Leonardo da Vinci is known as the Shakespeare of art and engineering. Leonardo, sought out most of his knowledge by himself, from books he read.

Building a Digital Brain Board

Adam Breckler
Mar 21 · 4 min read

Notebooking, Topic Forests, Trees of Knowledge & Digital “Brain Boards

Quick! What do you know about Leonardo da Vinci? He painted the Mona Lisa! He also wrote his notes backwards. He designed supercool bridges and flying machines. He was a genius about, um… a lot of other… things…

It turns out, in addition to all of that, Leonardo was also a copious note taker.

Leonardo’s notebooks are a fascinating insight into his mind. Now the British Library has published its collection online, it’s even easier to study them — with or without translation

His notebooks, writes Jonathan Jones at The Guardian, represent:

“the living record of a universal mind.” And yet, though a “technophile” himself, “when it came to publication, Leonardo was a luddite…. He made no effort to get his notes published.”

Why? Was he secretive, or just waiting for the right moment, a moment that never came?

Instead, his writings and drawings survived as notes, which he left to his loyal pupil Francesco Melzi. Some of these were in small bound books — the V&A in London has one on permanent display that fits in the palm of an adult hand — while others were on larger sheets that were bound or rebound after Leonardo’s death giving us a glimpse into the mind of one of the greatest thinkers and knowledge harvestors in history.

Trees of Knowledge & Topic Forests

The Internet is the greatest forest of information and collective knowledge ever known. How can we better navigate its pathways?

Valentin Perez showcases his Notion board dedicated to organizing notes by topic called a Topic forest, along with his own ‘Digital Brain’ page

Many tools like Evernote, Pocket and countless others have attempted to put a modern spin on the concept of notebooking, which has evolved into bookmarking in a digital context.

However, none of these tools are quite suited towards building a collection of links alongside providing a way of annotating notes, together.

Thankfully Notion provides a flexible enough tool to combine the best of notes and bookmarks together in a single place, allowing for new creative forms of note-taking and note/taxonomy classification than previously available.

Building a Digital Brain Board on Notion

The goal of a brain board, similar to a collection of bookmarks is to leave behind digital ‘trails’ of links/cards along with a ‘learning’ appended to each card in order to codify key takeaways from the information.

What’s amazing to see is how just the simple combination of a note + a link can provide such a rich glimpse into someone’s current state of thought.

The artifact of which is a personal digital knowledge tree which showcases not only insights over time, but the pathways that preceded those insights.

Want to try it out for yourself?

  1. In order to make it easy to get started with your own brain board, i’ve created a Notion template here.

Don’t have a Notion account? First signup here for a free account and to get $10 in initial credits.

2. In order to use this template, you must copy the template to your own Notion account, full instructions here on how to do so.

One more thing…

An experiment - connect your brain to the hive mind

Now that you have your brain board set up, wouldn’t it be cool to connect it up to the collective hive mind for sharing insights?

3. Fill out this form to join the public brain board collective and add your brain board link to the directory of other public boards.

In order to do this you must set the permission of your brain board to publicly accessible.

Note: For keeping links private, just check the privacy option to ‘Private’ when you save a note so it won’t show up in your public view.

4. After you are done you can view other brain boards automatically via an app made using glideapps here.

About the Author

Adam Breckler is the Founder of Prism Labs, building Bridge.Academy.

You can follow him on twitter here.

You can follow his public brain board here.

Adam Breckler

Written by

Internet Professional, Currently: Founder, Prism Labs (Prism.io) Previously: Co-founder & VP Product @ Visual.ly