Finding a more efficient process using fonts
So far, I have been translating raw DNA data from a series of letters representing alleles for each genotype (Adenine, Cytosine, Thymine, Guanine) to a series of symbols in Adobe Illustrator. There are 10 symbols to represent the 10 possible allele combinations: AA, AC, AG, AT, CC, CG, CT, GG, GT, and TT.
The problem with this method is that it is extremely time consuming to manually place each symbol into the artboard one at a time. Chromosome #1 alone contains over 50,000 basepairs, requiring a 225 x 225 unit artboard, or 22.5 in x 22.5 in. This method also leaves a lot of room for human error, as it depends on my own accuracy when placing symbols.
This led me to try a different approach by creating a custom color font. By creating a symbol-based font, I can easily translate letters A, C, T, and G in to shape symbols. Then I can copy the text from the spreadsheet and paste it into a design program, where I can easily edit the letterspacing, linespacing, and text frame size to try different configurations more rapidly. I designed a set of symbols in Illustrator and used the FontSelf software extension to create some test fonts (below).
This method worked really well and was much faster. However, the obvious limitation of traditional fonts is a lack of color. Color can be applied to a font, but it would be time consuming to apply unique colors to each character. So I began to explore color fonts, which are finally becoming a real option for designers. Unfortunately color fonts are not yet supported by Adobe Illustrator, so I had to adjust my workflow to Adobe Photoshop. Here are two examples of color test fonts, again created with FontSelf:
Below is the data for my Chromosome #1, translated into the two test fonts. Each panel is 22.5 in x 22.5 in, with each allele symbol sized at .1 in x .05 in.