A history of the Venn diagram

Lucid Content Team

Reading time: about 4 min


  • Education

In today's Internet-obsessed world, Venn diagrams have become a meme standby. But if you're an educator, you're old enough to remember when Venn diagrams were a respected, if not ubiquitous, learning tool for all ages and grade levels. If you are an educator or student, sign up for a free Lucidchart education account and try our Venn digram maker, after you finish reading this article of course :). For more information check out our complete Venn Diagram Tutorial.

venn diagram How did we go from this...


venn diagram maker ...to this?


A brief history

Students might be surprised to learn that Venn diagrams are borrowed from the world of math--they began as schematic diagrams used in logic theory to represent set collections and to symbolize their respective relationships. So how did the Venn diagram go from staid mathematical outline to buzzworthy meme? And how can teachers bring the venerable Venn diagram full circle, to its rightful place as a fun and useful teaching tool? Venn diagrams derive their name from John Venn, who popularized their use in 1880 with his paper entitled, "On the Diagrammatic and Mechanical Representation of Propositions and Reasonings." But Venn diagrams have been around for much longer--philosophers and mathematicians have been employing similar diagrams since the 13th century. Meme-fying the Venn diagram So when did Venn diagrams become an Internet meme? No one seems to know, but I did some digging and found what appears to be the first jokey Venn diagram published to a popular website. Behold: venn diagram

This diagram first appeared July 22, 2008 on I'd Rather Be Writing, a blog focused on technical writing. About a year later, this Venn diagram popped up on Laughing Squid, a site that features "interesting art, culture & technology."

venn diagram example

From 2009 to 2010, Venn diagrams exploded, to the point that online denizens started complaining about unfunny iterations. Nerve even featured Venn diagrams in their "Internet Meme Hall of Fame." But the last year has seen a steady decline in Venn diagram memes on sites that feature such content, and the Venn is no longer en vogue.

Reclaiming Venn diagrams in the classroom

Venn diagrams are an incredible learning tool because they're suitable for two main areas: 1) math and 2) everything else. Here are some ideas for incorporating Venn diagrams into your curricula: Math & Logic

Everything else Compare/contrast subjects, people, or places, like the following:

  • Historical figures: Founding Fathers, suffragettes, civil rights activists, military leaders
  • Objects: fruits, vegetables, vehicles, geometric shapes
  • Animals: frog/toad, donkey/mule, eagle/hawk
  • Literary characters: Jean Valjean/Javert, Gollum/Smeagol, Ramona/Beezus
venn diagram

Why use Lucidchart as your Venn diagram generator? Lucidchart is the ideal vehicle for creating Venn diagrams for several reasons:

  • Venn diagram templates - We have ready-made templates for 2-, 3-, and 4-circle  diagrams. Tailor them to your needs or use as is.
  • Customizable design options - Tweak gradient levels, shape colors, text font and size, and even the thickness of shape borders. Your diagrams will look vibrant and professional.
  • Google image search - GIS is built into the editor, so you can quickly import relevant images.
  • Drag and drop functionality - The editor is incredibly intuitive, so you can create a Venn diagram with perfect circles and clean, aligned text in a matter of seconds.
  • Digital flexibility - Drag the corners of the canvas to increase the dimensions of your canvas. Our technology also lets you stretch circles into elliptical shapes, or to retain their aspect ratio with a single click.
  • Publish anywhere - Share your diagram with the world by using our publishing options. Your diagram can be shared to blogs, wikis, social media sites, image files, or a unique webpage hosted on our site.
  • Real-time collaboration - An unlimited number of collaborators can edit a diagram simultaneously. Edits are synced and saved automatically, and we keep a robust revision history in case anybody gets too excited.
How do I get started? If you haven't tried Lucidchart for Venn diagrams, sign up or log in and explore the possibilities. You can also click the 'Create' button, hit 'New Document', and then select your favorite Venn diagram template. Happy diagramming!

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