Yeah. That’s very clickbait of me. But for real. It is that useful to me as an organizational tool. A quick detour:
My first career was in frontline IT service roles. 5 years . Supporting and engaging users at Indiana University across a wide range of technologies and use case scenarios. Those experiences might be one of the most important foundations in my success as a digital creative.
I’ve long had 2 problems hound me over the years.
- I can’t organize bookmarks, downloadable assets, learning resources, and cool inspirations and reference material in a meaningful media rich manner.
- I can’t collect my own thoughts and create self-reflecting documentation for my personalized methodologies and process.
Airtable solved both these issues, and that took a lot of cognitive load out of my daily routines.
With bookmark and asset collection, I’ve tried a wide range of tools..but no single one really took care of my picky need to drill deep and skim at the same time. I’ve been collecting online tools since day one. That means my asset history goes back to my first week in college. That’s…14 years of a diversity of bookmarks and assets? If I can’t make that collection legit useful, it’s pointless.
This is my collection of bookmarks representing all the URLs to downloadable Photoshop brush kits found across the web. Yes. I had to do a lot of dull work to screenshot every link and manually enter some metadata (nights and weekends, chunk by chunk)..but the media rich navigation really pays off for me when I want to skim quickly mid creative effort in Photoshop.
And in the other direction, here’s a list of stock image sites I really like to use. A more traditional spreadsheet list with some cute design bubbles to see metadata a bit differently.
You can really dial in just how much metadata is visible to you in any given information layout. These are a bunch of different color palette tools and generators I’ve rounded up over the years.
Your databases can go really really deep. This is mine. I get really nerdy about this kind of stuff, so I tend to go quite overboard.
However, it’s fair to say that because you’re actually able to go this deep, it winds up being a fantastic knowledge base platform for creatives and organizations. You can create share links for your databases and even embed them on websites.
Airtable has a really robust templates gallery as well demonstrating countless other use cases for their platform.
I think typically they market as a project management solution with media rich databases/spreadsheets. My own value has been in the semi-static knowledge resource realm.
By having my long history and wide wide breadth of url resources all sorted and organized for my own weird quirky brain has helped me work faster as a practitioner, improved the sophistication of my executions by having more immediate access to tutorial groupings, and has amplified my expertise by always having a useful URL to share at my finger tips.
And…by having a static and organizational structure for online assets has granted me an external structure I can North Star my organizational logistics of self against…which clarifies how I can self-document process and store that in a meaningful way.
By solving 2 semi-related but co-dependent issues on a single flexible platform I eliminated a massive micro-time waster from my routine. Airtable starts with very useful free accounts (but the paid tier operates on a per-user subscription basis till you reach enterprise), and has been in operation for over 5 years and steadily growing. They are unlikely to fold. You can do a push style sync with google sheets for backing up data as well. There are also some Slack integration..but not much. Oh. And if you share AirTable urls…they come across a little ugly. Embedding is best.
I think everyone should have a side-car database to their Dropbox and GSuite that isn’t constantly changing with what data/documents are moving in and out and constantly altering.
An information space organized that updates slowly, that retains reliable reference information and valuable productivity resources. A something that can stabilize the disposable half of media rich communications. It’s lumpy wording…I know. What I’m getting at is if most of our tools help us operate in the “fast lane” of business. We should be extracting the evergreen knowledge and placing that into an organizational “slow lane” to create a deeper and more significant learning tool for our teams and selves.
I think Airtable fills that need very very well, and is quick/easy to learn and begin implementing.