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Email Design

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Value of design

The email design is not just the look and feel of an email but how it works and flows for the reader, otherwise known as the user experience. Before jumping into how best to design your email, we need to answer the question, why is email design so important?

The following are some of the main reasons why an effective and appealing design is important to implement throughout your email campaigns.

  • User experience: Having a good email design will add to the user's experience. If the email looks and flows well, the user is more likely to continue reading your email and click through.
  • Consistent experience: If you send a regular newsletter, having the same design and layout in each will help the reader recognize your email and become familiar with its content, and also familiar with you and your brand. If the design regular changes, this will only confuse the reader and reduce clicks.
  • Style: Next is that it conveys your message in style. Nobody wants to read a wall of text. By splitting your content up into bitesize chunks and clear headers, user is more likely to read your email.
  • Direct imagery and graphics: Images are great way to showcase your product or service. In the example above, iPhone used an image of their new phone, allowing the reader to become familiar with the product.
  • Placement of CTAs: Clicking the call to action is often the main objective of an email. Having a clear CTA at the top and bottom of an email will make it easier for the reader and help them click through to the landing page.
  • Drive conversions: If the email is well-designed and contains relevant information, the user is more likely to take action and convert.

Identity and color

So more on email design. The first step in creating a compelling email design is to include who you are and the color of the email.

It is best practice to include your company's logo at the top of your email and also use your brand's color pallet for calls to action, headers and so on. This will allow a reader to easily recognize your emails and become more familiar with your brand. In the above example from the digital marketing institute, the head of the email includes company's logo so all readers can easily recognize the email.

And the email also makes use of the color blue which is part of the company's color pallet. The logo and color are used in all of their emails as well as their website, which leads to a consistent experience for the user.


Another key component for designing effective emails is the layout. The layout controls the flow of the email and makes it easier on the reader's eye to look at.

  • Organize for quick reading: Bold and color the headers in your email helps the readers scan the email to find the relevant information.
  • Make room: When designing the layout of your email, don't be afraid to use white space. It makes your content easier to read when there are multiple sections.
  • Align your content: Use the same width, font size, and color for similar sections of the email. If one paragraph is 500 pixels wide and left-aligned, make sure all the other paragraphs are, too.
  • Define your sections: If your email has multiple sections, such as a blog newsletter, make sure they're defined. You can use a different background color or a dividing line to show where each section begins and ends.
  • Put your call to action above the fold: The fold, which is normally used to refer to the website page, means the part of the email that is first visible on the screen, whether it be a phone, an iPad or a desktop. Depending on the reader's device screen size, part of the email will be visible. Place your most important piece of information in that fold.
  • Choose best size: And finally, best practice is to make email widths at 600 pixels for best rendering across multiple devices and browsers.


The next key component in designing emails is the fonts you use. The fonts used in your email should be consistent throughout, use the same font style, font size, and font color for all sections that are similar.

Also, don't use a very small font size as many readers will be viewing on mobile devices and this will make it impossible to read.

Your company may have a brand style guide which you must follow. In that case, you must keep that consistent in your emails as well.

Examples of good and bad

Here are two examples, one from Macey’s and one from Virgin.

The one on the left is a very busy email with a lot happening. You can see that there are various fonts, font sizes, colors, imagery, and a very confused call to action.

At first, you'd think this a Father’s Day sale, but then why is the first link to women's clothing? It doesn't make sense and the reader will quickly become disillusioned as to why they're reading this email. Contrast that with the virgin email, which is a very clean and simple layout with a very clear call to action, giving people quite literally 10% off their next purchase.

It is clearly a welcome email. Consider this the next time you're designing an email and understand what may seem too busy to one could do with a little cleaning up.

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Please note that the module slides are designed to work in collaboration with the module transcript document. It is recommended that you use both resources simultaneously.

Digital Marketing Resources:

Andrea Francis

Inbound marketing manager @ Poppulo

  • Inbound marketing manager in employee communications technology 
  • Worked at Relayr as a senior marketing manager, creating and implementing a global inbound marketing strategy
  • Worked with Hubspot as a marketing manager and funnel optimization specialist focusing on converting leads to qualified leads for the EMEA region
  • Content marketing and blogging with various SaaS startups at Startupbootcamp Amsterdam

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful. While relevant to this module, you will not be assessed on this content.

You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library


Email Marketing
Andrea Francis
Skills Expert

This module begins with the fundamentals of email marketing and how the concepts of segmentation, personalization, timing, engagement, and the legislation and regulations surrounding data protection underpin an effective email marketing strategy. The module introduces key email marketing tools and techniques and explores subscriber list and email design best practices. It covers how to create, test, and optimize an email campaign that maximizes email open and click rates and provides an overview of the value provided by marketing automation tools.