Wheels of Fortune, Part 1


A “wheel” (a circle divided into labeled sectors) is a good way to show the parts of a unified whole: product applications, sales markets, etc. A wheel can also represent a set of  outcomes or choices like the traditional “wheel of fortune.”

This series of posts will present a few examples with tips on how to construct and animate these objects. The first example displays the components of a web marketing strategy; the shapes emphasize the idea that each component is important to the overall strategy:


These wheel designs use Arcs, Block Arcs and transformed text. To create and adjust these shapes accurately, it’s a good idea to start with a layout. (My gear and clock posts also demonstrate this technique.) Here’s the layout for the web marketing wheel:


Here’s how to create the layout. First, set up horizontal and vertical drawing guides to help center and align the wheel components. Add and center the two circles. Use narrow outlines and a color that will contrast with the final object.

There are a few different ways to complete the layout:

  • Do the math.  Determine the angles needed (divide 360 degrees by the number of sectors) and, using the Size and Position pane, set the Rotation of a number of Lines. If you have an odd number of sectors, center the first sector at the top of the circle. After you have created a few lines, Arrange/Flip and Rotate duplicates of the lines to fill in the rest. This is the technique used in the clock and gear posts.
  • Use a pre-defined shape as a guide for the radial lines; lines (connectors) will “stick” to specific points on the shape to automatically establish the angles. Luckily, a circle (Oval with equal height and width) has eight such (red) points so that creating the layout for the web marketing wheel is easy:


Take care when using a pre-defined shape; here’s a 5-Point Star with the height and width equal, compared with one that has been manually “fitted” to the circle:


The differences in the radial lines are small but the first set will cause problems later in the construction of a wheel. Avoid the Hexagon – it’s difficult to make it equilateral; use an adjusted 6-Point Star.

  • Use a “SmartArt” diagram as a basis for the wheel. For example, create a Basic Pie, ungroup it and work with the resulting components. Here’s how that might work:


This works if you have 7 or fewer segments. However, since the segments are not Arcs, they can be difficult to edit if needed later in the construction.

Ungrouped SmartArt shapes are not what they appear to be; rather than circles, Arcs, Rectangles, etc., they are Freeforms.

  • Use SmartArt to create the layout. Here’s how this might work for a 13 segment wheel using a Basic Radial diagram:


Use whatever method is easiest for you and your project.

To complete the web marketing strategy wheel, start with the layout, create a Block Arc and center it on the layout. Hold down Shift when creating the arc so that the circle which contains the arc has equal width and height. Adjust the diameter and use the handles to fit the shape to the layout:


Adjust the fit carefully and make sure the arc remains centered and that the height and width of the arc are equal.

To make the segment labels, create a text box and apply Text Effects/Transform/Follow Path/Arch Up.  Using the Size and Position pane, set the width and height equal and check Lock Aspect Ratio. Center, rotate and size the transformed text to fit within the segment:


Again, take care that the transformed text is centered an has equal height and width. You may want to add a circle to the layout to help consistently position the text.

Continue the process by duplicating and editing these elements.  For the text, I suggest you rotate each copy of the text to its upright, unrotated position to assure that it is centered and then rotate it to the target position. It’s a little difficult to tell if the text is centered when it is rotated. You can fill (color) the arc and the text as you go along. It is also helpful to group each arc with its text as you complete each sector.

For the text in the bottom half of the wheel, use the Arch Down option for the transform.

There’s a lot of stuff in this graphic, all overlapped, so that it is difficult to manually select the object you want. In these kinds of situations, use the Selection and Visibility pane to help, applying meaningful names to the parts if needed (see this post for details).

The icons are constructed in PowerPoint using the techniques demonstrated in several other posts; this one, for example.

Once the sectors are completed, double check at high zoom to make sure there aren’t any gaps or mis-positioned sectors. Use the Size and Position pane to check that the height and width are equal for the text and arcs and the drawing guides to assure that the elements are centered.

The 3d effect is achieved by grouping all the parts of the wheel, applying a 3d Depth (70 pts) and using the Perspective Right rotation.

Here’s an animated version of the (2d) wheel:

The animation uses the Wedge effect. The way this effect works makes the timing a little tricky, the details of which I will not detail so as to not further bore you .

To get a free copy of a PowerPoint file containing the elements of this post, use this form:

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