Creative directors, graphic designers, illustrators – you creatives are busy people. So the last thing you want is your inbox bulging with email newsletters. From small businesses you've never heard of to major retailers, it soon becomes clear how needlessly complex some newsletter designs can be, and how quickly they disappear into your trash folder.
Email design and structure is an art. When done right, subscribers love receiving your newsletters. When done wrong, newsletters get dumped into the spam folder and future messages will never be seen. Here's some examples of the ones that got it right.
01. District Dining
District Dining, a restaurant in the Surry Hills area of Sydney, keeps its newsletter design simple with a black and white design spread over two columns, letting the fantastic photography of the venue and their food stand out. They also include their opening times in the footer of the design, which is surprisingly rare in restaurant newsletters.
Email newsletter designss are often a call to action for a list's subscribers to take advantage of an offer, purchase a product or book an event. The Smithonian's efforts to advertise a design talk event are no different, with a striking header image and very clear venue and date details alongside a simply design but vibrant 'Register Now' call to action button.
03. Native Shoes
Native Shoes proves that simplicity can be very eye-catching indeed with its newsletter design featuring large, welcoming typography and intriguing photographs. Paired with their one-column layout, it draws your eye down the page to skim every article within it: nicely done!
Lole is a female clothing brand, and its clean design with blocks of their bold yellow colour and simple photography make for a simple, stunning template that doesn't feel pushy or salesy.
05. Think Clearly
Created by Mathias Jakobsen, this newsletter strays well away from the traditional newsletter designs we're so used to seeing in our inbox – and that's why we love it. Developed for his company Think Clearly, Jakobsen's refreshingly unique approach sees his subscribers receive a handwritten email, complete with doodles and reflection exercises. A brilliant reminder that the humble pen is still very much a mighty tool.
06. Budnitz Bicycles
Another example of clean photography being used to great effect, Budnitz Bicycles' template makes use of the ubiquitous one-column layout to make the most of the limited screen width we’re left with for newsletter design.
07. Fiasco Design
Whilst Fiasco Design's template relies heavily on imagery from a design project completed for one of their clients in its newsletter design. The overall effect is a great appreciation for their work as you're drawn through the identity and its various applications. The progress bar centered alongside each heading is a particularly nice touch to indicate the reader’s progress through the newsletter.
There is always a bit of risk and uncertainty when a subscriber first signs up to your email or service. They hold their breath as they click 'sign-up' and slowly exhale when the first email comes in and it’s revealed that you will not be spamming them with all kinds of junk.
The Jetsetter welcome newsletter design has a lot of new users slowly exhaling and relaxing when it first comes in. Clean, clear design presents a comprehensive overview of their service, benefits and options available to you as their user. This is an email designed to be kept and referenced. It is almost a user account screen or service dashboard designed for your inbox.
TeamWorx is a newsletter design with a list of the latest jobs in retail. The great, strong design of the email will leave you in no doubt as to who found you your next job.
This is a newsletter design about broccoli. Yes you read that right, broccoli! They're doing something right if they manage to get me looking twice at the 'green stuff'. Tenderstem, wisely, don't give their product the hard sell – instead, they plug into the whole foodie culture. And who doesn't like reading about delicious food and drooling at gorgeous photos of the dishes?
The design is bright and fresh, as expected, but also brings in a bit of personality and nature with the loose font and rough edges. A really lovely design.
From one extreme of almost no images to a newsletter made almost entirely of images – the contrast cannot be more extreme. Percept have turned the presentation of client projects into a design piece.
This is an approach that has worked very well, as their newsletter has been shared extensively and featured in email design collections all over the web for the last few years.
They were still wise enough to keep the text portion of the email as HTML so it can be read when images are turned off. Something all email designers should remember.
The creators of Storied from stock image agency Corbis understand the power of faces. Of course it helps that they have access to some of the most famous ones. We are all drawn to faces. It is an inbuilt response that you can take advantage of in your designs. Add to that the power of stories, and you have a winning email newsletter. The design is simple but very classy-looking in black and white. Again, a newsletter I look forward to getting and reading every month.
Eroi go to great lengths every month in customising the style and illustration of their emails. The always interesting and focused content keeps you engaged and coming back for more.
