3 Email Design Tips To Get Started

There are 4 billion daily email users. Hubspot anticipates that this number will continue climbing over the next three years to 4.5 billion users daily. Emails are a mighty communication channel that you can't overlook.

Over the last several months, I worked with Square, a financial services & digital payments platform, to revamp their email design system. During this project, I learned a few email design best practices to share with other designers tackling email design. The following email design tips reflect on the use of tone, narrative, and clarity.

Why Email Design Matters

Email design matters because it directly affects a customer's user experience with your company. Good email design reinforces a company's image and acts as a gateway to complete meaningful actions. If tasked with creating emails, focusing on design can deliver a major payoff. In short, emails are a portal to drive action from your customers - leading to profitability.

1. Match The Tone With Your Audience

An important order of business to establish in email design is your tone of voice, which depends entirely on your target audience. Using the right tone can massively influence a user’s interaction with the rest of your product. Minimizing the number of roadblocks can tremendously increase productivity from your user base, and your company will reap the benefits.

Below is an example of a Square email based on their respective target audience.

Tone - Picture

In this example, we can see Square’s tone in action. Due to the sensitive nature of these emails, Squares strives to be warm, mature, and direct with its user base.

  • Warm: Make sure the message gets across while keeping the user’s trust
  • Mature: Speak knowledgeably about your industry and product
  • Direct: Cut down on insult or frustration by getting straight to the point

2. Create a Transparent Narrative

Transparency refers to a user’s ease of navigating through your copy and action items. Going from A to B and from B to C. Email design is the perfect opportunity to introduce a more transparent narrative that educates the user on currently taking place and what will likely happen next.

In the example below, we have two versions of the same email. The amount of copy on the “Before” email poses a more complicated story to follow and no prominent call to action. The image on the right shows how a transparent narrative can create a clear, concise, and complete message. Both examples provide the same information, but the example on the right delivers an explicit narrative.


3. Replace Text With Illustrations & Tables

Illustrations and tables provide a level of clarity that text cannot. They allow the reader to grasp the story quickly and take action if necessary. An easy way to adopt this concept is by replacing blocks of text with illustrations or tables.

Below we have two versions of the same email. In this scenario, an account is getting deactivated for repetitive fraud activity. The urgency of this email requires more clarity to put the user at ease. To parse this information quicker, we turned the large bodies of text into a table with tangible numbers. Using a visual representation helps answer the big question of why the account is getting deactivated. The table provides a level of clarity that is more digestible for the user.


With these three tips, hopefully, you will turn emails from an overlooked opportunity into a valuable asset. As designers, we have to stay mindful of the entire customer journey, emails included.

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