22 Real-World Examples to Inspire Your Email Designs

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to build and retain a loyal brand following.

By nature, email communication is permission-based. When they sign up to your list, subscribers not only state their interest in your brand but they expect to hear from you. This attitude makes email marketing more likely to convert sales than other marketing channels — on average, netting you up to $47 for every dollar spent. 

The returns don’t stop there. Regular engagement helps build a loyal following of customers that:

The best email designs also tease out fresh leads. Throughout this guide, you’ll find 22 email design examples accomplishing this and more:

  1. Uber urges mobile users to interact with it
  2. True Citrus segments its audience
  3. Beardbrand speaks directly to individual customers
  4. Casper keeps its messaging simple
  5. Harry’s starts strong to prevent restrictive scanning
  6. Sonos directs the reader’s eyes down the page
  7. Apple speaks visually
  8. Fitbit focuses attention through spacing
  9. Todoist breaks up copy horizontally
  10. Ritual organizes content with visual elements
  11. Bellroy uses color to highlight key points
  12. Anthropologie emphasize its message with a CTA
  13. Adobe makes its CTAs stand out
  14. Netflix adds context to compel readers to click
  15. Supergoop! directs attention with color
  16. Filmsupply chooses a color scheme that fits its brand
  17. Kate Spade uses color to hook a reader’s emotion
  18. Strava experiments with visuals
  19. Casper creates urgency with a countdown timer
  20. Bose adds an interactive CTA
  21. Birchbox appeals to its readers’ curiosity
  22. Headspace keeps its footer design consistent

Whether you’re linking to products, blog posts, or any other content, each click from a link in one of your marketing emails drives traffic that improves your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Over time, this activity also boosts your site’s discoverability — allowing you to capture new customer interest from search engines.

How to make your email designs stand out

The average person gets upwards of 96 emails per day. Your email’s first impression matters — and research shows that you only have a few seconds to make a good one. 

What you communicate over email is important, but so is how you say it. Effective email designs help an audience visualize your message. Your layout’s organization can work to catch peoples’ attention before they lose interest and click away. 

Help your readers make sense of what they see by leveraging design cues like:

  • Focal points that catch attention and show what the message is about
  • Patterns and shapes that organize ideas
  • Color schemes that highlight important points
  • Consistent elements that establish brand familiarity 

Your marketing emails need to stand out from the clutter. Turn up the volume of your messages with email designs that:

  • Optimize images to prioritize speed 
  • Aim to look great on any device
  • Make your message personal
  • Keep things simple
  • Start strong to prevent restrictive scanning
  • Direct the reader’s eyes down the page
  • Speak visually
  • Navigate with content blocks
  • Encourage action
  • Direct attention with color
  • Experiment with visuals
  • Tease interest
  • Finish strong

Below, let’s look at why these design elements work and how to use them to create better emails. You’ll have eye-catching examples of most of these effective email design elements in action to inspire your next campaign, too.

Optimize images to prioritize speed 

In 2000, a Microsoft study found that “the average consumer’s attention span was 12 seconds. About 15 years later, it dropped to eight seconds” — and recent studies suggest our collective attention span continues to narrow

If your email takes more than two seconds to load, you’re losing time to grab and extend this fleeting attention span. Optimize your content to ensure fast delivery.

Start by understanding the most widely supported file types for email servers, including:

  • JPEG for photographs
  • PNG and GIF for line drawings
  • GIF for image animation

To prepare your images for quick loading, you should:

  • Use images at least 600–650 pixels wide, so visuals load fast but aren’t distorted
  • Save original files at a resolution of 72 pixels per inch to minimize compression when you upload them to your campaign library
  • Reduce your file size to less than 5 MB

Tools like Constant Contact’s image library and hosting can streamline this process for you and help make sure your messages don’t lose the race against time.  

Aim to look great on any device

Most people look at their emails on their smartphones. Ensure your emails are compatible with this customer behavior by designing messages that look as good on a smart device as they do on a computer screen. 

Create a mobile-responsive design

Without mobile-responsiveness, your email could become difficult to interact with, get distorted, or be cut off. Reach your audience no matter how they view your emails by:

  • Leading with concise subject lines that won’t get cut off in an email preview
  • Avoiding tiny text that’s hard to read on a smaller screen
  • Using web-safe fonts that ensure your design looks right on any device
  • Adding alt-text to your visuals to reach people with preferences set to restrict automatic image downloads 
  • Making sure your layout will adjust to fit screens of any size 
great email designs are mobile-responsive
When optimizing email design for mobile devices, pay attention to aspects that enhance the user experience. This includes ensuring the subject line you write doesn’t get cut off, communicating everything you want to say.

