Email Marketing Design: Guide w/ Best Practices & Examples

Email Marketing Design: The Ultimate Guide, Best Practices & Real-World Examples

Email Marketing Design The Ultimate Guide, Best Practices & Real-World Examples

What Is Design In Email Marketing?

Design in email marketing is about creating visually appealing and functional emails. It involves choosing colors, fonts, images, and layout that not only look good but also convey the message clearly and effectively. Good design enhances the user experience, making the email both engaging and easy to navigate.

Well-designed emails capture attention, encourage readers to interact, and can lead to higher click-through rates and conversions, ultimately boosting the overall success of the campaign.

Why Is Email Design Important?

  • Attracting Attention: A well-designed email stands out in your inbox, using elements like color, layout, and imagery to draw your focus and spark curiosity, compelling you to read further.
  • More Engagement: Engaging designs with interactive elements like buttons and links encourage you to actively participate, making users more likely to respond to the email’s call to action.
  • Increased Conversion: Strategic design that highlights key messages and calls to action can guide recipients toward making a purchase or completing a form, boosting conversion rates.
  • Build Brand Identity: A consistent visual style in emails, from colors to fonts, helps new customers instantly recognize and remember the brand, strengthening its identity in their minds.
  • Emotional Identification: Thoughtful design that resonates with values and interests of the target audience can foster a deeper emotional connection with the brand, making them more loyal and invested.
  • Educational Purpose: A clean, well-structured layout with easy-to-read text and informative visuals aids in effectively delivering educational content, making it simpler for the audience to learn and understand.

3 Main Types of Email Designs

1. Plain Text

Plain text emails are simple, text-only messages without images, custom fonts, or other rich media.

  • High deliverability
  • Less likely to be flagged as spam
  • Limited in visual appeal and branding
  • No interactive elements like buttons or links

Plain text emails have been found to boost opens and clicks significantly compared to other formats.

Source: HubSpot

Plain Text Marketing Email Example

Example of a Plain Text email

Example from Good American

2. Rich HTML Email Design

Rich HTML emails use colorful layouts, images, various fonts, and other design elements to create visually engaging messages.

  • Visually attractive
  • Good for incorporating brand identity
  • Allow for creative and dynamic content presentation
  • May not display correctly in all email clients
  • Higher risk of being marked as spam

HTML email designs with images had a 21% lower clickthrough rate in tests, and overall, received 51% fewer clicks than simpler designs.

Source: HubSpot

Rich HTML Email Design Example

Rich HTML Email Design Example from Sprinly

Example from Sprinly

3. Interactive Email Design

Interactive email designs include elements like clickable buttons, hover effects, or embedded forms that encourage user interaction.

  • Engages users directly, potentially increasing response rates
  • Creates personalized and memorable experiences
  • More complex to create and may require more technical know-how
  • Compatibility issues with some email clients, possibly affecting user experience

Interactive Email Design with an Animated GIF

Animated GIF used for Email Marketing Campaign


Key Email Design Components


Layout in email design refers to the arrangement and organization of elements within the email. It plays a pivotal role in guiding the reader’s eye through the content, impacting engagement and the effectiveness of the message.

Visual hierarchy is crucial:

  • Z Pattern: This layout is effective for straightforward, less text-heavy emails. It directs the reader’s eye in a ‘Z’ trajectory, ideal for emails with a mix of images and short text, like promotional messages.
  • F Pattern: Best for text-dense emails, such as newsletters. The eyes naturally follow an ‘F’ path, starting at the top-left, moving horizontally, and then down the left side.
  • Reversed Pyramid: Suitable for emails aiming to drive a specific action. It begins with a broad, engaging message and narrows down to a focused CTA, guiding the reader towards taking action.
  • Margins: Margins are essential for readability. They create space around text and images, preventing the email from appearing cluttered. This is particularly important for mobile users, where screen space is limited.

