It doesn’t matter what you do or what industry you’re in—if you have a business, you have news to share about it. Perhaps you have an upcoming sale and want to get the word out. Or maybe you just want to connect with your customers, say hello, and thank them for their business. Whatever news you have to share about yourself or your business, newsletters are one of the best ways to do it.
But not all newsletters are created equal. In order to maximize the effectiveness of your email marketing, you need more than great content. You also need a great design. Beautifully-designed newsletters will ensure your audience will actually enjoy opening your emails—and maybe even look forward to receiving them! Not only that, but it helps ensure all of your information is laid out in a way that’s easy for readers to understand and remember.
In this article, we’ll delve into everything you need to know about great email marketing design. We’ll cover:
These days, there are so many different ways to reach your target audience, from social media campaigns to influencer marketing and paid ads. Email marketing may seem ‘old school’ in comparison, but make no mistake—it’s far from dead In fact, it remains one of the most effective ways to cut through the noise and speak directly to your customers. It’s fast, it’s easy and most importantly, it works.
As a business tool, McKinsey & Company found emails to be 40 times more successful at acquiring new clients than either Facebook and Twitter—just one of the many interesting statistics to support the success of email marketing.
Consider the fact that the average person checks their email 15 times per day or every 37 minutes. That amounts to endless opportunities to get your content in front of your audience! Email newsletters can also be used as an effective marketing tool to communicate with subscribers in every stage of your customer journey—from warming up people who are new to your brand to re-engaging old leads and customers.
What’s even more important is that you actually own your email list subscribers —as compared to your social media followers that could disappear should the platform ever shut down. This makes it a reliable marketing tool you can always rely on.
With the immense potential of email marketing also comes fierce competition. With more than 70% of businesses using email newsletters to communicate with the customers, it’s more important than ever your emails stand out. While of course, it’s your email subject line which is going to get your email opened in the first place, a well-designed newsletter is what helps keep the reader’s attention. If they like what they see, they’ll likely keep coming back time and time again.
Your email design is also an opportunity to let your brand’s personality and value shine through. Unlike something like a social media post, there’s a lot of room to play with things like different typography, colors, and graphics.
That said, deliverability and readability should also be top priorities when it comes to email design. Email newsletters that are overloaded with graphics or large images are often a guaranteed, one-way ticket to the recipient’s junk mail folder. You’ll also want to ensure your email is designed in a user-friendly way that makes it easy for readers to quickly scan the key points.
Not sure where to start when it comes to designing your own newsletters? Below, we show you how the pros do it:
The color blocking and beautiful gradient effective in this example from The Stylish City are incredibly striking. The muted color palette paired with the blush and black creates a modern and sophisticated feel. The layout is appealing and unique, like a newsletter and fashion editorial all in one. However, the type still manages to pull central focus by being front and center, and on top of the image.
Want to achieve a gorgeous, gradient effect in your own email design? Check out Canva’s Yellow Youth Travel magazine template.
This email design by Mika Osborn uses a fun and creative GIF that delivers one simple and clear message with a unique, surprising, and memorable design. The message is perfectly delivered to its customers, encouraging them to follow the brand’s Pinterest and be inspired by more great images like this one. A neutral background and center position immediately attracts the reader’s eye to the gif, with the surrounding information perfectly placed to motivate to reader into action.
Email newsletters are a great way to build hype and drive sales for new products—but you’ve got to be creative about it! Instead of showcasing a product photo in their email, Tiffany & Co. worked their Tiffany Celebration rings right into the design, transforming the photo into the basket for their illustrated hot-air balloon (with the oh-so-cute tagline “love is in the air”). Plus, the color blocking style not only allows the product photo/hot-air balloon basket to take center stage but provides a clear separation of messaging within the email (the blue section is about shopping for rings directly; the red is about “dropping a hint” and letting your loved one know which ring would make the perfect Valentine’s day gif
Color blocking is a great way to separate different messages, images, and sections of your newsletter. Get the look with Canva’s Blue and Yellow Modern Camera Email Newsletter template
This email design by Apple employs great use of white space and a clear central focus on the product. The product is nicely displayed with pops of color to add interest and the information is perfectly aligned and carefully placed, with a vertical hierarchy for easy skimming. The use of different type sizes and grayscale colors let readers understand what’s important and what’s less important. This design is straight to the point with minimal elements and simple structure.
Beautifully captured photographs are the central focus of this design by Artur, and they do not fail in tempting readers to take a second look. The white type manages to pop out next to the images and everything else in the design stays neatly in the background. The dark gray complements the colors of each image and gives the overall design a cool and modern look.
