The Ultimate Guide to Email Design

The Ultimate Guide to Email Design

Written by:
Andrian Valeanu

May 18, 2021
Illustration of a person designing an email.

Email design is all about customizing your emails visually to make them more engaging. This leads to more opens, clickthroughs and conversions. Email campaigns and correspondence are at the center of most digital marketing strategies that you should be developing to further your success.

Today, we're going to go through a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about creating amazing visual email design. 


Table of Contents

Why Email Design Matters

How to Write an Attention-Grabbing Email

Your Guide to Email Design


Why Email Design Matters

If you don't want your content to get lost in the sea of emails pouring into your audience’s inbox on the daily, then you need to find ways to engage them. One way to offer your audience more value with your emails – and make them want to click – is to give your email design a tuneup. 

Because email marketing can be a highly successful digital marketing strategy, you want to make sure you're doing everything you can to improve your email performance.

Check out this infographic with must-know email marketing statistics to understand even more about the importance of maximizing your email marketing success.

An infographic sharing email marketing statistics.
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There are different elements that go into email design, including the text layout and images. You can tailor your email visually to appeal more to your audience to increase engagement. This is especially important for email campaigns. This guide to email design will help you design amazing emails of your own. 


How to Write an Attention-Grabbing Email 

An infographic on creating an attention-grabbing email.

A good email design can only be as effective as the content. We recommend you to use online email builders, if you don’t have coding knowledge. The first step to having a successful email campaign is crafting a well written email. Here are our best tips for writing an email that your audience will love. 

The Subject Line

The first impression that anyone gets of your email is the subject line. To get people to click more often, make the subject line more enticing. Deciding what to put in the subject line is where a lot of people get stuck. It should be short and sweet, but with enough impact to make people click. 

You should summarize what the email is about in as few words as possible. It should also be attention grabbing and make people want to click. An attention grabbing yet misleading subject may cause your audience to lose trust in your content, so avoid “clickbait” subject lines. 

7 Tips For Writing a Subject Line 

  1. Gear it towards your target audience. 
  2. Ask a question to quickly get their attention.
  3. Incorporate humor. 
  4. Use numbers and symbols to stand out. 
  5. Create value through scarcity. 
  6. Have a call to action. 
  7. Use a conversational tone. 
Infographic about writing an email subject line.

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Scarcity is where you offer a limited time offer which encourages people to take action. Example: 24 HOURS ONLY! Last day/last chance. Ending soon. 

Clickbait is text written with the goal of gaining clicks that is misleading or overly sensationalized.

Call to action is text that prompts the reader to take action; ie. buy, click, subscribe.


  • Keep it short 
  • Summarize what the email is about 
  • Grab attention 
  • Show value to audience 
  • Use as few words as possible 
  • Keep it simple 
  • Incorporate branding 
  • Use punctuation 
  • Use capitals 
  • Be funny/shocking 
  • Include numbers 
  • Use emojis and symbols 


  • Be long and wordy 
  • Leave in unnecessary words 
  • Boring 
  • Spam 
  • Clickbait 
  • Incorrect grammar 

The Pre-Header 

After the subject line, the next piece of text that your readers will see is the pre-header. The pre-header is the preview that pops up on your smartphone or in your inbox that summarizes what the email newsletter is about.

Some people use the first sentence of the email body, but the best thing to do is to customize the pre-header with a concise summary of what the entirety of the email is about. 

The email pre-header is secondary in importance to the subject line, but they both work together to be the main first impression of your email presentation that encourages people to click. The visual guides we're about to go over won't matter much if your audience doesn't click on the email in the first place! 

The Email Content

Keep your email content as concise and to the point as possible. Keeping a conversational tone can make the email feel more personal and prompt the reader to make a connection.

Plagiarism and copyright laws apply to emails the same way they apply to other pieces of text, so be sure that you are only sending out emails that you wrote yourself. You also need to own the rights to the images that you use. 

Do not use any big blocks of text that are hard to read. The person opening the email should be able to skim over the text and quickly absorb the important information.

Two things that you should include in every email is a call-to-action and an unsubscribe option. Keep the unsubscribe link small at the bottom of the page, but make sure they can find it if they need it. 

To make things easy on yourself, simply start with a newsletter template from Visme.

Newsletter Templates

Create email newsletters online quickly and easily by getting started with one of Visme’s premade newsletter templates. Engage your email subscribers with visually appealing content. Find a free newsletter template that you can easily customize with your own information.

Your Guide to Email Design 

The visual layout of the email should be easy-to-read and on brand. This includes the fonts and colors of the text as well as any graphics or photos.

Most people will not feel excited about reading blocks of plain text in a small font, which is why email design is important for encouraging your audience to read and engage with your emails. 

How to Use Colors 

One way to make your email design more interesting is to use color design. Colors should already be a part of your branding so it should be simple to carry your signature color scheme into your emails.

Contrasting colors are great for getting people’s attention, but if the email is too harsh looking or garish it may prompt people to click away. Limit the colors between one and four at the most. 