Urge mobile users to interact with you

Mobile-responsive emails can improve open rates. The best mobile-ready email designs also make it easy for users to interact. 

About 80 percent of smartphone users purchase through their device. You can make doing so even more convenient by providing well-placed coupon codes or discounts customers can redeem right from their phone. 

great email designs urge mobile users to interact with you
Include a direct link for readers to access a downloadable voucher, loyalty program points, collect freebies, or a discount code — like Uber does with this promotional holiday email.

Make your message personal

The most effective email campaigns aren’t one-size-fits-all. According to Aberdeen Group, personalized emails improve customer conversion rates by 20 percent. 

People get a lot of messaging thrown their way throughout any given day. They’re more receptive to emails that are personal — relevant and customized to their preferences and buying patterns. 

Segment your audience

Personalizing your customer emails starts with strategic contact list segmentation. It helps your email marketing campaigns to divide your contacts into smaller groups based on common characteristics — like what they buy or where they are in your sales pipeline. 

Segmentation ensures that each email you send is more direct. With content that’s specific and relevant to separate groups of customers, your messages become more compelling and engaging.

You can automate this process with segmentation tools like those offered by Constant Contact, which let you:

  • Create multiple lists and segment further within those lists with up to 500 unique tags
  • Filter contacts based on metrics like customer behavior, list membership, ecommerce activity, or custom fields you assign
  • Set up automated triggers when a customer subscribes, so you initiate contact when they’re highly motivated to engage
  • Launch a series of timed emails to follow up with contacts based on their activity
  • Craft multiple versions of an email to share with different audiences
great email designs segment your audience
True Citrus has a beautiful welcome email that sets the brand’s tone and encourages customers to come back for more — featuring a time-sensitive discount code, a teaser for its rewards program, and a mention of its social responsibility program.

Speak directly to individual customers

Salesforce found that almost “59% of customers say tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to winning their business and they’re more than twice as likely to engage with the tailored content you send. 

Add this extra personal touch customers expect with:

  • Personal greetings that reduce the chance your email gets flagged as spam
  • Consistency, so customers expect to receive your content on a regular schedule
  • Brand recognition in your sender field, encouraging credibility and trust
  • A bold subject line that grabs attention and summarizes what a reader can expect
Great email designs speak directly to individual customers
Beardbrand catches a subscriber’s attention with a personal hook that provides a limited time offer which not only encourages a customer to shop their site but also instills a sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

Keep things simple

The best email designs prioritize how readers experience the message. Creating a positive experience for your readers means getting straight to the point without extra fuss and distraction. 

This less-is-more concept relates to Hick’s Law, a design pillar that encourages simplicity in presentation. The more you include in your message and its design, the longer it takes people to make a decision. Information overload doesn’t play well with customers’ short attention spans.

To center designs on simplicity, you need to:

  • Be specific and limit how much information you send in each email
  • Guide readers by breaking up content into small and actionable steps
  • Avoid overwhelming customers with too much content competing in one design
  • Direct attention through your design

You don’t need to be a skilled graphic designer to apply Hick’s Law to your email campaigns. With today’s versatile email marketing tools, you can easily create a stunning and eye-catching message grounded in a simple design, as Casper does with its holiday message below.

Great email designs keep things simple
Get straight to the point with a simple design that speaks for itself, like Casper’s signature messaging ethos.

Start strong to prevent restrictive scanning

Research from Nielsen Norman Group found that the average person follows an F-shaped scanning pattern when they view digital content — and this can limit how much of your message gets across. 

But Nielsen notes that good design can prevent restrictive scanning like this. A “layer-cake” design helps people see the whole picture, by:

  • Drawing in focus with a striking lead 
  • Linking similar ideas throughout the email body using elements like color and patterns
  • Separating information with white space much like frosting does between the cake layers
Great email designs start strong to prevent restrictive scanning
Harry’s doesn’t waste time getting to the point above-the-fold. This email design draws readers in with a surprise, then guides attention down the page by making it balanced and scannable. 

Direct the reader’s eyes down the page

“Above the fold” is a design concept borrowed from the media world. Because newspapers are folded in half before hitting the newsstands, they need to showcase the most important headlines, stories, and imagery first.

Your email’s “fold” is where your readers need to scroll to see the rest of your message. A strong beginning grabs readers’ attention and makes them what to read the rest of the email. 

