs—even those that get extremely abstract—really does become as simple as typing.

FF Chartwell is available as a full pack for $125, or broken into individual fonts for $25 apiece. A web font version should be available soon.

Buy it here.

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  • Frank gavan wilson

    Looks promising and creative. Definitely worth 20  to see how it works in presentation text based documents. Would save lots of time/ Still many questions as always with something so radically new to design

  • Chris Reich

    I would like to try it but can't find any way to do so without buying it.  Is there a demo version somewhere?

    Chris Reich

  • Matt Maginley

    One of the benefits of having Chartwell is to be able to plug in the data and see what the data represents to draw conclusions and understand the implications. Then, from having the insight there is a degree of excitement that comes from understanding which fuels the passion for sharing it with others.

  • Kelly Tall

    I've been using Chartwell and later FF Chartwell for a while now, and it's a fantastic tool. Find it much more flexible than using the charting tool in Illustrator, and compared to the ugly output of excel, there is no comparison.
    As for the comment by Leedecola ; well yeah, of course it needs someone who knows what they are doing with the data to make an insightful visualisation; but that's the same with any tool. But it certainly makes the output a hell of lot more visually appealing than most tools, and there is definitely a lot less messing about trying to improve the look of the output.

  • LeeDeCola

    i'd like to see chartwell applied to some actual data. it would be surprising if any tool made it possible for someone with little analytical experience to design a plot that showed the insight they want their audience to gain.