A brilliant color palette with strong, vibrant tones and a unique concept is what makes this email design by Engage an attention-grabbing piece. The pairing of the vibrant yellow feature color with the textured image and black and white graphics makes for a simple but fresh color scheme that is sure to stand out in the crowd.
This eye-catching email design by Studio Newwork showcases the work done by creatives within the agency. Its brightly colored background is eye-catching and frames the displayed work effectively. This use of color allows the visual work to pop off the page and directs the eye right to the content and the abstract elements and creative placement of text helps to add movement to the overall design. This design pairs vibrant color with minimal elements, to makes for a great design.
This email design by Burberry is a great visual solution to showcasing their brand’s iconic trench coat and reinforcing brand awareness. The design manages to achieve instant recognition thanks to the tan color palette and diverse shots of the signature coat. The choice of typefaces is clean and clear and the consistent grid lets the reader follow the visual story very easily. Overall, it’s a simple, streamlined, and easily recognized design.
Beautiful and strong, this design by Chanel uses simplicity at it’s best. There's one image used to represent the brand, one headline, one description, and one call to action, all centrally focused and aligned, no one element overpowers the other. While the overall design is fairly minimal, the use of the ribbon to represent the brand keeps the design engaging and playful.
The pops of color, product photos, and visual hierarchy (created by the typographic elements) create a sense of depth in the suitcase company AWAY’s newsletter, which adds visual interest and frames their products in a way that appeals to their wanderlust-inspired customer.
It’s a great example of how a strategically placed pop of color (or pops of color!) can be extremely powerful in your newsletter design.
Want to add a splash of color to your own newsletter? Check out the Pink Simple Photo Newsletter template in Canva
This design by Corbis is another perfect example of how to let your content act as the main focus. The emotive photographs on a solid black background with large margins to avoid overcrowding makes for a very powerful attention grabber. This design really plays upon the linked content by using quotes from the story as titles as well to even further entice viewers to read on.
This email newsletter by Toben has a simple and minimal design that still manages to be interesting and inviting. The carefully composed images and logo are a unique touch and the pop of orange adds life and dimension The center alignment and balance of elements give this email a harmonious composition that encourages the reader to take a minute to peruse the content.
This design by SoSweet Creative uses a large type, a limited color palette, and a strong hierarchy to make for an exciting, fun, and easy to navigate email invitation. Each typeface complements the others around it and is easily legible, the yellow highlights draw attention to key pieces of information and the large arrow motifs guide the eye. An easy to read and attention-grabbing piece.
Too much text can translate to too much visual clutter, which can cause your newsletter conversions to the tank. JetBlue wisely breaks up their big blocks of text with graphic icons, headers, lines, and shapes (like the box towards the bottom of the page) and proper spacing and balance. This allows them to communicate all of their messaging without visually overwhelming their audience.
Have a long message to get out in your newsletter? Break up all that text with one of Canva’s newsletter templates, like the Cream and Salmon Pink Minimal Modern Company Newsletter
This design by Lindsey McMurray represents a fun brand with bright and clean colors divided up with plenty of whitespaces. The colors are used cohesively throughout the design to help tie the written content with the visual content. The paint splatters are fun and reinforce the creativity of the product while also keeping in with the palette and overall cohesion. A strong color palette offset with plenty of white space can help tie your design together nicely.
This design by Marni has undertaken a creative concept by styling the images as paper cutouts, which gives the design a nostalgic and tangible feel while also engaging the reader into imagining how each piece would work together. This email sets itself apart from the rest by presenting the items they are cataloging in a unique, fun, and functional way.
A strong theme for your email design can make it stand out from the rest. For example, this design by Open Season has developed an outer space theme that ties in with the brand and the newsletter’s topic. A subtle planetary animation in the header, constellation graphic, space-themed film screencap, and carefully worded type make for a strong theme and strong design for this brand’s newsletter.
Being bold in your design is a great way to grab people’s attention—but having too many bold, in-your-face elements can feel visually overwhelming. Saturday by Kate Spade goes bold with their bright yellow background—but keeps the rest of the design elements simple, which makes for an impactful (but not overwhelming!) newsletter design.
You want your email newsletters to be on-brand. But if there’s a holiday around the corner, you also want to show your festive side! Fossil nails that balance with this Christmas newsletter, which includes a Christmas illustration in the brand’s classic, minimalist fashion.
The best designs create an emotional reaction when you look at them. And while sunglasses alone might not make you emotional, eyewear company Warby Parker packs a happiness-inducing punch in their newsletter design by having their sunglasses modeled by a bunch of puppies. It’s the best of both worlds; they get to showcase their products, and the emotional reaction created by the dog photos increases the likelihood their audience will engage with the newsletter.
