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The Key Principles of Successful Email Marketing Design

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Fulfill Marketing Goals with Creative, Effective Email Campaigns

Email marketing remains an essential part of any digital marketing strategy. It’s a powerful tool for nurturing leads into customers and staying engaged with existing clients.

Email marketing software services offer a variety of templates on which to base your newsletter designs. Templates provide the infrastructure for your content, but there is ample room for customization and creativity in email marketing design.

Understand the goal of your email and which segment of your audience you are looking to reach. Then gather your building blocks – your headlines, text, images, videos, and calls-to-action – and consider the following design principles for successful email marketing.

1. Scannability

Headlines are important! You can place perfect copy into the body of your email, but if it is topped by a bland header, many readers won’t scroll down to read it. Headlines serve at least two functions: to entice people to read more and to convey the message of your email to readers who only have the time or inclination to read the bolded highlights.

Similar to the principals of subject-line writing, headline-writing is most effective when active verbs are used, a sense of urgency is created, and reader-centric pronouns (you, your) are used.

I also recommend paying attention to font sizes, styles, and colors. People are often reading your emails on a small screen so you want to make your headlines leap off the page and grab the attention of the reader.

If you have a reader who only digests your headlines and calls-to-action, the email has done its job.

Calls-to-action can be placed in a variety of spots within your email. You may even want to design one for the top and one for the bottom of your email with different placement and design but the same message and ultimate landing page.

2. Videos and GIFs

Be wary of embedding long-playing videos (anything over 30 seconds) into an email. Their file size is likely to cause slow loading times for your readers, and a slow-loading email is easy for readers to abandon.

If you have a video you are excited to share with your audience, the best practice is to place a still image of the video into the body of your email with a little triangular play button in the middle. The play button and image combine to create a powerful call-to-action.

Choose your video still image with careful consideration. Close-ups of expressive faces are very effective. Keep in mind, the image does not have to be taken directly from the video.

Use the best image in your arsenal that tells the story of the video. Perhaps you have one that was taken during the video shoot!

Using the still-image-with-a-play-button technique means you are linking your audience out of your email to view the video. This is a great opportunity to drive traffic to your website, where you can create a specific landing page with further content offers and calls-to-action.

GIFs, on the other hand, are a way to tell a story in video format with minimal impact on email loading times and without the need to link your readers to a web page.

GIFs are short looping videos, or moving images. They are fun and really add spice to an email, and they may help you showcase your product or image better than a static image. Familiarize yourself with free online GIF creators like and to get started.

3. Miscellaneous Considerations

Here are a few miscellaneous design considerations to enhance your overall email layout.


Using divider lines is important if you are covering multiple subjects in one email. A little black or gray line divider goes a long way to give readers a visual cue of separation between subjects.


Be mindful of the amount of text you are placing in an email compared with the amount of visual elements. A text-heavy email will turn some readers away, and a visual email with little text may leave readers without the context to understand your message.

Aim for a good balance between the two. Also, consider leaving space unfilled. Negative space conveys simplicity and emboldens the concrete elements in the email.


Consider your background color carefully. Align it with your brand, but also play with bolds like reds and yellows for special sends. You’ll also have the opportunity to color your text. Make sure your text color and background color play nice with each other.

Mobile Responsiveness

Email software services will allow you to preview your email on desktop view as well as on phones. Make sure it displays the way you envisioned it on all devices.

Email marketing remains an effective way to engage your business’ audience. Design your emails with these ideas in mind to increase your open rates and conversions.

Thanks for stopping by,

Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in August 2017 and has been edited and updated in March 2022.

Shannon Briden

Account Manager
Shannon brings her MBA education and design background to find creative, innovative solutions to everyday marketing problems.

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