We all love avatars - it's a way to represent ourselves online, while also tapping into our sense of 'play'. Avatars can also allow us to create a different persona, through a feeling of anonymity.
In gaming, avatars have been a longstanding tradition, normally essential to gameplay, and are a way of generating community. What's interesting is when that tactic moves into the tech 'SaaS' world - a world which traditionally has a profit-first obsession of customer acquisition, and often which feels miles away from the welcoming and inclusive feeling you get in gaming .
If you're wondering what those black and white avatars you've been seeing all over the web are - especially on Twitter - they're Notion avatars. As a SaaS tool, Notion has subverted the clash of community and growth and has created a growth movement, arguably on the back of avatars, that has given its users an inclusive-community feel. What started out as a thing for Notion employees has turned into a vehicle of growth and I'll explain why:
- What is Notion?
- Why are Notion avatars important for the community and growth?
- Refreshing Minimalism 'Aesthetic'
- Instant Community
- Instant Brand Recognition
- Where can you get a Notion avatar?
What is Notion?
Imagine a world where you only had to log into one place to access your work, instead of 5? Notion is an 'all-in-one' digital tool which has built a growing cult following, replacing a lot of tools like Google Drive, Airtable, Asana, Trello, Monday, Jira and more.
Essentially, Notion is a 'tool to build your dream tool'. Using Notion's system of blocks (text, video, databases - and embeds of virtually anything), you can build anything you need, whether it's a website (like this one), a travel bucket list, client portals or student dashboards.
As a Certified Notion Consultant, I help my clients build solutions to all sorts of things - from recipe managers for private chefs, to bespoke exhibition project management systems for art galleries. The opportunities truly are endless. If you'd like to chat more, shoot me an email (after you read this article!)
Why are Notion avatars important for the community and growth?
Refreshing Minimalism 'Aesthetic'
In a world where it seems like everything is trying to get our attention with loud/bold text and colours, the minimalistic black and white style of Notion avatars quite literally stands out by ... trying to not stand out.
You could say there's a logical correlation between the sort of users who are drawn to Notion (typically like everything to be organised) and why the minimalist style does so well.
Although, the minimalist style spreads further than Notion avatars - Notion's system has very specific formatting constraints, which means the designs you can produce are also very minimalistic.
For many people, the 'Notion world' is an escape from the noise of the tech/design world and where they can find a haven in simplicity.
Ironically, the reason why my brand 'The Notion Bar' has gained traction, is my brand style and tone-of-voice is intentionally relatively 'maximalist', with a big focus on design/UX, in a minimalist space. I suppose many Notion fans have found my take on Notion 'refreshing'
Over the past few years, it seems like the 'cult' of Notion has spread like wildfire. From students discovering it and planning their entire lives on it via YouTube/TikTok, to founders and firms building out their entire business processes on it.
One theory for cult-like growth I have is the almost silent wave of black and white profile pictures popping up on sites like Twitter, where a large amount of founders and 'tech people' tend to hang out.
To the average person, they're probably a bit confused why lots of people's profile images look like this now. However, for students, founders and 'tech people' (coincidentally, Notion's ideal target audience), this sort of 'mystery'/'exclusivity' is exactly what gets them obsessed with a product.
We've seen this tactic time and time again with 'invite-only' platforms like Clubhouse, or for a brief time, Dispo. The interesting part is that unlike Clubhouse and Dispo, Notion wasn't the one gatekeeping 'cool', it was its community, by creating their own sense of identity using Notion avatars in public spaces to show their permanent support.
Luckily for Notion, and why it can truly be considered a 'cult product', is after being drawn in by the avatars it tends to outlast the 'shiny new toy phase'. Why? it's actually a good product. It's absolutely not for everyone, which is fine, but for people who fall in love with it, they become obsessed and quite often to refuse to go back to using anything else.
"I always say that when it comes to Notion, people 'come for the tool, but stay for the community'"
A Notion user changing their display pictures to a Notion avatars does two things:
a) Shows people outside the Notion community you're in on whatever the big secret is (subconsciously gains you respect for the 'right crowd')
b) Shows people inside the Notion community you're in on the 'secret' and instantly makes them want to get to know you/share how you're both using Notion
Being welcomed into the Notion community is an incredibly exciting time - I almost wish I could do it all over again. I always say that when it comes to Notion, people 'come for the tool, but stay for the community'. The Notion community attracts people who are always willing to help you out with an idea - more often than not, relationships that start out because of Notion turn into real relationships.
Given there are so many benefits from being part of the Notion community, it's reasonable that some people might want to use an avatar to show their further commitment. All this phenomenon does is make an already strong community stronger, which will only do great things for Notion's growth trajectory.
Instant Brand Recognition
The art style is so recognisable now that once you see it anywhere, you think 'Notion'. So seeing the different avatars floating around Twitter means Notion is always subconsciously on your mind
It's a great marketing tool that has been used by Snapchat and Apple by their respective use of the Bitmoji & Memoji.
Furthermore the art style has inspired a whole new field of entrepreneurs who can make add-on products, in that style, for Notion fans - just like this cover art pack (affiliate)
Where can you get a Notion avatar?
If you want a custom Notion avatar, you can create a custom avatar yourself on Figma etc, or if you're not artistically-inclined (like myself), you can hire someone to create a custom Notion avatar for you.
I had my Notion avatar done by Roxana at NotionFlows, who also did the avatars for the The Notionettes. She's great, especially if you are a person of colour, or have textured hair etc, as this can often be tricky to capture in the black and white style! You can book in with Roxana here (affiliate)
If you are looking to create a series of Notion characters, like my characters for The Notion Bar, I made these using the amazing Open Peeps project by Pablo Stanley, which you can download here (affiliate)
To conclude, getting a Notion avatar is like a 'badge of honour' for many people in the Notion community. I can't imagine it's long before people start making 'Notion avatars' of famous people, turning them into NFTs and all sorts - let's see!
Hi, I'm Frances Odera Matthews, Founder of The Notion Bar
I'm a Certified Notion Consultant, Coach & Template Builder, working remotely in the UK.
I know how teams/people 'work' - I'm a seasoned design-thinker with project management experience across many verticals. I'm also passionate about advocating for underrepresented tech communities
As a Notion Expert, I specialise in Notion dashboards, products, templates and workflows optimised for UI and UX. I build mass-market and bespoke digital solutions/products that extend what Notion should look like, feel like and be.
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