The question of building timelines came up today from a viewer and also in my teachings as well at Seattle Central College. Students are currently work on data visualization posters and using several way so show data, time, quantities, distance in charts, graphs and icons. This is just some of the ways I go about creating a time line.
When starting a time line, I set my measurements to MM. This makes it really easy to break each segment out into an easy to divide size. In this case I am using months. If I need 1/2 a month, I just make it 20 MM wide instead of 40 MM. I never have to guess the size if I use a measurement I can easily work with.
I start with rectangles, spacing them apart at a fixed size, as in this case 5 MM. Then duplicate and color them.
I add type. This is Museo Slab 700, a nice slightly-serifed face that looks clean and works well for quick visual intake.
I add lines, 5pt, to the top and bottom alternating the lines up and down to create connectors. The lines are capped with a round cap in the Stroke Panel.
I add text to the lower part, using a dark gray color. I almost never use black as it creates too much contrast. This is 75% gray.
I add a circle the top or bottom of the line, centering the circle on the end of the line for perfect alignment on all the connectors. I stroke the circle with a 5 pt gray and fill the center with whit to cover up the connector. Then I add text to the inside of the circle to draw the reader into the specific date in this case.
The months are added in as a 10% gray to help keep the contrast a bit muted. Now each section can be easily duplicated for more months.