Tips & Stories

Etsy’s Jenn Vargas Shares Her Evernote Tips for Design Inspiration and Side Projects

Posted by Jenn Vargas on 26 May 2011

Posted by Jenn Vargas on 26 May 2011

Name: Jenn Vargas
Profession: Product Manager at Etsy, creator of
(formerly, 101in365)
Location: New York


Jenn Vargas is a Product Manager at Etsy working on Search and Discovery. She is also the creator of, a community-oriented website to help people achieve their resolutions. Her online time is divided between three things: connecting, browsing, and creating. She occasionally blogs at Jenn the Geek, browses around tumblr and posts photos to flickr.

Evernote, Everywhere:

I use Evernote for…

I started using Evernote in 2008, while I was still in school. I was taking class and research notes in Evernote, clipping resumes (with an eye towards layout and language), as well as various things I saw and liked on the web. When I started working at Etsy, I dove into using Evernote to help me capture inspiration for various side projects without taking my attention away from work. Evernote lets me work at my own pace on work and personal projects, all in one place. Here’s how I make Evernote work for me:

  • I never delete things from my Evernote account because it’s really interesting and fun to read my old notes, and especially seeing the sorts of things I was clipping around a certain time period. Sometimes I’ll look at something I clipped and think, “Oh my god, what was I thinking?” Evernote is my inspiration museum.
  • Because I’m constantly clipping design inspirations, I can often browse through my notes and really see how design trends move. For instance, there was a time I was clipping a lot of sites where a ribbon came down the front of the page. There were a lot of drop shadows — it was very web 2.0 and grungy. Now, I’m definitely seeing that most of my clips reflect the trend towards a clean, industrial Mac style.
  • I take photos of magazines with Evernote, noting particular design aspects that stand out to me. I particularly love Lucky for their layouts and the way they play with color and Wired for their pictures.
  • I use Evernote in combination with Skitch. When I take screenshots or clips, I’ll often mark them up with notes, arrows and circles so that I can remember what I liked about a particular website, font, color, image, or placement. It’s super visual. At Etsy, I work on the API, developer community and crafter community, seller education, and search, so I do a lot of research around developer and seller experiences. Together, Skitch and Evernote help me identify things I think will and won’t work – especially in certain marketplaces.
  • I’m usually pretty good at tagging my notes. For the most part, I tag notes based on specific design or project elements. For example, ‘design inspiration layout,’ ‘design inspiration logo,’ ‘activity streams,’ and ‘color.’ With Evernote’s powerful search, I can instantly pull up every note I’ve taken related to our activity stream or fonts.

Moving a side project forward

What I love about Evernote is that it’s a place for me to capture what I want to capture, when I want to capture it — without devoting a ton of time to figuring out how to organize it or when I’ll need it. Outside of work, I have a bunch side projects, and Evernote lets me move them forward without devoting 100% of my attention to them all the time.

For example, one of my projects is (formerly known as 101in365) — it’s a community-oriented site aimed at helping people complete 101 goals in one year. I used to make an ordered list of resolutions on my blog every year, but I found that it wasn’t very motivating or easy to keep track of my goals. I thought that I would be more likely to fulfill my resolutions if I was accountable to people other than myself. has about 2500 members now. On the site, you can create your own list of resolutions, comment, add photos and be more likely to stick to your resolutions.

I had been working on redesigning for weeks; Evernote really helped push it through. Even while I was at work, I could clip design inspirations from the web and throw them into my Evernote account. It takes hardly any time at all to take note of something. When I would get home, I could go through all of my clips, see them visually, process my thoughts and dive into the redesign, piece by piece.

Use it when you like it

Having Evernote installed on all of my devices means that I can use it whenever I feel like it. Sometimes, I take more work-related notes (especially around a big design project), and others I’m more focused on using Evernote for fun stuff. Either way, it’s always accessible to me — it’s my own curated place of discovery.


Evernote Premium

Upgrade for features to help you live and work smarter.

Go Premium
View more stories in 'Tips & Stories'

10 Comments RSS

  • Johan Larsson

    How do you sort your notes? You mentioned that you are quite good at tagging them but do you have them all in a single notebook or do you use multiple notebooks? One for each project perhaps?

  • Jenn Vargas

    Hey Johan,

    I mostly use All Notebooks view. I DO keep a separate notebook for my work stuff, but it’s only there as a quick filter. The only other notebook I have is a resumes notebook where I’ve sort of archived all of the resumes I saved a few years ago. I prefer to use tags to give me more fluid movement among my clippings.

  • Mal

    Great, article Jenn, thank you. I have just noticed that I can link my livescribe smart pen to evernote to. Awesome!

  • tony

    i have never heard of evernotes until now, thanks. think it’ll help me a lot now since im off to college!

  • tavo deleon


    Thanks for sharing. Your story when shared folks new to Evernote or those I call “never noted” is one of those great “oh, so that is what I can do with Evernote” examples.


  • Adrian

    Really insightful tips for using Evernote. Thank you. I’m new to it and all of this advice is a great help in improving my understanding of the potential with this really useful service.

  • Trevor W

    Really interesting story. Personally I’m still awaiting an Evernote – Mindmeister integration. That would be outstanding.

  • karen millen uk

    .I think am just having some problems with subscribing to RSS feed here.

  • Sarah Anderson

    I tried Evernote for a short while last year and found it a bit too clunky for my needs. Opted for Dropbox which allows me to auto sync files that is in a folder.

    Evernote is different compared to DB, since I found that it sort of want you to make it the center of your work universe. I may give it another shot since I want to go paperless & it helps in pdf. Not sure if it will if I have inch think manuals to scan though.

    I’m open to see how others use it too.

  • Inverter Welding Machines

    I have definitely share your views to my close friends keeps up the good work going.