From what I gather, one of Tufte's (and many others') objections to pie charts is that it is hard to tell the size of the slices with respect to the whole.

Yet, the intersection of Venn diagrams sometimes can show the proportion of data falling into the intersection. However, as these are not even circular sectors, doesn't the criticism of pie charts apply here as well; namely, that it is difficult to see the proportion of data in the intersection.

What does Tufte and other data visualisation experts have to say about this?

  • This seems like something you should ask Edward. I would wager that Venn Diagrams that do use overlapping proportions as meaningful are generally frowned on. I personally would argue that they are. – Evil Closet Monkey Apr 29 '16 at 18:24

I don't think that Tufte hates Venn diagrams, and the reason that he is not in favour of pie charts doesn't fully apply to Venn diagrams. I think as a visual tool Venn diagrams are not intended to be quantitative, much in the same way that if you use pie charts as a qualitative visual representation in specific scenarios it can be quite useful and even more effective compared to bar charts.

Perhaps you can get an answer from Tufte directly, but the fact that he is recommending books on Venn diagrams would suggest that he is not opposed to the appropriate use of Venn diagrams. See this forum post:


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