The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Venn Diagrams

Visualization is one of the most powerful ways to convey information. It allows us to quickly judge relationships, ratios, trend lines, and many other data points that would be much less obvious were we to rely on text only. There are a large number of charts and diagrams available for specific instances that will convey the information in a data set in an efficient and easy to understand way. Understanding which of those tools to use at which time is an important part of being an effective communicator.

Today, we'd like to talk about a common example of such diagrams called the Venn diagram. You've likely seen quite a few Venn diagrams while browsing social media sites, as they are commonly used. Let's dig down into what Venn diagrams are, as well as how you can use and create them.

What Is a Venn Diagram?

What Is a Venn Diagram?

Often, you'll have a set of data that overlaps in some way. When understanding how the data overlaps is important, a Venn diagram is a great choice. The diagram itself consists of circles, each representing a given set of objects. For example, one circle might be humans, and another might be birds. Each circle will list characteristics of the things contained within it. If there are characteristics that both sets have, then the circles are overlapped and those items are placed in the overlap. In our humans vs birds Venn diagram, things like eyes and two-legs would be in the overlap. Wings would only be in the bird section, and teeth would only be in the human section.

Venn Diagram Examples

We've seen one example of a simple two circle Venn diagram in the description above. Let's take a look at some other ways such Venn diagrams may be used.

  • Comparing the features of two languages
  • Comparing the characteristics of similar animal species
  • Comparing the positions of multiple political parties
  • Comparing the role of amino acids in the body

As you can imagine, some of these Venn diagrams can get much more complicated than a simple two-circle solution. Comparing a large number of sets against a large number of characteristics can require multiple circles that are overlapping, and several that are fully contained within other circles. Creating such Venn diagrams can be a challenge without software to help.

How to Make a Venn Diagram

Venn diagrams are easiest to make if you have some form of Venn diagram software. However, the diagrams were first popularized by John Venn in the 1880s, so it's certainly possible to create one even if your only Venn diagram tool is paper and a pencil. Venn diagrams can be made of any shape, though circles are the most popular because it is easy to overlap multiple circles. Creating a Venn diagram is a simple process.

    1. Decide what your sets are and draw a circle for each.
    2. Put the list of characteristics in each circle.
    3. Examine which characteristics overlap with those in another circle.
    4. Redraw the circles so the overlapping data can be listed within each circle it belongs without having to write it twice.
    5. Rewrite the list of characteristics in the new diagram.

Venn Diagram Software

For simple Venn diagrams, you might not need to draw the circles twice. You may already know exactly what overlap exists between the items. This is easy when there are only two items and the list of characteristics is small. For larger Venn diagrams, you can save all of that planning time by using a visualization tool like MindManager. Venn diagram makers like that allow you to simply create the list of characteristics for each set that you want to include, and they'll automatically draw the diagram for you with the correct number of circles and the correct overlaps. Most good visualization software will also contain Venn diagram templates to help you craft the perfect look for your diagram.

Get Started Fast with Templates!

MindManager comes pre-installed with many templates for you to choose from. To use these templates:

  1. Open MindManager
  2. Click NEW in the navigation menu
  3. Select the template you want to use
  4. A preview screen will appear. Check to if you want to use your selected template
  5. Select Create Map
  6. Customize the template for your specific project

Other Types of Maps and Charts

Conclusion

Properly conveying your ideas is an important part of communication. Venn diagrams can be a useful tool for showing how you've reached the conclusions that you have, or for illustrating information so that others can help you brainstorm ideas. When you learn to use a Venn diagram creator, you'll be able to more effectively put your ideas out there. Download a free trial today to learn how MindManager can improve your communication and organization skills.