You have probably heard of the bullet journal at this point, especially if you are here reading this article. But are you aware of its origin?

The origin of the bullet journal lies in its key or legend. This post is all about the bullet journal key and providing you with a ton of inspiration!

However, before we can dive right into the inspiration and example spreads, we need to talk about what a bullet journal key was originally and what it is now.

The Origin of the Bullet Journal Key

The bullet journal key, known to some as the legend, is at the core of the purpose of the bullet journal. Carrol Ryder, the creator of the bullet journal method describes the entire method based solely on the key.

The purpose of the bullet journal was to simplify and streamline your to-do list. In doing this, the list of symbols on the key is essential.

At its core, the bullet journal includes a small list of symbols and their purpose.

The Current Bullet Journal Key

The bullet journal, like everything else, will always have its roots. However, in time, things change and the bullet journal is no different.

Bullet journaling has morphed into a completely customizable planner driven by the symbols listed on the key.

However, the previously discussed key is only the beginning for many bullet journalers out there now, myself included. Most people now create their own key in which they add to, change, and revise the original legend.

There are no limits to what a bullet journal key can be or include.

Now that we have talked about what the bullet journal key is, we can look at some amazing examples of bullet journal keys from the basics all the way to incredibly artistic layouts.

Simple Key Spreads

First, let’s take a look at more basic bullet journal keys. Here are some very simple and minimalistic bullet journal legends spreads.

1. Detailed Yet Basic Key by ElizabethJournals

ElizabethJournals0.2 First is this more detailed but still very simple key. This key includes symbols that are not necessarily part of the original one but are still very basic. Additionally, the possible varieties of some of the symbols are included.

2. Simple Key by The Vintage Wren

thevintagewren This spread is an even more simple version. This legend ultimately includes only the original symbols plus signifiers. Signifiers are added to one of the previously listed symbols in order to modify or indicate its significance.

3. Simple Red by ElizabethJournals

ElizabethJournals0.4 This super simple spread does not feature the original symbols; however, it is basic including only the essential symbols used by the bullet journaler. Additionally, it features a cute little key in the header.

4. Modern Key by Plan With Ady

planwithady Here is another super simple key including only the original symbols and their signifiers. What I love most about this spread is the use of clean, thick lines in the header and borders

5. Geometric Yet Simple Key by @abulletandsomelines

abulletandsomelines I am conflicted in putting this layout among the minimal spreads instead of with the artistic ones. However, I ultimately chose to put it here because of the simplicity of the artwork and the use of symbols. Here is yet another amazing example of what your key can be.

6. Minimal Planner Key by ElizabethJournals

ElizabethJournals0.5 here is a great example of a spread that is perfect for the artistically challenged. A key does not have to be beautiful, but it does have to be functional. Here is an example of an incredibly simple and functional bullet journal layout free from complicated or difficult detail.

7. Symbols and Bullets by @tinyrayofsunshine

tinyrayofsunshine This page is so simple that there is not even a header or title for it. It is assumed and simple. This page includes absolutely no frills or details. It is simply a list of useful symbols and their meaning or use.

8. Basic Legend List

df9debcfa5d6e7cc43173e447f634a6c While I could not find the creator of this bujo legend, I still wanted to feature it because of the detail that was put into it. The symbols are both basic and incredibly detailed. Additionally, there is no frill or flair, it is simple.

9. Bullet Journal Key by Bullet Journal Ideas

bujoideas On the left of this spread, you will find more basic symbols. Then, on the right are the signifiers. This spread has more signifiers than a lot of other simple spreads do. However, there is no reason to omit a symbol which you use!

Keys and Color Coding

This section of our key inspiration list includes the more simple key layouts; however, they also include a colour code. Colour codes add categorical detail to a key. For example, you might choose a different colour for each part of your life such as personal, career, education, family, etc.

10. Detailed Key and Color Codes by @addictbujo

addictbujo This first bullet journal key with colour-coding is a very detailed key. It includes a lengthy list of symbols and a small list of colour codes at the bottom. This one is a great example of everything that might be included.