To make sure they do keep reading, you must also guide them down through the text to what you want them to do. Direct their focus throughout the email with:

  • Strategic use of space, because copy-dense emails shine with wider margins
  • White space around blocks of texts, ideas, and images to create visual direction
  • Contrast and adequate text sizing so that your content is readable
  • Imagery that encourages attention down the page and balances the design
  • Standard and web-safe fonts, because decorative fonts can be challenging to scan and might not load properly on all devices

In the example above, Harry’s makes the email’s intention clear at the start — then uses these design tricks to keep people scrolling.

Your email’s preheader can support above-the-fold prominence, as well. This text is what appears after the subject line in an inbox. If left blank, the preheader automatically shows the first sentence in the email body. But you can customize it to show readers what to expect from an email. This can improve email open rates and prime readers to scan the whole message.

great email designs direct the reader's eye down the page
With a compelling and relatable lead, Sonos immediately appeals to music-lovers’ interest. Using wide margins, plenty of white space, and contrasting visuals, the brand succeeds in getting an audience to keep scrolling down the page.

Speak visually

How you organize your content on a screen should not only hook readers’ interest but carry them beyond your catchy headline. The most successful email designs do this visually. The final look of your email will depend on the tone and vibe of your brand. Apple is famous for its bold use of white space, but this subtler approach isn’t for everyone. 

great email designs speak visually
Apple’s built its brand around the power of simplicity. You may have more to include in your emails, but it’s a good idea to learn from the brand’s vivid attention to space and thoughtful imagery.

Focus attention through spacing

Don’t deviate from your brand’s voice. However, what you should take away from Apple’s minimalist approach is how well empty space focuses attention. 

Get playful with color, copy, and imagery — but follow Apple’s lead with a design that:

  • Is neatly divided into organized sections
  • Has a hierarchy of information that makes it easily scannable
  • Breaks up ideas with graphics, headers, lines, and shapes
  • Shows instead of tells whenever possible

It’s about balance in what you present. Everything in your layout should serve the email’s overall intention and make it simpler for readers to understand what that intention is. 

great email designs focus attention through spacing
Fitbit strikes an appealing balance between text and visuals. The email example provides a ton of information while breaking up copy with blocks, graphic icons, headers.

Break up copy horizontally

Sometimes you have more to say — whether it’s updates on blog posts, product line ups, or other news. Divide copy-dense information horizontally, like Todoist does in the example below. This steers the reader down the page from one scannable snippet to the next.

great email designs break up copy horizontally
Todoist shows that simplicity works. The brand organizes information horizontally to make it more scannable, communicating multiple messages in one go.

Navigate with content blocks

Content blocks help compose thoughtful navigation and make it easier to draw a reader’s attention down the layers of your content cake. 

With tools like Constant Contact’s email marketing platform, you can construct your customer map with block options like:

  • Text content blocks you can design with customized fonts, colors, sizes, and more
  • Image blocks you can optimize with filters, frames, and overlays
  • Horizontal and vertical dividers that create the look you want
  • Space blocks to buffer information and give the eyes a place to rest

You can use content blocks to direct readers to links off-page, as well. By doing this, you’re preventing the tendency to cram too much information into a single message. Try out: 

  • Customized, clickable buttons that encourage user action
  • Social blocks to boost your following across social networks 
  • Video blocks that feature a clickable thumbnail to a full video uploaded elsewhere
  • Read more blocks that enable you to showcase previews of longer-form content and invite readers to click onward to finish reading full pieces

Just don’t go overboard. Make sure that the types of content blocks you use in an email relate to the message’s main call-to-action (CTA). Too much variety can make your design look cluttered — and drown out what you’re trying to say. 

Organize content with visual elements

Optimize the way your content blocks look so they can easily guide your audience.

The human eye tends to perceive similar-looking elements as parts of a complete story, even when this information is visually separated. Similar colors, shapes, and patterns give the information in your content blocks a logical flow.

If important points are scattered across a layout, visual consistency can link them together. It’s about making it as simple as possible for readers to jump from one thought to the next without confusing them.

great email designs organize content with visual elements
Vitamin company Ritual uses a clean and muted design that is amped up with bursts of yellow, which highlights their special offer and CTA.

Use color to highlight key points

Color also helps specific information stand out — whether you’re trying to highlight a promotion, a CTA, or a new product. 

