Most marketers treat emails as strictly a copywriting exercise. As if it’s just about the words and the rest is cosmetics. “Words matter, pictures are secondary”.

Charlie Chaplin would disagree.

Although most emails consist primarily of words, reading a wall of text is no fun for anyone. No wonder the very same marketers suggest using as many pictures as you can in your blog posts, white papers, landing pages, and so on.

Email messages are a different story, though.. Most people use email to communicate on the job, and rarely add their pictures to their “lunch at 12?” and “hey, I’ll make it quick” emails.

An email newsletter, however, is an entirely different thing. In a way, they are closer to blog posts [that you force people to read] than to actual emails. That’s a massive difference.

When you want people to read your blog, everything counts: fonts, layout, CTA, illustration, subject lines. In short, an engaging blog post should not only be properly written but properly designed as well.

It’s the same with email newsletters.

In this article, we’ll talk about the most crucial elements of every email from a strictly design perspective. That will help you make your emails engaging for your audience, which, in turn, improves conversion rates, loyalty, and all that.

Tune in.


Let’s start with this elephant:

And before you think: “haha, backing on their own words, talking about text again”, let us explain.

We will treat typography from a strictly design perspective. Did you know that certain fonts evoke certain emotions?

Logo designers know that all too well.

Another point, of course, is readability.

Colin Wheildon, author of Type & Layout: Are You Communicating or Just Making Pretty Shapes? writes — “it’s possible to blow away three-quarters of your readers simply by choosing the wrong type.” If you spend time crafting the words you use, you should care equally about how you present them to your audience.

But it gets even trickier with email newsletters.

Your recipients’ email displays the text you send in the intended font style, only if the font style is compatible on their end.

Using the right typography is a matter of two things:

  1. Making an impact
  2. Picking the font that your readers have

“Good typography enhances the character of the site and adds a tone of voice that subliminally reinforces what the words say to influence how those words are perceived.”

The fact is, good typography can enhance your email message, making it clearer and easier to read and understand.

Almost any software out there enables you to target users based on their devices.

So you can use certain fonts for Windows users and others for Mac.

Just don’t use Comic Sans. Or do, but be ready to accept the consequences.


The average consumer receives dozens of emails and promotions in their inbox every day. Most of them are junk or someone trying to sell something.

This means that the only way to break through the noise and grab the reader’s attention is by crafting a beautiful, valuable and engaging email.

Using icons in emails is not a new thing.

If anything, there are always social icons in your footer. But don’t stop there. Not only are icons a way to visually enhance your emails, but they can also actually increase readability as well.

Icons will help improve the readability of your content as well as improve the accessibility of your most important information. The use of iconography not only allows users the chance to prioritize and process information but also works to reinforce the ideas it presents.

Put simply, if your message is about Black Friday sales, then use icons and emphasize your message.

Or make your message humorous, and subvert expectations.

By the way, emojis are a subset of icons that you can use not only in your message but in the subject line as well. In certain cases they can make your message more approachable and convincing at the same time.

Emails with personalized subject lines generate a 760% increase in email revenue. Segmenting your target lists allows you to personalize emails and connect with your audience in a powerful way. Information that’s relevant to one customer might not be relevant to another, so personalizing emails based on targeted lists will improve your email engagement rates.

Infographics in Email

Using infographics in emails is just getting traction because marketers are still mostly using them for outreach.

That’s where the opportunity lies.

First of all, there are a bunch of services that let you make infographics for free.

However, there are some rules:

  1. Make sure your infographics are not wider than 600 px, otherwise they may not display correctly on small screens
  2. Make sure your infographics are not too long, otherwise people won’t just make it to the CTA at the end of your message
  3. Make sure your infographics are engaging and have relevant information, don’t just create infographics for the sake of it

The cold hard fact is that the average human attention span is only 8 seconds — one second shorter than that of a goldfish, by the way. Since people perceive 90% of the information visually, the information you send should be eye-catching enough to engage your audience.

That’s primarily what infographics do: 41.5% of marketers agree this type of content is the most engaging way to share information visually.

After your infographics, or even if you’re not using one, there’s always should be a CTA in your message.


Copywriters spend a great deal of time crafting the perfect calls to action (CTA’s) for websites and landing pages. But writing effective CTA’s for email marketing is slightly different.

Email offers a very limited amount of space and time for you to compel your readers to engage. So your CTA relies heavily on the content surrounding it and the context in which it’s presented.

This picture is not random. You should always strive for just one CTA in your message.

From a designer perspective, it’s usually a button that has three parameters:

  1. Text
  2. Color
  3. Shape

Your task is to make the button cohesive with the rest of your email. The text should have a font that correlates with overall message typography.

Well-written CTA’s often pair an action verb with an urgency adverb to inspire user action. Incorporating the best email analytics tools can help you analyze the effectiveness of different action verbs and urgency adverbs in your CTAs.

Your color should be in accordance with the overall email color palette, especially if you’re using infographics, because it sets the tone.

Finally, the shape. Again, go flat if your message is in a flat design. If, however, you’re using skeuomorphic illustrations, consider making your button in the same style.

Make it noticeable though! Don’t use background color, the idea is to draw attention, not to retract it.


All of us process visuals 600,000 times faster than text. Considering that we only have a few seconds to capture the attention of a person who has opened our email, speed plays an important role.

An image immerses the user immediately into the topic, sets the mood, and helps to convey the essence of the text.

The right image will help to increase the number of content views and email clicks, as well as affect the conversion rate. A low-quality photo, obsolete vector, or ill-sorted image can take a toll on the user’s trust in the brand and in the email in particular. Additionally, regularly using an SPF record checker can ensure that your email sender authentication is properly configured, helping to maintain trust and security in your email communications.

If you want to use pictures or photos in your emails, know this: people are tired of generic photos and illustrations that have no meaning.

What do we mean by no meaning?

It means they are just there because someone read some marketing article that says “include pictures in your posts, this is good”.

Meaningless pictures are not good.

It’s hard to find a picture that has some meaning and highly relevant to your email, so it’s easier to create an image yourself.

Now, if your email is about cloning pets, the image should be:

Or, if your email is about pet shelters, well, here we go.

You can use Icons8 Mega Creator for that purpose. It’s free.


It’s a little weird to talk about it, but some companies keep stealing pictures or using poor-quality images with watermarks in their email campaigns.

Don’t take any chances when it comes to licensed images if you don’t want to face the penalties from the content rights holder.


Once you start using these tactics, remember to constantly re-evaluate each one—your customer journeys and customer profiles may change over time. As their needs and interests evolve, your content and email engagement tactics will need to evolve along with them.

However, designing really good emails is easy when you follow the tips in this email design guide and checklist.

About the author: Andrew is a usability specialist and content creator at Icons8

Title image from Surr pack on Ouch, the free vector library

Check how to make a catchy title image, how to make memes, and try free graphic design software to design your emails and any other stuff.

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