Design plays a substantial role in the success or failure of every email campaign. It’s not just what you say in your email, but how you say it! I’m a huge fan of great email marketing design, but since I’m not an actual designer, I caught up with our Senior Interaction Designer, Jason Walker, to answer some questions about what makes great email design.

1. What’s one of the main email design mistakes that you see in your inbox that makes you cringe?

Non-responsive emails! With the popularity of mobile devices, every email that goes out should consider design restraints for mobile. Our phones are great at taking emails and adjusting them to fit our screens, however if you don’t consider how your audience will interact with that email, you may find your engagement metrics falling short. Emails should be built with a mobile-first mentality. Links and buttons should be easy to tap and images should be optimized so I can quickly digest an email while on the go.

2. What’s your thought process when going to design a new email template?

The KISS philosophy, or simply: keep it simple stupid. Emails should be easy to read and not overblown with information or links to click. I think it’s easy to get carried away quickly.

I also prefer to have more white space between sections of emails so that things don’t blend together. It’s important to remember that many people scan websites and emails, cramming all of your content together makes it that much more difficult to scan and therefore harder for your recipient to find what may be interesting to them.

3. Do you have a few simple email design tips for marketers to remember when they’re choosing an existing template? Things to watch out for or make sure the template includes?

  • Make simple changes to the existing template to match your brand colors. It can be assumed that many other individuals and companies are using this same template. This will help you take a generic template and make it feel more connected to your brand.
  • Always make sure you find a template that looks great on mobile! Send yourself tests and ask colleagues or friends to look at it on their devices as well.
  • Do your research and make sure you are picking a template that will cover all of your use cases. It can be difficult to modify an existing template to cover a use case that an original designer might not have thought about.

If you plan to make major modifications to an existing template, weigh the amount of time you’re going to invest in making those changes and testing it. In some cases, you may end up spending more time trying to make an existing template work than it would cost to have a custom template designed and built.

4. I think I remember you saying something to me about the importance of alt tags, can you refresh my memory on why that is?

Alt tags are very important to define on your images. Images don’t always load by default and we want to make sure that users understand what type of content they may not be able to visually see. Take for example a hero image at the top of an email announcing an event in Denver. We may use a pretty picture of our city with some nice type designed on top of it. In the event a user’s email client blocks that image, we’ve lost that attention grabbing element of our design.

The good news is, we can use alt tags to help us still convey that message to the user without the image. Designers and developers can use CSS to style the alt tag text in the event the image is not displayed—this also can play a big role in accessibility for users that may have disabilities.

5. Do you receive email from a certain brand that you just love to consume because of the design? If so, who is it and why?

As a designer, I love the emails that Invision sends. They have very consistent patterns and a generous amount of white space. They’ve also established a framework that they can reuse over and over, swapping out content and imagery as they need.

If you’re looking for a little help in the email marketing template department, look no further. We recently released a bundle of five responsive email templates that you can download here. If you’re an existing SendGrid customer, these templates are already pre-loaded to your account, so you can jump into Marketing Campaigns now and start editing away!



Kate Schmeisser
When Kate isn't trying to teach herself the ukelele, make it through the mountain of books on her nightstand, or figure out if they are actually being serious about suggested serving sizes on ice cream, she is the Creative Content Manager.