  • Use your brand’s colors 
  • Use contrasting colors 
  • Use matching colors 
  • Create contrast 
  • Add color with pictures 
  • Use two or three colors 


  • Use too many colors 
  • Use colored text 
  • Use clashing colors 

How to Use Fonts 

When choosing the fonts for your email theme use a combination of bold, clean fonts. There should be clear subheadings within your email to guide the reader through the content. Bold, attention-grabbing headlines will direct your audience to keep reading for more information. 

Fonts which are too stylized can be hard to read. Avoid cursives and fonts which place letters close together. The more bold and minimal the text, the better. The size of the font should be between 16 pt and 24 pt. 

How to Use Pictures 

The images in your email should go along with the text. From glancing at the email the reader should get a good idea of what it is about before they even read it.

You can use graphic designs, infographics, or photos to make the email look more visually appealing. Keep in mind that pictures with large file sizes may cause emails to load slowly, and you should have a backup color for when the image fails to load correctly. 

Think About Image Dimensions

The image dimensions are the size of the picture and the amount of pixels it contains. High-resolution images are clearer than low-resolution images. It's recommended that you use images that are twice the size dimensions of what you need for the email and then use HTML to resize it to keep the image looking clear. 

Take File Size Into Account

One of the challenges of adding images to emails is optimizing the file sizes so that the email will load faster. The larger the file size, the longer the page takes to load (especially on mobile devices). Use properly formatted files to keep the file size small without losing image quality. 

Use Less Stock Photos 

It can sometimes be too obvious when a company uses stock photos and it makes the content less attractive to the reader. Try to use custom visuals if possible. When you have to use stock photos, use a paid service where you can find high-quality images. 

Add Alt Text 

Sometimes the images will not load in your email. This can be because of a poor connection or because the reader has image-loading turned off in their email application.

Some people turn off images automatically so that emails load faster. You need to have a good alternative text that will show up to tell the reader what the missing image is so that your email will make sense. You can also set a background color for when images do not load. 


You can use animations in your emails as well as still photos. Keep in mind that the file sizes for GIFs and videos will be larger than still pictures. For this reason you should use GIFs sparingly only when they add value to the email. 

An animated GIF about creating a landing page.
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Keep a Good Text to Image Ratio 

The main content of your email should be within the text. Too many images in one email is not a good idea. A good ratio seems to be somewhere in between 60% text and 40% images or 70% text, 30% images. 

Use Templates 

Unless you are an experienced designer or willing to put in the time to learn, the best way to make your email design look beautiful is to use templates. A template is a design that is precomposed and customizable. There are both paid and free template services (check out the free HTML templates at Postcards by Designmodo) that you can find online. 

You can choose from hundreds of different templates that are streamlined for user-friendliness and aesthetics. There are a lot of different things to consider about the design of the layout, which is why using a template can make it easy. 

Check out our newsletter template library!

  • Add your own text, icons, logo and more
  • Add interactive buttons and animations
  • Use drag-and-drop content blocks
  • Customize colors and fonts to fit your brand

Browse Now

Email Layout Styles 

Here are a few of the most popular layouts for marketing email designs. 


One of the popular and effective email layouts is an upside down triangle. The images and headers are centered at the top and the text gets smaller as the triangle comes to a point, with a call to action placed at the end.

This layout is effective for guiding the viewer through the important points of the email and culminating in the CTA. 


Text blocking keeps ideas separated within the email. You can use the placement of the blocks of texts to keep your audience reading.

We naturally read from the top left to the bottom right of the page, which is why using zig-zagging blocks of texts can keep the audience engaged by interrupting the natural line of sight. The images and colors will help to create the effect. 


For a professional, minimalist approach a solid column of information can be effective. In this layout the text, images, and headers are easy for the reader to consume. The information should be centered and flow from top to bottom. This layout is very mobile friendly. 

Mobile and Desktop 

A bite-sized infographic sharing mobile email stats.

When designing your emails keep in mind that a lot of people will be reading their emails from their smartphone or mobile device. People can even check their emails on their watches now.

You need to optimize the design of the email to look great on both mobile and desktop apps. Using a template service is a great way to keep up with both the mobile and desktop design because the service will show you a preview of how the email looks in both. 

Social Media Icons 

Along with your call to action, you should add your social media links somewhere in your email. These should be easy to find, preferably paired alongside with the social media icon for visibility and clarity.

If you're not including your social media links in your email design, you're missing out on chances to grow your audience. The social media icons can be located at the top, side or bottom of the email. 


Design Your Own Emails 

Now that you have the rundown on best practices for designing the text and visuals of an email, it's time for you to go out and apply what you learned! Create a free Visme account to start designing visual assets for your email newsletters. With Visme's integrations, you can even export them directly to your email marketing platform.

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    About the Author

    Andrian Valeanu is a web designer and indie maker. His interests include but not limited to information technologies, web design, and email marketing.

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