Popular Types of Email Layout

Popular Types of Email Layout

Source: Mailmodo


Typography in email design refers to the art of arranging text to make the content both aesthetically pleasing and easy to read. It includes the choice of font, size, and layout, which together affect how the reader perceives and interacts with the email. A well-chosen font can make your message more approachable and engaging. Typography includes:

  • Fonts: For emails, choose fonts that are web-safe and easy to read, like Arial, Verdana, or Georgia. These fonts are widely used because they’re legible on various screens and devices.
  • Font Sizes: A general recommendation is to use font sizes around 14-16 pixels for body text. This size is comfortable for reading on most devices.
  • Headings: For headings, consider using bolder and slightly larger fonts than the body text. A size of 22-28 pixels is typically effective. Fonts like Helvetica or Times New Roman work well for headings as they stand out without overpowering the body text.
  • Readability: To ensure readability, pay attention to the contrast between text and background colors. Test your email on different devices and screen sizes to ensure text is easily legible. Additionally, a tool like a readability checker can help assess the ease with which your text can be read.
  • Links: Integrate links seamlessly into the text, ensuring they are easily identifiable yet blend with the overall design. Use contrasting colors, underlining, or a different font weight to make them stand out. For example, a blue color and underlining are standard practices for links, making them noticeable without disrupting the email’s visual harmony.

Example of use of headings and CTAs in email

Source: Mailmodo


Imagery in email design serves to enhance visual appeal, break up text, and help convey your message more effectively. It can range from photographs and graphics to animations and icons, each adding a unique element to the design.

  • Static Imagery: This refers to non-moving images like photographs or graphics. Common formats include JPG and PNG. JPG is ideal for photographs due to its smaller file size, while PNG is preferred for graphics with transparent backgrounds. Aim for dimensions that balance clarity and file size, typically around 600-800 pixels wide for email layouts.
  • Animated Imagery: Formats like GIFs offer motion, adding a dynamic quality to emails. They are useful for drawing attention to specific elements or conveying information in a more engaging way. However, keep in mind the file size and ensure the animation adds value without distracting from the main message.
  • Icons: Small, simple icons can effectively convey concepts and actions.

Incorporating images in emails has been shown to boost open rates by nearly 10%

Source: GetResponse


Buttons in email design are essential for guiding recipients towards taking specific actions. Their design, color, and placement significantly influence the performance of an email by making calls-to-action (CTAs) clear and compelling.

  • Primary CTA: This is the most prominent button, like ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Subscribe’. Place it in a visible area, often after the main message. Use eye-catching colors like red or green to stand out. Phrases should be action-oriented and concise.
  • Secondary CTA: These buttons offer alternative actions and are less prominent. Position them below the primary CTA or in the footer. Opt for more subdued colors than the primary CTA. Their CTAs should be clear but secondary in importance, like ‘Learn More’ or ‘View Details’.

Example of Primary and Secondary CTAs in Email Design

Source: Mailmodo


Best practices include making buttons large enough for easy clicking, especially on mobile devices, and using contrasting colors to ensure they are noticeable against the email’s background.

Color Themes

Color themes in email design are more than just aesthetic choices; they play a crucial role in conveying a brand’s identity and emotion, significantly impacting user engagement. The colors chosen can evoke certain feelings and responses due to color psychology.

  • Reflecting Brand and Audience: Choose colors that align with your brand identity. For example, blue can convey trust and dependability, making it a popular choice for financial institutions.
  • Contrast for Readability: Use contrasting colors for text and backgrounds to ensure readability. White text on a dark background or vice versa can be effective.
  • Consistency for Brand Recognition: Maintain consistent color usage across all emails to strengthen brand recognition. This consistency helps recipients quickly associate the colors with your brand.

Main Color Schemes for Email Design

Main Color Schemes for Email Design


  • Best practices include avoiding overly bright or clashing colors that can be jarring.
  • Instead, opt for a balanced color palette that complements your brand and is visually pleasing.
  • Consider the emotional impact of colors; for example, green often represents growth and freshness, suitable for health or environmental topics.

