Email Design Trends to Watch in 2021

Rukham Khan

Rukham Khan

February 11, 2021

With email remaining one of the key marketing channels for success, getting the design right will have a big impact on clicks, conversions, and return on investment. 2021 looks set for email marketing to make some big and bold design changes as more technology creeps into the design.

Email design has undergone a transformation over the years, and there are so many more possibilities today than there were five or ten years ago. Now, it’s about bringing something new to your recipient’s inbox, especially with more emails being sent and received every year.

From bold typography to animated graphics, long text to interactive features, here are the email design trends to take note of this year.

Ultra-personalisation

Personalization is a trend coming from 2020. The more personalized the email can be, the better its chances of success. The elements of personalization are:

  • A segmented database
  • Using the name property in the email content
  • Using smart tags to make the content more relevant
  • Using visual elements that resonate - images, videos, illustrations
  • Creating a unique user experience suitable for both mobile and desktop

Obviously, ultra-personalization goes beyond design. It requires a fundamental shift in both design and strategy to ensure that every email is as relevant and direct to the recipient as possible. Think about Spotify’s and Strava’s ‘Year in review’ emails that personalize the name, content, and statistics for each user. That’s how you cut through the noise.

Big and bold typography

While some design trends focus on smaller and minimalistic, some are getting bigger and bolder. Typography is one of these. It’s the main method of communication within the email, so it needs to catch the eye. But there are some ground rules:

  1. Don’t choose the entire text to be big and bold. Pick your headlines carefully and ensure it is emotive and positive.
  2. Don’t match big and bold typography with similarly bold colors. It can be too much. Stick to neutral colors and let the typography do the talking.
  3. Don’t cram it all into a small space. Give it some extra room and make sure the readability is good on all devices.
  4. Don’t miss out on a responsive design. Typography needs to work on the big screen and mobile devices, otherwise, it’ll put people off and look squashed.

The visual design used to be all about the hero image on an email. Not any more.

Original imagery

Original imagery has already changed the face of website design, and the same applies to email now. Generic, stock imagery just isn’t going to cut it today. The more original and striking the better.

One of the best things about original imagery is brands are not restricted by what is available on stock image stores. Yes, you need to be more creative, but with that comes a sense of freedom you don’t get normally. Especially if the image is a hero image, you need it to convey the message you want.

Images promoting products can be unique, while images promoting a brand can portray the message and emotion required. Original and unique imagery instills credibility and trust as well. If you don’t feel like you have the skills to create original imagery, get a professional to help or use a design tool such as Canva, which simplifies the whole thing.

Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs and interactive elements have been hugely popular over the last few years, and they look set to be a huge email trend in 2021. Animated GIFs, in particular, can play a great role in conveying messaging, adding humor, and improving conversions. They promote action, and they can make traditional emails full of text more visually appealing.

Furthermore, GIFs improve user experience and can be used as a great conversion tactic. For example, a countdown offer compels recipients to click on the link. Or a slot machine GIF can improve the chances of someone entering the competition by spinning the wheel.

Emotive design

We’ve mentioned emotion above, and that’s because emotion drives decision-making. You want your email design to not only be valuable. but spark the right emotion in the recipient. Think about what emotion you want to trigger:

  • Pain
  • Stress
  • Love
  • Trust
  • Adventure
  • Hope
  • Fear
  • Love
  • Belonging

The list is endless, but think about which one you are trying to get across and how the email design relates and evokes it. Match colors and imagery, as well as the copy, up to the emotion you want. For example, reds and pinks reflect love, while darker colors such as black, dark green, and maroon evoke fear.

Animated illustrations

Illustrations are another form of imagery that has gained in popularity in recent years, along with authentic and original imagery. Illustrations provide a perfect opportunity for email designers to innovate and do something different. Experiment with different styles of illustrations and incorporate animation into them in the form of cinemagraphs.

If you haven’t seen cinemagraphs before, they are a great addition to an email to instantly capture attention and drive conversions. You can expect to see more animated illustrations in 2021 to add some zest to emails.

Dark mode in emails

Dark Mode has caught the attention of most email marketers out there. In the quest of imparting a flawless experience to the subscribers, email experts are trying to decrypt Dark Mode and its implications.

Essentially, Dark Mode is a reversed color scheme wherein white font is used in a dark background. Some advantages of using dark mode in emails are:

  • Relaxing for the eyes even in rooms with low ambient light
  • A great battery-saving mechanism
  • Enhancement of content legibility and readability
  • Sophisticated look and feel

Designing emails compatible with Dark Mode will boost your sender reputation by driving email engagement and click-throughs. It will, in turn, add to your subscriber engagement and let the inbox providers know that your subscribers want to receive your emails. Consequently, your emails will land in the subscriber’s inbox, turning into a self-feeding mechanism.

Conclusion

Email design is set to play a critical role in the success of email campaigns this year. They need to cut through the noise, catch attention and evoke emotion. There’s a ton of design trends out there, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Emails need to be designed for the receiver. Whether that means embedding video into it, designed a really visual, low-copy, email, or using an animated GIF, it’s all about the preferences of your subscribers.

If conversion rates remain low, try something else. Always adapt and always innovate with different features, colors, and so on. Focus on bringing your email to life. It’s about finding the right balance between boldness and value.

Author Bio

Rukham Khan

Rukham is the Content Lead at Mailmunch. He believes trust should be the basis for all marketing communications.

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