The right photos can take your newsletter design to the next level. Incorporate your photos into your newsletter design (dog photos optional) with Canva’s templates, like the Black Bordered Collage Real Estate Newsletter
The minimal design in this example by Elizabeth Lies helps communicates this company’s message loud and clear. With a brand mission to show the simplicity of life on the road, the use of a simple type and uncomplicated images help to give the reader a clear picture of exactly what the mission and tone of the brand are.
This email newsletter by Hatch Inc has a straightforward and effective layout that manages to organize a lot of information into a clean and well-balanced design. It takes the reader on a journey through the featured content in divided sections. Each image has been given a wide enough margin to avoid overwhelming the design, and type is kept minimal to further prevent clutter. A beautifully balanced and even design that is easy to consume.
This design by Nick Cade does a good job of communicating a lot of information in a clear, organized, and attractive way. The pastel green is used throughout the article to break up the blocks of black type and introduce color throughout the piece while the neatly sectioned type and consistent font choices make for an easy read.
This design by Beans N’ Rice Creative Studio uses consistent sections to allow for this design to communicate several messages at once, each with equal importance. The header and footer are clearly separated and the vertical sequence, divided horizontally lets the reader scroll through the information with ease. Each image is simple but strong in color and composition letting section to speak for itself and no one section overpowers the other.
The black background, colorful imagery, and white text give this design by Stolen Girlfriends Club a highly contrasted, sleek, and interesting effect. The big white numbers and boldly highlighted headlines lead readers from top to bottom creating an easy to navigate the path. The alignment varies but stays consistent and interesting.
This design by Need More Designs has created an authentically vintage feel with the old school typewriter font and a taupe color palette. The handwritten greeting adds a nice personal touch and helps create a connection with the reader. The product images are nicely shot with cool textures in the background and the calls to action and descriptions are kept minimal to motivate the reader to discover more.
This design by Terrain was based on a fun and creative idea that was successfully executed. There are a lot of unique elements and the design feels like a party that is just waiting to be planned. The chalkboard effect combined with the real-life items and step-by-step layout, gives this a do-it-yourself vibe, one that encourages the reader to take part in it themselves.
This email design by Petr Pliska includes a visual map for the reader to follow which helps the information process more easily. Each point has its own icon which acts as small visual cues to ensure the amount of information isn’t overwhelming. Lots of white space and minimal color palette keeps this design balanced and easy to digest.
This design by Wildfox has an elaborate use of imagery that creates a strong theme for the brand. The use of vibrant and dreamy photos creates a fantasy-like aesthetic that instantly pulls the reader in. This design has great use of handwritten type that complements the overall design without compromising legibility.
This example from J.Crew has been designed with the user in mind. The slow reveal of the large exclamation mark as the user scrolls down and then the large and intriguing call to action makes for an email that will be easily read and a link that is likely to be followed – people’s curiosity often gets the better of them. A very simple and daring but well thought out email design.
This design by Kate Spade has chosen to use high-contrast patterns and a simple but loud palette as the main visual element. The use of strong black and white patterns against the vibrant yellow and turquoise attracts instant attention to the copy without ruining any of the legibility. Consider introducing bold patterns into your email design for a simple way to attract a lot of attention.
A big time for retail sales and email newsletters is the holidays, but when it comes to designing an email for the festive seasons, try not to fall into cliche design elements. This email design by J.Crew has been done up for Halloween, but instead of relying on the typical orange and black, lots of bats, lots of cobwebs, etc. designs that are typical for Halloween, J.Crew has instead opted for a classy design that is in line with their brand, using predominantly monochromatic design with a pop of the signature orange. A classy twist on the typical festive design.
This design by Urban Outfitters has a very simple layout that would be nothing flash to look at if it weren’t for the added hand-drawn elements. By adding small black doodles around the photographs, this design becomes a lot more personal, fun, and unique, all of these qualities fitting nicely in with the brand. Proof that just one added element can completely transform your design.
This design by Michael Bodiam for menswear label Mr. Porter is the perfect blend of playful, unique, and functional. The items displayed in the email have been presented a paper map which helps construct the idea that these items are all necessary for traveling. A clever and playful layout could be what you need to help your email stand out.
This template example from Advolocaru binds the information within a letter an envelope to capture the feeling of receiving hard copy mail. This simple graphic helps order the information neatly while still giving it a creative and personal touch.
Consider how your audience will consume the email, likely by quickly scrolling down the email and skimming the content at first. This design by the Banana Republic plays on this scroll-and-skim action by including a slow reveal of the main type that leads toward a punchy call to action link. A simple way to enhances your users’ experience.