Further Reading: Influence of Colors in Email Marketing Design Influence of Colors in Email Marketing

Email Marketing Design Best Practices & Examples

Build Trust

Building trust through email marketing design involves incorporating elements like trust icons, such as security badges, partner logos, and social media icons. These elements reassure recipients about the authenticity and safety of your brand. Social media icons, in particular, link to your brand’s online presence, further establishing credibility.

A clean, professional layout and the use of official brand colors and logos also contribute to a trustworthy appearance.

Example of Trust Building in Sprinly's Newsletter

Example of Building Trust from the Newsletter of Sprinly

Ensure Quick Loading

Ensuring quick loading in email design means that your email’s content, especially images and graphics, should load fast to keep the reader’s attention. To achieve this, use web-optimized images which are compressed for a smaller file size without losing quality. Tools like Adobe Photoshop or online compressors can reduce image size.

Additionally, include alt text for each image. Alt text provides a text description, which is crucial for accessibility, helping those using screen readers understand the content. It also serves as a placeholder if images don’t load.

Example of Email Design with and without Alt Text

Source: Inbox Army

Maintain a Consistent Brand Image

Maintaining a consistent look and feel across all emails strengthens brand recognition and trust. This includes using your brand’s colors, logo, and tone of voice.

Example of a Consistent Brand Design - Newsletter of Zara

Consistent Brand Image Example in Zara’s Newsletter

Implement Personalization

Personalization in email marketing design means customizing the email’s appearance and content to suit individual recipients. This can involve using the recipient’s name in the email, changing the layout or images based on their past interactions, or featuring products they’ve shown interest in.

Personalized Email Design Example from Runkeeper App

Personalized Email Design Example from Runkeeper App

Leverage Responsive Design

Design emails to look good on all devices, ensuring a positive experience regardless of how the email is accessed.

Email cross-device compatibility check

Source: Email on Acid


To check if your email displays well across devices, use email testing tools like Litmus or Email on Acid, which allow you to preview how your email looks on various screens and email clients.

Optimize Element Sizing

Ensuring proper sizing of elements like buttons and text is key for usability, especially on mobile devices. Buttons should be large enough to be easily tapped with a finger, typically around 44×44 pixels. For text, a size that’s easily readable on small screens is crucial; for instance, a body text size of 16px is often recommended.

Regarding the text-to-image ratio, a balance like 60% text to 40% images works well, ensuring the email is content-rich yet visually engaging.

Read more about the balance between images and text in email campaigns.

Example of a ratio between a hero image and email text

Source: Email on Acid

Select Suitable Typeface

In email marketing design, a typeface refers to the specific style and design of the characters — including letters, numbers, and symbols — used in the email’s text. It plays a crucial role in conveying the brand’s personality and ensuring the content’s readability.

When selecting typefaces for your emails, choose ones that are easy to read and reflect your brand’s character. It’s important to limit the number of different fonts used in a single email to maintain a clean, cohesive look.

Various typeface styles


Prioritize High-Quality Images

Using high-quality images is recommended because they significantly enhance the visual appeal and professionalism of your email. High-quality images attract more attention and can convey your message more effectively than low-quality ones. However, it’s important to balance image quality with technical factors like file size.

Large, high-resolution images can slow down email loading times, which might lead to lower engagement rates. Therefore, it’s best to use 1-2 well-chosen, high-quality images that are optimized for web use.

Choosing images for email capmiangs in Moosend email editor


Aim for Clarity

In email marketing design, clarity means creating a layout that allows recipients to quickly understand the message without confusion or distraction. To ensure clarity, use a simple, organized design that highlights the key message.

For example, use bold headings to draw attention to main points and ensure there’s enough white space around text and images to avoid a cluttered look. Also, use bullet points or short paragraphs to break up text, making it easier to read.

Use colors that contrast well for easy reading and organize content in a straightforward manner. For instance, a light background with dark text and vice versa can enhance readability.

Choosing an Appropriate Color Contrast

Choosing the right colors and contrast balance for email clarity

Source: Mailmodo

Use a Designed Email Signature

Incorporating a well-designed email signature adds a professional touch. A signature might feature your full name, job title, company name, and logo, along with direct contact details like a phone number and email address. You could also include links to professional social media profiles, like LinkedIn, and a small, tasteful personal touch, such as a professional headshot.