When you're operating a business in the email space the pressure is on to make your email look good. And Litmus' design looks good, broken into clear bands of colour and sections to highlight and differentiate aspects of their business and product.
15. Abercrombie & Fitch
This one focuses on the clothes themselves and produces great product shots where you can almost feel the texture of the cloth. They have a very solid, natural feel. The fun each month is how interesting they can make the layout of those clothes. Stylistically, they keep each email consistent so you are in no doubt, at a glance, who this email is from. Dark blacks and grey backgrounds really makes the colourful products stand out.
Made make their furnishings part of the design and give their products a huge amount of whitespace to make them stand out. Notice how they also 'interior decorate' their emails. All the featured products colour coordinate where you could almost buy the entire set for your room. Lovely touch.
Fantasy imagery is nothing new in fashion and sports, but you rarely see it brought so far and looking so rich as in this campaign from Icebreaker. It is very much aspirational/lifestyle design.
If you're lucky enough to have a hugely visual product, sometimes it is best to let your images do the talking as is done in this mail from iStockphoto. For designers and photographers the mail works as both a source of visual inspiration and a showcase of their products. Here iStockPhoto curates the best of the best from their vast image collection.
19. Jack Spade
If there is one technique that ecommerce stores have really played with and embraced this year it's animation. Animated gifs are becoming cool again and finding new life in email newsletters.
This campaign from Jack Spade is a nice example, showing the model in different poses and clothes when opened. File size can become an issue with animated GIFs especially if they're as large as the ones used in this email, which comes in at about 700k.
20. Blick acoustic night
Lovely two-tone colour design for this invite to a music night at a local venue. It makes the assumption that you know the venue, which is fair enough. So the three key pieces of information are prioritised: music, music type and time. The rest is detail.
21. Constant Contact – webinar invite
The Blick acoustic invitation is in stark contrast to this really vibrant campaign from Constant Contact for a webinar. It contains not one, but two strong calls to action. The email manages to break the message into two parts. The first gives the key points and a register button. The second gives a more detailed breakdown of the webinar and its benefits, and again a call to action. Great use of colour and typography to give a strong, clear message.
22. IFMA Member Luncheon
Sometimes following a style too closely can undermine your campaign. The retro typography based design for the IFMA Member Luncheon is lovely. Stark black and white really pops off the screen.
Strangely, while they do add a colour highlight to When, Whereand How, the most important button, 'Click here to RSVP', gets lost. A colour on this button would finish it off nicely.
A literal interpretation of an invitation is rendered beautifully in this design for Popularise. I really like how they incorporated the logo into the letter seal. No design element is wasted and everything supports the brand and message.
I am a big fan of the Ronseal model: it does exactly what it says on the tin. This sales campaign from Typetec does that. In big bold letters. Beautiful, bold and simple.
25. The misadventures of PB Winterbottom
This email for the launch of the game immediately pulls you into the atmospheric black and white world of PB Winterbottom. It's the beautiful illustration that buys your interest and keeps you reading. While embedding a video is only possible on some email clients such as Gmail and Apple Mail, you can still fake it with a screenshot and play button. Video has been shown to increase conversion and this is especially true for a game where you need to show gameplay in action.
26. Apple Macbook Pro
Apple are masters of the beautiful product shot and this latest campaign for the launch of the Macbook Pro is no different. The image manages to show off the amazing slim design and clarity of the screen, even from extreme angles. Only Apple could get away with such a small 'buy now' button!
27. HP Monster Sale
An oldie but a goodie. I'm a sucker for a design that breaks its bounds and the tie-in with Monsters vs Aliens gives HP a great excuse to do just that, by cutting the giant woman in half for a half price monster sale.
28. Beach Park Water Park
This one does a great job of playing with the email format to show you the water slide experience using your scroll bar. I might be worried about how long this would take to load, but what a great experience when it does.
Words: Alan O'Rourke, Richard Carter and the Creative Bloq staff
Alan O'Rourke is a BAFTA-nominated designer specialising in web design and email marketing. Clients include Virgin America, Eircom and RTE. Follow him on Twitter. Richard Carter is creative director at web design agency Peacock Carter Ltd. This is an amended version of an article originally written for net magazine.