A direct design can get you somewhere quick, but a more indirect design can get you somewhere great. This email by J.Crew has opted to not show any of their products, a bold move for an apparel company. Instead, they have used a simple photo of a fortune cookie with a quirky ‘fortune’ that also acts as a call to action. Within email design, a more indirect approach to selling your product and brand is riskier, but if done well can have a great payoff.
This design by Squarespace has opted for a bare-bones email design with minimal type, imagery, and color palette. Only one image is used, a simple, near-monochromatic nature shot that has a simply-set email heading “10” overlayed and the rest of the email is set in plain black type, all one size, hierarchy is distinguished with font weights only. A design doesn’t have to have a lot of bells and whistles to be effective, experiment with taking away from your design instead of adding.
This design by Sephora has used an interesting zig-zag-like layout, the flat-lay imagery has been aligned to a diagonal grid that is emphasized with the vibrant blocks of color. The angular layout is both enticing to look at as well as functional to order lots of information and imagery.
This example by Handy is a ‘year in review’ based newsletter that thanks customers for their business as well as celebrate their own success with a few infographic-like graphics and data representations. This heavily graphics-based email is a fun and effective way to communicate lots of data and information with audiences in a way everybody will understand.
The general rule of thumb for the type is that left-alignment is most easily legible, but don’t view this as a law to which you must always obey. This example by Brother Moto has aligned most of its elements to the center so that the focus remains directly down the middle of the page to make a pretty effective layout that is still legible and balanced.
This design by Jack Spade keeps things simple but urgent, with one visual and a focus on the call to action. Using a large type, vibrant, attention-grabbing color and a simple visual that relates back to the central message makes for a simple design that still manages to communicate urgency and the need to act fast. A good example of a quick, clean, and direct way to communicate with your readership.
If you are intending to take photos for your email design, plan them out ahead of time to make sure they will work with your layout ideas. This email by TOMS is a good example of planning ahead – the framing of the images used to allow for the foreground and background to act as a textured backdrop for type and other elements. A simple tactic to get the most flexibility out of your images and the most elements into your email while avoiding clutter.
Take a leaf from the book of web design and consider incorporating a sidebar into your email design. A lot of email designs section their information in parallel horizontal blocks, but as you can see in this example by Super Things, sectioning your information vertically into a sidebar can help disperse type and data evenly and reduce the vertical length of your emails.
This design by Canopy showcases the benefits of cutting down on your type. If you are a retail-based company or have some products you’d like to show off, let the images speak for themselves. This design group item together under a single umbrella that allows for enough explanation for each piece. Cutting down on type allows for this design to be simple, clean, and direct.
Flat lay photography has really kicked off lately, so use it to your email design’s advantage. This example by DCW Design showcases a perfect way to make a simple design that is still focussed on the text while still subtly introducing imagery. By laying various stylish items around the edges of the blank background, you create a nice visual frame for your text that complements the main message.
Ready to get started on your own email designs? Check our handy tips to help steer you on the right track
It’s important that your readers instantly recognize that the email has come from you when they open it. That way, they will come to know what to expect from your email newsletters. While sure, they can always look at the sender's name, it’s far more effective to start your newsletter with a branded header with your colors and logo. This is something you can set up once with a template like Canva’s White and Black Minimalist Tropical Email Newsletter template and repurpose any time you send an email.
The way you visually structure your emails is incredibly important for increasing your click-through rate and limiting unsubscribes. It’s key that your readers can quickly understand the purpose of your email and how it’s relevant to them. So, be sure to make this the most visually prominent element on the page, so that the reader’s eye is instantly drawn to it. One great way to do this is by including a banner. You’ll also want to make sure your CTA (call-to-action) is clear, and that it stands out from the rest of your newsletter. That way, your reader instantly knows what action you want them to take (usually clicking to a web page) and is far more compelled to actually take it.
You’ve likely heard that video is king in marketing right now, and email newsletters are no exception. Data shows that video increases email open rates by 19% and click-through rates by 65%. It’s an excellent way to ensure your emails stand out in your inbox, as they make your emails far more dynamic and engaging. Plus, videos are a great way to add a more personalized touch to your emails, especially if they feature you or someone else from your company talking!
Research shows that more than 70% of people read their emails using an app on their phone. So, it’s important to make sure your emails not only look beautiful on the desktop but are also mobile optimized. That means that none of the content is cut off, all of the images are loading and your text is readable. All of Canva’s email newsletter templates are mobile-friendly, so you can rest assured your newsletter will translate across all devices.
Email marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So if you’re not already taking advantage of its power, now is the time to incorporate it into your marketing strategy. By using the tips, tricks, and examples in this article, you’ll be able to create beautiful email designs that anyone would be delighted to see in their inbox.