Five design tips for your email campaigns

16th January 2012 By Louis Simpson in Email design

Design can be misunderstood in email marketing. To a lot of people, design is summarised by simple tweaks - adding a bright colour there and making a change to the font here, simply because it looks nice. The trick with design is to put your own personal taste to one side, and think about what is needed.
Here are five basic fundamentals that anyone can follow to improve their email design.

1. Readability

It’s easy to slap some text into an email and say ‘done’. Readability is about making the text in your email flow and have continuity, which can be achieved if you know what to look out for. Just because the colours look nice on their own doesn’t mean they will work well together. So put yourself in the reader’s shoes and think about what your reactions might be when you receive an email with similar text as the example below.

2. Imagery

Using images in an email can be a very powerful tool if you know how to use it. One of the biggest pitfalls people fall into is to stretch or enlarge an image, which will result in an image that looks blurred or distorted.

Always use a bigger image than needed and shrink it down to the desired size. Never blow an image up to make it big enough to use, as this generally makes the original image blurred and ends up looking worse than before.

Never stretch an image to make it fit into that letterbox size banner space you have on your email – ensure you crop the image to keep its proportions and the image itself looking clear. 

3. Colour

When thinking about colour for your email, where possible stick to your corporate brand or colour-scheme. In today’s world, so many emails reach people’s inboxes. Continuity with your brand promotes professionalism and demonstrates the fact that you put thought into your emails. It makes it easily recognisable to recipients who probably receive hundreds of emails a day. It’s surprising how much colour can drastically affect your design.

4. Links

In email, calls to action are a must. They are, after all, the one thing that gives a reader incentive to read your emails and click through to your website. One easy way to differentiate links from text is to specify an alternative colour - Consistency is key so remember to keep the link colour relevant to your colour-scheme or brand. Another, more unique way of showing calls to actions is to use images. A button or icon can be just as effective when giving your readers options in your emails.
To find out more about calls to actions, read this blog post.

5. Fonts

Fonts aren’t there just to look pretty. They carry more weight than many people realise. Fonts can define an email’s sense of character.

For example, an email using the comic sans font may come across as very laid back and informal when compared to a font like Tahoma, which is very corporate and professional in style. It all rests on how you want to present your email. With email, only a handful on fonts are available that will work across all email clients. So, although you are limited, a smaller selection of fonts can be a good thing because you have an easy amount to work with.

Try using different font sizes to determine a hierarchy in your emails. Using a larger font for a header or title, then decreasing the font size as you get to the body copy helps the reader distinguish the titles from the paragraphs.

Below is an example of this:

I’m a title

I’m a sub-heading

And I’m the body copy.

Final thoughts...

Take time and put thought into your emails, especially when thinking about design. From my experience, if you put the time and consideration into these simple design elements, you will notice a prominent improvement on the return on investment. So remember to ask yourself ‘how does that work?’ rather than ‘how does that look?’ because design goes much deeper than the physical appeal.

What do you think? Do you agree with my five design tips?

Louis Simpson
About the Author

Louis Simpson

Louis is a support advisor for little green plane, answering client queries and assisting on a range of technical issues. Louis and the rest of the support team ensure the customer service you experience with little green plane is second-to-none; guiding you through the email marketing process from start to finish in a business language that you understand.