Grab People’s Attention with These Email Design Examples

A lot can be said about what are some good email design examples.

Anything from using images to not using images, maybe a video call to action works. Of course, we need a catchy subject line even get people to see our emails.

Remember functionality

As Chad White says in the 4th edition of “Email Marketing Rules,” remember that your email will render differently on different devices so it needs to work on all screens.

Email design examples: Keeping it simple

Brandon Walton joined me on the Business Storytelling Podcast to give some email design inspiration. The article below also dives into more email design inspiration for you. The main question that needs to be answered though: Does every email really need to be designed?

I’ve been in many meetings over the years where people sought email design inspiration. Let’s look at competitor email newsletters to see what they are doing. Should we copy that or something similar? Where should the images go? We will use images after all, right?

But not all newsletters or email marketing campaigns need to be highly designed. There are advantages and disadvantages.

Brandon Walton
Brandon Walton

A highly designed email can scream “marketing message.” A marketing email that looks just like any other email from people can appear more authentic, Brandon said on the podcast.

One of my own highest-performing email campaigns was just that. A personal email was sent to attendees of my Agora Pulse Summit talk.

Here’s how it looked.

Email design inspiration - simple

It was one of the better days of book sales for me. I didn’t even share an image of the book, yet people clicked and bought it. It was also the third link down. The first had no appointments, the second one had some reads and the third was selling book.

That doesn’t mean all emails should look like that. A well-designed email can also do the trick

An email design example of a designed email:

Email design inspiration: designed template

Things to consider for designed emails

Brandon mentioned that the design of email templates could be an exercise that takes time. Time is money. Think about all the time that goes into brainstorming, drafting, production, and more. I’m all for brainstorming and collaboration. It’s just something to consider: Will it be worth it? Of course, sometimes we don’t know whether or not a content project is worth it until we try and run it for a bit.

Read next: Collaboration in a Content Performance Culture

When it comes to designed emails, there are things to consider:

  • Mix of images and text
  • Preheader copy
  • Who it comes from
  • Subject lines


Pictures draw attention. Especially good ones, but they can also present problems in emails. Sending emails that are only pictures can present a real problem. Here’s one example:

You can see the outline of an image if your email is set not to download images automatically.

My iPhone email doesn’t download images until I click the “download images” text, and even my desktop Outlook doesn’t until I click to ask it to.

Basically, the email – the entire email – is designed as an image. That image is then emailed out. I would think that this tactic offers some production advantages to the email sender-for example they can design and create the entire email basically in one place.

But, it’s not viewable by users like myself, who don’t allow automatic image downloads.

And people might not even notice that they have to take another step.

My recommendation for email marketers would be the following:

  • Use an email template that works well on all, devices-including smartphones – where many people will read emails.
  • Certainly use images to help illustrate the content in the email, but don’t use image-only emails.

Here’s an example of how to use images in a way that’s user-friendly in email marketing. This is from the Internet Marketing Association. Without the image download it looks like this:

As you can see, even without the image it’s still very readable. Users can see that there’s something for them to consume.

Once I download the image, here’s how the email looks:


Preheader text in email marketing may potentially be as important as the subject line, but is also often overlooked.

I see so many emails coming in with terrible preheader text it’s terrible. Maybe an epidemic of ignorance of preheaders.

So what’s a preheader in email marketing anyway?

Here’s an example. I circled it for you:

Preheader copy is one of three things email readers see.

  • The sender’s name (Meetings Today in this case.)
  • Subject line (5 Ways to use food to inspire … )
  • The preheader text (the short teaser text)

And it should be teaser text. Not a summary. But its goal – just like the subject line – is to get people to open the email.

But preheader text is often overlooked.

I see emails that say:

“Want to read this on the web? Click here.”

Others say:

“Unsubscribe here.”

Some email systems have these as the default, which will go out if no update is made. But it’s silly to send that. People unsubscribing probably shouldn’t be a top goal.

That default copy is not enticing at all and you can’t even take the call to action until you open the email, which you likely won’t base on that preheader text. If the preheader must be changed globally and can’t be changed on an per-campaign basis, at least make it more enticing:

  • Here are your updates
  • Don’t miss these important updates
  • Etc.

Related: Unsubscribing on iPhone is easier than ever

Of course, the subject line or sender name might pull people in. But why give up another chance to  get people’s attention?

Preheader text that’s not engaging

Other bad preheader texts are just letters and what appears to be image HTML or other coding verbiage.

Of course, it’s hard to measure – may be impossible – to see if your subject line or the preheader text got people to open the email. It also could depend on send timing.

But I know this: The preheader area exists. So let’s make use of it. Maybe one test could be to make it completely blank and see if that makes a difference.

