John Venn and the John Venn Diagram

Published by Gerald Ferreira Date: August 3, 2014

Today Google is celebrating the legacy of logician, mathematician and philosopher John Venn. He was born today 180 years ago on the 4th of August 1834 in Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire, England and died on the 4 April 1923 at the age of 88in Cambridge, England.


John Venn was best known for best known for introducing the Venn diagram. In the diagram, circles are used to visually and logically sort groups to illustrate their relationships to each other.

For example in the John Venn Google Doodle if you click on the Car, the one circle will change to all things related to a “CAR” or to transport in this case. If you click on one of the icons in the second circle you will get a second set of items, in our case we clicked on the bird. The second circle then showed us things with wings.

The Overlapping of the two circles in our case then showed an aero plane. Transport + Wings = a Plane. The John Venn diagram makes it easy to visualize things and in this example of use of the John Venn diagram makes it easy to spot what is common between two different things, or what two things when combined make.

The John Venn diagram is also today an integral part of psychology and psychologists use the John Venn Diagram frequently to explain relationships between husband and wife, and how they can find the common things that makes the relationship work. The diagram also illustrates how important it is for people to have a balanced life, and the importance of having things inside as well as outside of the common fields.

About the John Venn Google Doodle

Mike Dutton was the team leader on the John Venn Google Doodle development and was asked a few questions relating to the John Venn Diagram Google Doodle.


How did the idea develop to create the John Venn Google Doodle?

The John Venn diagram in general are naturally pretty fun. So as far as finding an idea for an interactive doodle, The John Venn Google Doodle was a no-brainer. But finding a way to clearly and correctly communicate how these diagrams actually work was a bit trickier.

Eventually, the doodler team leader Mike Dutton sat down with two of the doodle engineers, Corrie Scalisi (the engineer of this doodle) and Mark Ivey. Were they spent a Friday afternoon on a patio with the sole mission of figuring this out.

They threw around all kinds of ideas while Mike Dutton doodled them on a giant sketchpad. There were plenty of silly ideas, and some really great ones. Ultimately, that’s what went into making the final doodle. Sound logic and silliness.

This looks more like a kid's game than usual doodles.  What made you choose this style?

Many of us first learned about the John Venn diagrams in our early school years, so that was a factor. While it was important to make something all users could enjoy, Corrie and I wanted to make something kids would find especially fun and educational.

The specific visual style was initially based on old math and science textbooks. However, as the project developed I realized it would be better served with a fresh vibrant look that could easily be animated. The biggest visual cue came in the form of the Venn diagram itself: circles. I basically cut circles up into as many ways as I could using Illustrator, and the style guide gradually emerged

Which combination did you enjoy coming up with and animating the most?

My favorite that I worked on would probably have to be the kraken. I loved the idea of taking something that is utterly terrifying, such as a large sea creature that devours entire ships, and turning it into just a little dude having a bit of fun, albeit still at the expense of the ship and its crew. As long the diagram checked out logically, it was fun to take liberties in the final reveals.

Some of my favorite animations actually came from Corrie, who didn't let her role as engineer stop her from taking a crack at a few. She says she did them for fun, but they also served as a friendly nudge halfway through the project that we absolutely needed to animate the final reveals, even if it meant a lot more work!

What was the hardest combination to come up with?

The hardest combination was actually one that seems simple: Vegetation/Mythical. I’m not a certified wizarding horticulturalist by any means, but luckily someone else on the team was able to suggest either a mandrake or a treant/ent.


On a related note, it was another project highlight getting other doodlers involved. Big thanks to Sophia Foster-Dimino for creating and animating a few of the final combinations and to Kevin Laughlin for additional illustration help.


So next time you want to easily illustrate the common thing between two objects, or what objects create when they are combined into one think of the John Venn Diagrams and use them to illustrate such things!