The Semiotics of Spider Diagrams

James Burton, John Howse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spider diagrams are based on Euler and Venn/Peirce diagrams, forming a system which is as expressive as monadic first orderlogic with equality. Rather than being primarily intended for logicians,spider diagrams were developed at the end of the 1990s in the context of visual modelling and software specification. We examine the original goals of the designers, the ways in which the notation has evolved and itsconnection with the philosophical origins of the logical diagrams of Euler, Venn and Peirce on which spider diagrams are based. Using Peirce's concepts and classification of signs, we analyse the ways in which different sign types are exploited in the notation. Our hope is that this analysis may be of interest beyond those readers particularly interested in spider diagrams, and act as a case study in deconstructing a simple visual logic. Along the way, we discuss the need for a deeper semiotic engagement in visual modelling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-204
Number of pages28
JournalLogica Universalis
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2017

Bibliographical note

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  • Spider diagrams
  • logical diagrams
  • semiotics


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