11. Detailed and Trailing Key by @helloiamprince

helloiamprince I love the use of trailing or directional lines to guide the user around the spread. This key includes only symbols and colour codes but variations of the symbols.

12. Keys and Color Codes by @myjournalingcorner

@my journaling corner I love the lettering in this particular spread. I love that the key section and colour codes have their own creative and fun headers. Then, the two sections have their own structure and flair.

13. Pre-Made Key by Sheena of the Journal

SheenaoftheJournal The key was created using a pre-made structure that was included in the notebook. This is perfectly okay! There is no shame in using something pre-made if it works for you.

14. Color Coding Specific Key by ElizabethJournals

ElizabethJournals1 This particular key is the one I use. I use very few symbols compared to my colour codes. For this reason, I list the colours first and they occupy the majority of the page.

15. Detailed Key by ElizabethJournals

ElizabethJournals2 Here is another key which includes a large number of symbols and colour codes. Additionally, this spread has colour-coded page category details.

Artistic Key Layouts

This category of inspirational key layouts is where people really get creative. Here are some bullet journal key layouts which are more artistic including details and colours. The content of the legends here vary, but that’s not the point of this section.

16. Simple Artistic Vintage Key by @bujojujii

bujojujii I included this layout among the creative ones despite its simplicity because of the sheer detail in the vintage key doodle. I absolutely love when these layouts include doodles that are key themed!

17. Key and Quote by @serylittlenotes

serylittlenotes Here is another version of a more bullet journal key with a vintage key doodle. However, this one is unique because of the key-themed quote!

18. Bujo Key by @wundertastischdesign

wundertastischdesign Here is yet another example of a vintage key legend layout. I know, I know.. another one? Yes! I had to include this one because of the cute little wolf!

19. Creative Tentacles by @bujoalaleila

bujoalaleila I love the abstract-ness of this layout. The key is one of the most basic ones included here. However, the artwork is exquisite! I have no idea what the full theme is but there are florals and aquatic looking tentacles. I love this as an example of what can be done!

20. Kawaii Key by @bluelahe

@bluelahe This key page is very simple with simple and cute little panda- or kawaii-themed doodles. I have included this one because of the commonness of this style of artwork.

21. Tropical Key by @maplebujo

maplebujo Looking to bring vacation back with you! Adding tropical flowers and plants is a wonderful way to do so!

22. Golden Key by @loashleydoodles

loashleydoodles Of course the last of the artistic bullet journal key layouts I’ve included has an antique key hanging down the side of it. I just love this spread for every reason! It is bold, simple, and colourful!

Key Hacks and Tricks

The final type of bullet journal key that I want to talk about is some hacks or tricks. In my research for this article, I came across some really creative and useful techniques to use when creating your bullet journal. Here are just a few examples of key hacks or tricks.

23. Edge Key with Color Coding by Page Flutter

pageflutter0.5 This first spread is really interesting because it is not simply a key like we know it. Instead, it is only the colour code. However, there is a twist. The colour code flips out from the notebook so that you can view it no matter what page you are on in your journal! How creative is that!

24. Flip Out Legend by @craftbyvhee

craftbyvhee This second layout is similar to the first however, it includes both the symbols, signifiers, and colour codes on the part which flips out. Additionally, this key flips out from the left side of the notebook and is far more detailed than the previously discussed layout.

25. Flip Out Key by Page Flutter

pageflutter This final bullet journal key is similar to the previous one. It is just one more example of how you can get creative and hack your bullet journal key.


Bullet journal key spreads often get overlooked; however, they are foundational to every bullet journal. Without the key, the bullet journal method does not exist.

No matter what symbols, signifiers, or colours you use, be sure to include your key to your journal! My personal favourite key style is the more minimal spreads which also include a colour code, what was your favourite bullet journal key? Whatever your favourite is, a key is one of the most basic and essential spreads in your bullet journal!