Make important content pop by:

  • Changing a block’s background color without altering the theme of your template
  • Creating borders or padding around images or text block
  • Using a muted color scheme to focus attention with brighter tones
great email designs use color to highlight key points
Bellroy opens with an achromatic black-and-white color scheme, then leads the reader down the page with segmented color blocks.

Encourage action

An effective CTA should inspire your reader to move toward a specific outcome. Yours should match the intent behind the email you’re sending — such as buying a product or reading your blog.  

Including multiple CTAs in your layout is shown to increase conversions, but there’s a catch. Hick’s Law applies here. Offering too many options can confuse an email’s intention, making readers lose interest. 

Emphasize your message with a CTA 

A simple email design will favor your CTA’s success. If there are too many distracting visual elements, you’re competing with yourself for a customer’s attention. 

great email designs emphasize your message with a CTA
There’s power in sending emails with concise goals. Anthropologie designed this email specifically to send a survey, while still encouraging sales by offering an in-store discount code for participants.

Make your CTAs stand out

Consider the main action you want subscribers to take and make that your CTA conversion goal. This direct approach helps keep each message simple and direct. 

CTAs that convert:

  • Are visible and stand out among other elements
  • Have a contrasting color to the rest of your email’s palette
  • Use clear, direct language that makes the result of clicking obvious
  • Create a sense of urgency 
  • Illustrate benefits that compel readers to click
great email designs make your CTAs stand out
In this email design example, Adobe crafts the entire message around its perfectly placed CTA, creating a clear sense of urgency while letting their products speak for themselves.

Add context to compel readers to click

CTAs can also address your audience’s reservations or fears of missing out. Add extra motivation with CTAs that:

  • Offer encouragement with a promotion 
  • Use scarcity incentives — like including the number of products or tickets available
  • Explain discount timeframes to create a sense of urgency
  • Provide social proof, like a recent review or number of products already sold 
  • Make assurances, like how no credit card is required to start a free trial 
great email designs add context to compel readers to click
Netflix’s call to action couldn’t be clearer. The catchy header addresses its audience’s pain point, then prompts the readers’ next steps with a front-and-center CTA. Netflix offers new customers reassurance with a note about their cancellation policy.

Use CTA content blocks

CTAs that work get your reader to engage. Action blocks support this goal even more by making the CTA interactive and helping them to stand out visually. CTAs like this direct readers’ attention and activity, cut down on aimless searching or clicking around. 

Fuel better engagement with Constant Contact’s action blocks that:

  • Showcase items from your Shopify store
  • Pull details from Eventbrite listings into your email
  • Create an RSVP request that users can forward to friends who aren’t on your contact list
  • Generate engagement with a poll
  • Collect donations
  • Award customer coupons — with flexible options like a minimum purchase requirement, expiration date, or other restrictions you want to apply

Limit each email to one or two distinct action blocks that reflect the main message. Including too many can confuse readers and complicate the point you’re trying to make. 

Direct attention with color

Even a well-structured email can look disorganized or cluttered without attention to its color scheme. Email campaigns often use signature colors tied to the brand they represent to establish a consistent tone and voice. 

But how you use color should voice your email’s intent. Our brains are hard-wired to trigger reactions based on different colors. Using these psychological cues can support your message. 

great email designs direct attention with color
Supergoop! leads with its prominent brand colors, after which the palette is more muted but still consistent. This guides a reader’s attention without overloading or adding too much visual distraction.

Choose a color scheme that fits your brand

The color scheme you use works to set an email’s tone. Because people’s eyes are drawn to what’s most visually prominent, you can use specific hues to make important information jump off the page. 

Get strategic with simple palettes like:

  • An achromatic color scheme using black, white, and greys with a burst of another color to focus attention
  • A monochromatic color scheme based on one main color together with variations of that primary tone
  • An analogous color scheme using hues that are next to each other on the color wheel, like green CTAs on a blue backdrop
  • Complementary and triadic color schemes that create a highly contrasting effect with two or three colors from opposite sides of the color wheel
great email designs have a color scheme that fits your brand
Filmsupply balances reds and blues to pull in readers with this striking contrast from opposite ends of the color wheel.

Use color to hook a reader’s emotion

The color schemes above open up a lot of flexibility to use hues based on the feelings you’re trying to convey. You can also use them to decorate your email to convey seasonal and holiday moods.

