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The Notion Coach

Creating A Visual Library in Notion

by Dave de Cespedes
by Dave de Cespedes

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Notion’s ability to network with tasks, projects, and other databases in infinite permutations is what sets it apart from other bookmarking/visual library tools

It’s no secret (especially to friends) that I love Notion as a tool that helps organize my life. Its ability to link different databases and spaces fluidly, while being able to customize what’s visibility at any given time, has created — to borrow Tiago Forte’s term — a Second Brain for all things work, teaching, and personal.

When I first started using Notion, I would look for super-users and try to recreate their workspaces, or copy super-complex templates and try to adapt them to my needs. I’d always end up getting overwhelmed, as there was a lot of information that I either didn’t need, or didn’t benefit from tracking.

When setting up a new page or workspace, start lean. You can always add more depth or complexity as you dive deeper into projects.

Lately, I’ve been exploring using Notion as a visual library, encompassing images picked up around the web as inspiration and reference for my branding and web design work. There’s plenty of tools out there — I’ve probably used Pinterest the most in terms of collecting images — but Notion’s database-linking and view customizations based on properties means I can customize what information is present at any given time.

These steps are simply to get your library up and running, but you can definitely add a lot more information based on what you’re working on, and how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go.

  1. For articles, I’d recommend using Notion’s Web Clipper Browser Extension (web clipper is great for articles, but might not work for image-heavy pages)
  2. Use a screen capture extension (like FireShot) to grab imagery from a site
  3. Set up a tag system for useful filtering and sorting of your gallery
  4. Connect imagery to projects using Linked Databases
  5. Customize gallery views depending on your workflow

Create Page

  1. Create a page.
  2. Create an Inline Table.
  3. Add columns based on what added information you’d like to add along with the image. (Want to refer back to the original page? Add a space for the URL. Associate images with ideas or notes? Add a Comment section.

Using FireShot to Capture a Webpage

After you grab a screenshot, select “Copy to Clipboard”

Add Images to your Library

This parts a bit manual, but you want to get three things:

  1. Title
  2. Link
  3. Tags (helpful to filter and sort your mood board later)
  4. Image

Super-Power Your Library with Linked Databases

  1. When adding a property, select ‘Relation,’ and select your Project database (if you don’t have one, now’s a perfect time to create one!)
  2. You can change the name of the property (eg. ‘Project’)This part gets more fun and addicting, the more you link different areas of your workspace.

When we’re saving imagery, it’s often related to a project or task you’re working on. If you’ve set up a space for projects, you can reference them within the mood board. In short, linked databases allow you to find a visual library image from your project and vice versa.

The possibilities are endless with linking more databases — tasks, areas, resources. Just remember, don’t overdue it early!

Customize and Create Multiple Views

  1. When adding a property, select ‘Relation,’ and select your Project database (if you don’t have one, now’s a perfect time to create one!)
  2. You can change the name of the property (eg. ‘Project’)

Apart from linked databases, the variety of custom views allows you to create multiple formats of the same page.

The value of your visual library grows exponentially the more its integrated to projects, tasks, and things you’re working on. Why save so much content if not to be able to quickly reference all of it? This has always been a sticking point with other tools; it starts to feel unwieldy after a while, and I suspect its largely because — whether its Pocket or Pinterest — they start to feel like silos with an infinite number of references and links, all of which I found interesting at some point, but later have no context as to why, where, and how I might reference this stuff.

The more you refine your workspace, the more it’ll reflect how your mind operates.

Keep in mind, this is simply a starting point to get your visual library up and running, but if used regularly, it will more closely reflect how your brain works — what properties you prioritize, how detailed or sparse you want references displayed, and how you customize views via sorting and filtering.

If you’re curious, here’s the Superform Labs Visual Library; feel free to copy the format and rework it!
If you’re curious, check out the Superform Labs Visual Libraryfeel free to copy the format and rework it!