This approach makes every email look consistent and professional, making it easy for recipients to find your contact information and learn more about you online.

You might like to try this free HubSpot Email Signature Generator Tool to enhance your signature.

HubSpot Email Signature Generator Tool

Source: HubSpot Email Signature Generator Tool

Add an Unsubscribe Button

Make sure to include a clear unsubscribe button to comply with email regulations and respect reader preferences. This also improves the overall user experience.

Unsubscribe button example

Source: Wishpond

How to Design the Perfect Marketing Email in 10 Steps

1. Choose the Right Email Design Software

When choosing the right email design software, look for options that offer a balance of flexibility and user-friendliness. Key features to consider include:

  • Variety of Templates: A good range of ready-made HTML email templates can save time and provide inspiration.
  • Customization Options: Look for software that allows for easy customization of templates to fit your brand’s unique style.
  • Drag-and-Drop Email Builders: These tools simplify the design process, making it accessible even to those without technical skills.
  • Mobile Responsiveness: Ensure the software automatically adjusts email layouts for optimal viewing on mobile devices.
  • Integration Capabilities: Software that integrates with your existing marketing tools and databases can streamline your workflow.

2. Create an Attention-Grabbing Subject Line

Craft a compelling subject line to entice recipients to open the email. Writing an attention-grabbing subject line involves more than just the wording. Consider incorporating design elements like:

  • Emojis: These can add personality and draw the eye, but use them sparingly to maintain professionalism.
  • Special Characters: Symbols or unique characters can make your subject line stand out in a crowded inbox.
  • Font Choices: While most email clients use a standard font for subject lines, consider capitalization or punctuation to add emphasis.
  • Bold or Italics: Some email platforms allow for bold or italicized text in subject lines, which can highlight key words.

Remember, the goal is to catch attention while maintaining clarity and relevance to the content of the email.

Compelling Subject Line Example from Noom's NewsletterCompelling Subject Line Example from Noom’s Newsletter

3. Don’t Forget a Pre-header

The pre-header text in an email is crucial as it acts as a secondary subject line, giving recipients a brief preview of the email’s content before they open it. Utilize the pre-header text to provide a sneak peek of the email content.

This additional context helps to capture the recipient’s interest, especially when viewing the email on mobile devices where pre-header text is prominently displayed.

Pre-header example

Source: MailerLite

4. Personalize Your Message

In email design, personalization can mean displaying specific products or themes based on the recipient’s profile. For instance, a younger audience might see the latest tech gadgets in the email, while older recipients see home and garden products. Similarly, if a recipient frequently purchases or views sports gear, the email could feature imagery and promotions related to sports.

5. Balance Images and Text

Remember to use an appropriate text-to-image ratio for better readability and deliverability.

6. Align with Branding

Ensure your email design reflects your brand’s colors, logo, and overall aesthetic. You might like to learn more about differences between marketing and branding from our blog.

7. Stock Images vs. Custom Images – Choose Right

Use custom images when possible for uniqueness, but stock images can be effective when budget or resources are limited. Always comply with copyright regulations and cite sources.

8. UX-Driven Layout

A user-friendly email marketing design means creating a layout that’s easy for everyone to understand and navigate. It’s about making sure the email looks good and functions well on all devices. The design should be simple, with clear sections, so readers can easily find what they’re looking for. Buttons should be big enough to click, and text should be readable without zooming in.

9. Place CTAs Strategically

Strategically place call-to-action buttons for maximum visibility and effectiveness. Include both Primary and Secondary CTAs.

10. A/B Test Your Campaigns

Test different elements of your email to find what works best for your target audience, from subject lines to layouts.

Recommended Email Design Tools

Each of these tools caters to different needs and skill levels in email marketing design, from beginners to advanced users.

HubSpot Email Marketing Tools

HubSpot Email Marketing Tools

  • Functionalities: Offers a range of customizable templates, personalization features, and A/B testing capabilities. Integrated with its CRM for seamless data use.
  • Price Range: Has free and paid plans, with more advanced features in paid versions.