Having copy that doesn’t make sense or looks bad is useless and might hurt your brand perception. You wouldn’t let a print ad with gobbledygook go out the door, now would you?

Imagine a digital agency doing this and they try to pitch email marketing. Automatic disqualification!

How to create designed email templates

You can hire freelance design help for your email design and/or use tools like Convertkit that already offer easy-to-use templates to get started. 

How to write good preheader copy?

Make it pop. Oh yes, there’s that dreaded direction. Lol. But, seriously, the copy needs to stand out. It needs to entice people to click.

Tell enough to engage. Don’t tell the whole story, which isn’t possible in that small space anyway.

  • Use active words. Words that mean something.
  • Create a real fear of missing out.
  • But don’t sensationalize

The subject line and the preheader can work together and are the first thing people will see. Make sure it’s not the only thing they’ll see of your email.

How about a good email infographic?

I was heading to Nashville, flying on Delta during the holiday season.

A few days before the trip, Delta sent me an email with potentially helpful things. It as created as a nice-looking infographic.

The Delta email had the picture-only issue that I mentioned above. So some text would have been helpful. Once I clicked to download the images, though, it was a fantastic experience.

Some pretty basic information there with when to show up and those kinds of details. But there’s also a link to download the app. Given that it was close to the holiday travel season the tip to wrap gifts later was timely.

Of course, there is a clickable link at the bottom of the image to head on over and download the app now.

Then the email infographic gave tips on how to connect when in the air. Also very helpful.

As I keep scrolling Delta reminded me that I can earn Delta miles while riding with Lyft.

And then, finally, it reminds us that we can always send a gift card for the next Delta purchase to somebody. Also very timely for the holiday season.

What’s there to like

I like this infographic, especially when it loads because it actually does offer helpful information in a very easily digestible way.

Producing content for the web requires us to produce skimmable content. And an infographic like that – which is kind of like a more beautiful bulleted list really makes that simple.

It certainly could also be sent out as a text-only email and might even work that way.

Delta can also use the graphic on other channels. Like social media, their website, and really anywhere where it might be relevant. So it is an excellent example of Create Once, Publish Everywhere as well.

The case for blog emails

The automatic WordPress Jetpack emails are an excellent example of content-based emails. These are the emails WordPress sites, like this one use to send new posts to subscribers. Here’s an example. It’s pretty plain, but automated and gets subscribers what they signed up for.

Email design inspiration - WordPress blog emails

As long as you use self-hosted WordPress and the Jetpack plug-in you can easily use this function.

Read this to learn how to set-up your email list and distribution on WordPress now

When people sign up for my email list on here they also get options.

First, they get an email saying they subscribed. Please confirm.

On the confirmation screen, you can set the frequency ask. When do you want the email?

    Immediately when a post published
    Up to once a day
    Once a week

Even in the emails, they remind you this is an option:

Also, I love how the confirmation email sends the latest high-performing posts:

What’s listed there is also pulled from Jetpack stats.


Whether we use designed emails or plain ones, both can be automated

Tom Fishburne poked fun at what can be annoying email automaton. He isn’t wrong.

His weekly cartoon basically said that marketers send an offer and then relentlessly and automatically follow up asking if you got that offer. It’s not a lie necessarily.


I’ve been there and run similar campaigns. Of course, Tom takes his cartoon to the extreme and I like to think I’m not that annoying. But the bottom line is that I (and many marketers) have followed the concept.

Now the email nurture campaign starts.

Get Tom Fishburne’s book with the best marketing cartoons here.

How to use old but relevant content in your emails

Whether you are using plain emails or designed ones, you need content to share with your audiences. This section gives some quick tips on how to do that effectively.

Email is also a great way to repurpose your content marketing content.

Of course, we can use much of this content – often evergreen – later.

We can re-share it on social media, optimize it further for SEO, and send it again in emails.

When somebody signs up, put them on a cadence.

On Day 1, they get a thank you email with a link to download something valuable or your favorite and most relevant blog post. Something else that adds value. Don’t stop at just saying thanks for signing up.

On Day 7, they get Evergreen post 1.

On Day 14, they get all the content published in the past week.

Day 21: Evergreen post 2

Day 28: New content catchup

Day 35: Evergreen post 3

You get the idea. You can certainly step up volume and decrease intervals or set it differently. This is a sample!

Once in a while, it wouldn’t hurt to send an offer or you can just add inline calls to actions to offers.

Final thoughts

Using smart email design with a smart strategy to maximize content makes sense to me. Sometimes it’s a designed email and sometimes it makes sense to use a less-designed email to reach your goals.

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