Most hot startups entering a crowded marketplace have one opportunity to stand out, and they all have one thing in common: noticeable email design trends. Design excellence is a valuable—and critical—way to communicate, connect with an audience, and establish an edge over the competition. We took a look at some email designs from hot startups, and here are five big things we discovered.
1. Neon brand colors pop against white backgrounds
Startups are choosing bright, bold brand colors for logos and design. As the Undullify blog recently pointed out, there have been more than a few “neonified” logo updates this year:
One of the email design trends is reflected in how brands are choosing candy colors to accentuate messages. We recently saw it in the welcome email from the shipping/moving company Shyp, which employs the brand’s neon green to bookend their email:
Hearst’s promo email for Hello Fresh, the food delivery company, also uses a brighter version of the brand’s spring green throughout their email for noticeable pops of color:
Using bright colors is also an excellent way to focus a reader’s attention on calls to action (especially when the colors are used for buttons or linked text). Colors are also useful as content dividers and simple design accents, where they evoke a fresh, modern feel that unifies an email’s aesthetic.
For example, Lyft, the ride service company, uses neon pink for design accents and CTA buttons:
And InVision, the free web prototyping app, uses its brand color to drive readers’ eyes to bold call-to-action buttons, too.
2. Animated GIFs call attention to special announcements
Animated GIFs are also popping up as part of email design trends. Often, GIFs are used in special announcement emails as a way to draw readers attention and signal an out-of-the-ordinary message.
Seamless, for instance, created this animated GIF for an announcement email inviting users to a film festival it sponsored:
Here’s the full body of the email for context:
As for Leesa, the mattress company, when it sponsored a contest to help readers win a trip to San Francisco, a simple but eye-catching GIF marked the occasion:
Even promotional emails are getting fun makeovers, like this one from Casper, another mattress company. “We’re blowing up boring summer mattress sales with the hottest BOGO deal of all time,” the clever email copy announces. And to get readers in the spirit of the sale, Casper included a playful GIF that incorporated an air mattress:
When used selectively, GIFs are more effective in grabbing attention. So when a company sends an email with an animated GIF, readers implicitly understand: this is something different to notice. (Want to learn more about GIFs? Check out our video tutorial on how to add animated GIFs to emails.)
3. Modular, single-column layouts with minimal text are scan-friendly
Modular layouts—emails comprised of stacked blocks or sections of content—are another one of startups’ email design trends. The layout is easy to read and scan and we’ve already seen it used in the InVision, Lyft, Hearst, and Shyp emails above. Even this other newsletter (or “snoozeletter”) from Casper uses the layout, with sections of color here and there.
Often, each module should include elements such as an image or some type of visual element, a short header or text, and a call to action. The brevity of content in each module makes it easy to read quickly before scrolling to the next piece of content. The layout’s simplicity further enforces a clean, organized design that helps readers absorb information in a linear way.
4. Images are enhanced with simple text overlay treatment
Adding catchy text to images is a quick and easy way to customize stock photos and level-up email design. The simple process adds a degree of sophistication to any email design without requiring a significant investment of time or resources. VRBO, the vacation rental site, uses this tongue-in-cheek approach in the hero image space of an email, which invites readers to plan a winter getaway with the copy, “Book now, chill later.”
Even the Lyft email we saw above uses the same technique, with succinct copy promising a luxurious card ride:
What both brands have in common is their use of simple statements (3 or 4 words max) that stand out and add value to the images. The large, easy-to-read text is also clean, clear, and concise. If the text was placed underneath the image, the message wouldn’t have the same impact.
Learn how to add text to images in BEE in our tutorial (it’s free and can be done in minutes).
5. Simple spot illustrations convey friendliness and modernity
Spot illustrations are small drawings—usually without borders or backgrounds—that appear alongside text to liven up a message. As far as email design trends go, illustrations make any message more meaningful. They also help readers pay attention to directions or instructions, which is what happens in this Uber message about how to use a sign-up code:
Imagine the message without illustrations—it would be pretty dry, and probably more difficult to draw readers’ eyes to the screen. Likewise, in the sweepstakes email from Leesa (full message above), spot illustrations communicate the prizes being offered:
Lyft (full email above) also uses illustrations effectively to showcase qualities of the brand:
Wrap-up: Email design trends from popular startups
- “Neonified” colors are in. Just use them sparingly, and opt for one bright, bold color per email. Colors that pop are a great way to tie email designs together and draw readers’ attention to CTA buttons and content dividers.
- Animated GIFs are effective for one-off announcements. When GIFs are used selectively, readers will often take note. So save GIFs for emails that need extra special attention.
- Modular, single-column layouts are easiest to read. The simple layouts have a fresh, modern look. A white background makes reading easiest, but don’t be afraid to use a bold background color in one email section.
- Text overlay on images adds design sophistication. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to do. Improving stock photos with text is a quick and beautiful way to improve your email designs.
- Spot illustrations punch up a message. Small, simple illustrations can add purposeful design features to any email without creating clutter.
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