Each piece of artwork and merchandise for Claire’s display in the Artist Market at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George was required to have unique, coded labels. This was to help any volunteers at the checkout keep track of sales. I knew I could generate unique sequences of identifier codes using Excel and print them from a Word label template, but I wanted to include a colour logo and apply styles that might be awkward to achieve in Word.
InDesign and QuarkXPress can import Excel spreadsheet data, but I couldn’t find label templates for them. Although Illustrator doesn’t import easily from Excel, it does have label templates and its tools offer lots of precision, so I decided to work with Illustrator and Excel.
I started by creating a sequence of unique identifier codes in Excel, by making two numbered cells in a row, selecting them, then grabbing the +sign handle and dragging the selection down to create a numbered sequence as long as I wanted.
Then I opened a label template (Avery 5167 – 80/sheet) in Adobe Illustrator.
On a separate layer, I placed the Canada Winter Games logo that we were authorized to use, and the price for Claire’s art magnets we wanted to label and track. I locked these layers so I wouldn’t risk accidentally moving any of those elements, then created a new layer for the codes.
Next step was to create a text container box in Illustrator, then make 3 copies of it.
Back in Excel, I selected my column of sequenced code from CMK-mag-1 to CMK-mag-80, clicked Copy, moved to Illustrator, selected the first text box with my Area Type Tool, and Pasted the string of code into the box.
Of course, I needed to increase the leading so each code would land in the same position on each label.
Once that was fixed, I selected all four text boxes, went up to the Type menu, selected Threaded Text -> Create. (This is the equivalent of linking text boxes in InDesign or QuarkXPress.)
After adjusting the bottoms of a couple of text boxes, all 80 code numbers fit into the same place on their own unique labels.
I was ready to print to a Postscript laser printer.
There’s probably a way to accomplish this in Word, but this was a lot easier. Having built the file in layers, I am able to quickly build variations with additional Illustrator Pasteboards. And it was easy to select codes and prices to create master inventory sheets in Illustrator for the checkout.
I now realize that I could also create custom, graphic-rich labels in InDesign and QuarkXPress by saving an Illustrator label template as a PDF, importing it into ID or Quark, then designing my labels on a separate layer above. A key challenge is to have the printer deposit its ink or toner exactly within the label perimeters, not overlapping the edges, and this process should offer the same precision as my Illustrator-Excel workflow.