Eye-catching email headers set the tone for your email. Whether it’s bold or subtle, the header is where you announce yourself to the reader and immediately introduce a visual identity.
If you don’t normally give your email header design much thought, now’s the time to reconsider. Let’s break down what exactly an email header is and check out some design examples from brands in our inbox.Eye-catching email headers set the tone for your email. Whether it's bold or subtle, the header is where you announce yourself to the reader and immediately introduce a visual identity. Click To Tweet
What is an email header?
An email header encompasses the subject line, recipient and sender, as well as the HTML header in the body of the email. In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the part of the email header that’s inside the email.
Email headers include the company’s name or logo. They often add a product menu that links to the brand’s website. Sometimes, brands will also add a line about a perk they’re offering—such as free shipping or a discount.
Your header might seem unimportant, but it’s actually a great place to use some key marketing strategies. Think of it as a free space to insert essential marketing or branding information. You could also make the email easier to navigate by adding an anchor link menu in the header.
Email header design do’s
Well-designed email headers have a few key qualities in common. We suggest the following do’s:
- Do make sure the header is brand-identifying. The header reinforces the “from” field so the reader won’t doubt who sent the email.
- Do make sure the header is versatile. A good header works with all email campaigns types, playing nice with each email template.
- Do remain consistent over time. A consistent email header creates familiarity, which reduces the cognitive drain on your readers.
- Do create an elegant and simple header. There’s no clutter in the header, like crammed information or hard-to-read print. Case in point: the Sweaty Betty header, seen here, that uses a basic font and includes only the essential information.
Email header design don’ts
As you design your email header, avoid the following pitfalls:
- Don’t overdo the navigation. A concise and clear navigation menu is helpful. A dozen choices is overwhelming. It’s an email, not your website.
- Don’t make it too big. Size is important—strive for your email headers to be less than 70px high if they don’t have a menu, or less than 200px if they do.
- Don’t go off-script. The header should be strongly branded, including your logo and key colors. Your email header is not the place to experiment with new, off-the-wall ideas.
- Don’t keep changing. If the design of your email header changes frequently, your emails will be less recognizable, causing some readers to wonder if it’s really you.
Now that you know what makes up the best email header design, let’s take a look at some tips backed up with real-life examples from brands you know.
Email header examples
#1: Just use your logo
Plenty of brands use a version of their logo in their header. There’s nothing wrong with that! Using your logo easily checks all three items on our to-do list: Your logo is branded, simple and versatile.
If you include a navigation menu in your header — many brands, especially e-commerce companies, find these menus important — reduce clutter and streamline your header by using your brand name or logo at the top. Brands from Target to Crate & Barrel to West Elm all do this. Here’s the approach Hootsuite uses in its emails, inserting its logo and name before an introductory line of text:
When your logo is well-recognized, it gets easier and easier to use on its own. Here’s another example from Lululemon, with the logo on the left and a super-simple navigation menu on the other side.
Instacart is another brand that keeps its emails uncluttered by just using its logo and name at the top. The logo provides a little pop of color and immediately brands the email.
When you use a logo image as your header, you successfully brand and introduce your message while also letting readers’ eyes get to the heart of the email. It’s a foolproof approach!
#2: Get colorful
Another simple, versatile way to create a great email header is to use a band of color across the top of your message. The header doesn’t have to be fancy. Just use your primary brand color and brand font, and voilà!
Here’s an example from Ghirardelli Chocolate. Ghirardelli chose a muted navy blue that matches its branding and isn’t overwhelming. Gold accents, the brand’s logo and its motto set up the rest of the email. This email header design example is visually appealing but not overwhelming.
Mashable takes a similar approach with a bold blue header that helps reinforce visual identity while looking clean and sharp.
And here are three different email headers from The Tie Bar; you can see how the design is versatile and easy to insert into multiple separate emails.
A bold color header like this can easily be accomplished with an HTML background color—either alongside an image (like a logo) or beneath live text.
#3: Grab the eye with photography
Including an image at the beginning of your email is always a great way to grab readers’ eyes. A photographic header is no exception. My Subscription Addition’s Sizzle newsletter, for example, always begins with this fun, playful header that’s emblematic of its brand.
The Munchery food service also uses a beautiful, crisp photo header:
When you choose a photo for your header, it’s important to think about the photo’s versatility. If your email typically includes a lot of imagery, consider if your photo header will work well alongside all future content you’ll send. The Sizzle always employs a “DEALS” section header as a buffer between the main header and the rest of the email, which is a smart way to ensure email flow and organization.
#4: Make sure to customize
Keeping a header consistent doesn’t mean that it always has to be exactly the same. For different emails, you’ll want to make slight changes to the header to keep it visually interesting and add customization. But if you’re going to make adjustments in one place, keep other things the same, like the position of your text or logo.
Take this email header design example created by graphic design school Shillington. The circle logo and dog-eared corner effect are always present, even though the brand often changes colors. Because the header is so simple, it’s also versatile. Here are some examples:
Unstyled by Refinery29 takes a similar approach. The text in the email header never changes size or placement, but each email has a different color scheme, creating a beautiful rainbow effect. Here are three great examples of this email newsletter header design:
#5: Have a few versions on hand
If you choose to customize your header, it doesn’t hurt to have a few templatized versions to cycle through emails (see the section at the bottom for instructions on how to save and reuse different email headers). While the Unstyled newsletter always has a custom header for each email, clothing company Chubbies rotates between at least three different headers:
Version #1 — pineapples
Version #2 — full-width logo
Version #3 — special “weekender” edition
Having a few different email header styles keeps your emails dynamic and interesting. But Chubbies never strays from using its logo and brand color in every header, and it’s this consistency that makes the emails easily recognizable and well-branded.
Saving and reusing your email header designs
If you like the idea of having different email header designs readily available to you, the question is how to easily do so.
- How do you quickly save different email headers?
- How can you pick the one you want for a new design?
- How do you update an existing version?
The same is true for other elements that are often reused across different emails, like the footer. Creating a combination of templates and reusable content blocks can help you design emails much faster, while keeping things consistent across various designs. It’s what people call an email design system.
Saving and reusing content is one of the core benefits of using a complete email design suite like BEE Pro. It’s free to sign up: check it out and see how easy it is to save and reuse an email header across different templates.
Wrap-up: Design your own email header!
Need to brush up your email header design? Your readers will appreciate it. Use our completely free email editor to try new design ideas. You can start from one of the over 1200 free email templates, professionally designed by over 30 email designers from around the world. You can immediately edit any of them using a no-code, drag-and-drop email editor. They come with a huge library of free stock images, lots of design tools, and HTML code that is always mobile responsive. Try some new ideas and have fun!
Updated on June 14, 2022.
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