Best For: Marketers looking for a comprehensive tool that offers CRM integration and advanced email marketing features.


Mailchimp Email Marketing Tool

  • Functionalities: Known for its user-friendly interface, wide selection of templates, and robust analytics.
  • Price Range: Free tier available; paid plans vary based on features and list size.

Best For: Small businesses and beginners needing an easy-to-use platform with solid analytics.


Stripo Email Marketing Tool

  • Functionalities: Specializes in HTML email templates that are fully customizable. Offers direct export to multiple ESPs (Email Service Providers).
  • Price Range: Free version available; paid plans for more advanced features.

Best For: Marketers who need advanced design customization, especially in HTML.


Chamaileon Email Builder Platform

  • Functionalities: Provides a collaborative platform for email design, with a focus on responsive and interactive emails.
  • Price Range: Pricing varies; offers a free trial with paid plans.

Best For: Teams looking for a collaborative tool with a strong emphasis on responsive design.

Trends in Email Marketing Design

  • Use of AI: Artificial Intelligence is revolutionizing email design by enabling more personalized content. AI can analyze user data to create emails tailored to individual preferences, such as product recommendations based on past purchases. Explore ideas and examples on how to use AI in email marketing in our blog.
  • Dynamic content: This involves emails that change based on user behavior or preferences. For example, showing different products to different users within the same email template. A user who frequently buys sports equipment would see products and offers related to sports in their email.
  • Fusion of styles: Combining various design styles, like minimalist text with rich imagery, caters to diverse audiences and keeps emails visually interesting.
  • Values and brand representation: More brands are using emails to showcase their values, like sustainability or inclusivity. This approach helps create a deeper connection with the audience who shares these values, adding a personal touch to email marketing.

Personalization through dynamic content boosts engagement and response rates, as recipients are more likely to interact with content that aligns with their interests and needs.

Final Word: Audience-Centric Email Design is the Key

In wrapping up, remember that successful email marketing design centers on understanding and catering to your audience’s preferences. A personalized, user-friendly approach should guide every design decision. Focusing on these elements ensures that your emails not only engage your target audience effectively but also enhance your overall marketing impact.

Keep your audience’s needs at the forefront, and your email campaigns will be a powerful tool in your brand’s digital arsenal.

Selecting a suitable email hosting provider enhances your strategy, ensuring secure, reliable communication that aligns with your audience-focused design.

Top Providers Offering Email Hosting

ProviderRatingBest ForExpert & User Reviews 
5.0PerformanceHostArmada ReviewVisit HostArmada
4.8AffordabilityFastComet ReviewVisit FastComet
4.6Ease of UseHostinger ReviewVisit Hostinger

Next Steps: What Now?

Learn More About Email Marketing

Frequently Asked Questions

How to design accessible marketing emails?
  • Use high contrast colors to enhance text and background readability for users with vision challenges.
  • Include descriptive alt text for all images, aiding screen readers in conveying visual content.
  • Choose large, legible fonts and maintain consistent font size and style for clarity.
  • Design your email with a straightforward, uncluttered layout, featuring clear headings and an easy-to-follow content structure for improved navigation.
Can you do email marketing through Canva?

Yes, you can create email marketing materials using Canva. Canva offers a range of templates and design tools suitable for crafting visually appealing emails. While it’s primarily a design tool, for sending emails, you’d need to integrate it with an email service provider like Mailchimp, or export the designs to use in your email campaigns.

What is a responsive email design?

A responsive email design is a layout that adjusts seamlessly across different devices and screen sizes. It ensures that an email looks good and is easy to read whether it’s opened on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone. This approach uses flexible images and a fluid grid to adapt to the viewer’s screen.

What is white balance in email design?

In email design, “white balance” refers to the use of white space, or negative space, around elements in the email layout. It’s not about color, but rather the unoccupied areas that help to structure content, improve readability, and create a visually appealing design. Proper white balance enhances user experience by making the content more approachable and easier to navigate.

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