Speak to your readers’ emotions with effects like:

  • Red’s energizing, quick-to-attention impact
  • Orange’s warmth and motivation
  • Yellow’s cheerfulness and inspiration
  • Green’s signals of growth, nature, and health 
  • Blue’s calming trust and dependability
  • Purple’s imagination, intrigue, and luxury
  • Pink’s romance and nurturing sensitivity
  • Black’s sophistication and independence
great email designs use color to hook a reader's emotion
Kate Spade welcomes its subscribers with a hospitable tone, using orange’s association with warmth and friendship and pops of a nurturing pink.

Experiment with visuals

Imagery isn’t limited to photographs. Patterns, icons, infographics, and typographic designs offer a wide range of visuals — which can help organize, simplify, and clarify your message.

great email designs experiment with visuals
Strava has a lot going on in this email, but the layout keeps it all organized with compelling visuals, eye-catching icons, and a color scheme that ties everything together.

You can mix it up with animated images, too. While GIF animations don’t necessarily improve the user experience, they do grab attention and add a bit of fun to your message. 

Tease interest

Visuals help organize elements in your email design and grab attention. With a bit of creativity, images and animations can also serve as CTA enhancements. 

Interact with readers through design elements that tease at their interests. Some of these features do require a knowledge of custom coding languages like HTML, but their “wow” effect can net you more conversions. 

Create urgency with a countdown timer

In this example from Casper, the countdown timer is a more powerful CTA than any standard “buy now” button, creating a heightened sense of urgency for the customer to act.

great email designs create urgency with a countdown timer
Casper heightens its customers’ desire to act by leading with a countdown timer.

Add an interactive CTA

Bose takes the classic scratch-off discount coupon and makes it digital, hitting the one-two punch of visual appeal and a highly motivating CTA.

great email designs add an interactive CTA
Bose doesn’t just offer its subscribers discounts. The brand invites the reader to engage surprisingly and unexpectedly.

Other interactive features aren’t CTAs on their own but work to amplify interest and raise click appeal. 

Hang onto attention with:

  • Flipping effects that you can apply to any email element, like a product photo that reveals more information when a user hovers over the image
  • Rollover effects that let customers see more details and angles of products you’re showcasing

It’s easy to get carried away with these playful design elements. Make sure that your CTA stands out as Bose’s does above — by using a simple layout with plenty of white space, ample margins, and scannable organization. 

Appeal to your readers’ curiosity

Static imagery can be just as powerful for building intrigue. In this example, Birchbox deliberately leaves out any product mentions or photos, which lures in their customers’ curiosity. 

great email designs appeal to a reader's curiosity
With a nostalgic ode to paper fortune tellers, Birchbox communicates its message playfully with a fun CTA.

Finish strong

Your footer is where subscribers look for details about your brand, learn how to contact you, and manage their email preferences. It gives you the space to promote brand transparency and access while bringing your email design full circle. 

Include useful information in your footer

Like the rest of your email layout, only include information that adds value to the reader.  Common footer features customers look for include:

  • A physical address for your business
  • An easy way to unsubscribe to build trust, prevent spam complaints, and comply with opt-out regulations set by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission
  • Contact information — such as a link back to your site, email address, or phone number
  • Social media buttons to encourage subscribers to follow you or social share your content

Depending on your email campaign, you may want to include additional elements, like a:

  • Forward-to-a-friend option
  • Link to your preference center for subscribers to update options
  • Short reminder explaining why they are receiving your messages
  • Link to your privacy policy
  • List of details and restrictions about an offer presented in the email
  • Branded sign off including details like an inspirational quote 

Keep your footer design consistent

Use hierarchy to organize information so that your readers can zero in on exactly what they’re looking for. Stay true to your layout’s look and feel — like Headspace does in the example below — to ensure that the final design is cohesive. 

Style your footer to match your design with:

  • Clear headers and labels
  • Icons to break up the text
  • A background that’s complementary to your color scheme
  • Padding to separate sections
great email designs have a consistent footer
Headspace’s email layout flows right into its footer. The brand uses the space to invite questions, include social icons, link to terms and conditions, and provide an option to unsubscribe.

With the right tools, you don’t have to start from scratch

For something that’s most effective when simplified, developing email designs that convert can get complicated — but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

With Constant Contact’s email marketing platform, you can kick off your next email campaign with ready-made templates that hit all the marks. This gets your design halfway out the door before you’ve even started writing your message. 

From personalization tools to drag-and-drop content blocks, email automation, and contact segmentation, you’ve got all the easy customization elements you need to forge real connections with your customers. 
Get in touch to learn more about how email marketing can work for you with design tools that give a voice to your brand — or try it out for yourself.

The post 22 Real-World Examples to Inspire Your Email Designs appeared first on Constant Contact.

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