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28: Drawing it out

A Thousand Things to Talk About
28: Drawing it out
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vennToday, we’re talking about drawing it out.

Specifically, what kind of diagram do you love and why?

Show notes and links:
100 Diagrams that Changed the World (Brain Pickings)

A history of the Venn diagram (Lucidchart)


Full episode text

In many ways, diagrams could be argued to be the first written language of humanity. After all, a diagram is, by definition, representing something in graphic form, and the earliest written languages were pictographic. However, despite the written word becoming less pictographic, diagrams have just deepened in their importance.

Fans of the documentary series “How We Got To Now” on PBS will even recall that it was a diagram of a few city blocks and a cholera outbreak that helped solidify the importance of clean water in cities, which can be traced to a whole host of huge social changes.

As Scott Christensen’s book “100 Diagrams That Changed the World” explores, it is, in fact, the diagram that has helped literally draw connections that influenced the directions of culture. As Brain Pickings quoted from his book:

“It appears that no great diagram is solely authored by its creator. Most of those described here were the culmination of centuries of accumulated knowledge. Most arose from collaboration (and oftentimes in competition) with others. Each was a product and a reflection of its unique cultural, historical and political environment.”

In fact, we can see this change simply by tracing the history of the Venn diagram as a meme. Venn diagrams had existed long ago in mathematics, yet it was only in 2008 that a blogger first used a Venn diagram to explain what, exactly, should even go on your blog. In 2009, website  Laughing Squid used one, and they exploded from there. Now they’re an accepted meme in our visual language.