Email Design Examples and Strategy

I’ve created numerous email designs over the years but I didn’t have any examples on my web site… until now.

Here’s a gallery of past work as well as a summary of some of the challenges that are unique to email design.

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HTML emails are strange little beasts both in terms of visual design standards and HTML requirements.

Email Design Standards

Email design often tends to parallel direct mail campaigns both in terms of visual design and strategy. An email design needs to be concise and informative while promoting a clear call to action. Because we want to avoid any horizontal scrolling, a restricted width of 600 pixels is usually advisable. In addition to this challenges of limited visual real-estate we must recognize that people don’t read an email in the same manner that they might browse the web. An unrequested email is going to be scanned and moved to the trash unless you can instantly engage your audience. Information needs to organized with in a relatively small space with thought given to visual hierarchy. Decide ahead of time what is the most important element that should be seen first and what is secondary.

Copy is King

One could argue that message should always drive visual design in any form of marketing collateral but I think this is especially true of emails. I don’t believe in simply creating a design that looks nice and then dropping in copy. I frequently work directly with a copy writer when developing an email and believe it’s my job to visually articulate their message. One of the best email copy writers around is Ivan Levison. he wrote the copy in most of the samples you see above. You can find Ivan’s website at

Email Production Requirements

Design consistency is what I strive for when producing an HTML email. I want the email to look exactly as I intended when someone opens it on the other end. Although one would think that producing an HTML email is similar to creating a web page, a scaled down approach is required. Your recipient could be using one of dozens of email applications or online services to view your email. They could be viewing it on a computer, mobile phone or tablet device. In order to keep an email design consistent across all of these different applications and platforms we have to abandon most of the more sophisticated CSS layout techniques used to develop current web sites and pretend that we are writing HTML back in the early 1990s. For example, we use table cells instead of div tags and all styles need to be defined inline. Rather than thinking of email production as an after thought to the design process it’s crucial to keep these limitations in mind when developing a design.

An excellent overview of email design guidelines can be found on the CampaignMonitor website here.

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