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15 Email Design Best Practices

Email Design are critical to email success, this guide outlines 15 key design principles to keep your members engaged.


Key Elements for Email Design

Body Colors and Padding: White is in and don’t be afraid of padding

Banner: A visual introduction that contains your logo and often times other information

Text: Large headlines that tells the reader what to expect, text big enough for everyone to read

Content: Amount of text, font sizes and layout

Call to Action or Call to Outcome: Size, shape, color and location of buttons and hyperlinks

Images: Which images you select, where they are placed and standard sizes

Footer: Social links, unsubscribe and email preferences links, and legal requirements

Adaptable: Dark Mode, Mobile, ADA Compliant: Make sure everyone can enjoy your design


Body Colors and Padding

Email Template Width: 650 px wide

Padding: 15 px on all sides, 10 px between sections, 15 – 20 px around buttons

Colors: White sides and white body, or a light grey on the sides.


Email Banners


There are three philosophies in what the email banners should look like:

Option 1:  250 px high with just your logo and some color

  • Provides great brand consistency across emails, the text in the body does the talking

APTA Email Header with Logo

Option 2: 350 px high with your logo and information about the event

  • This is a show stopping option that gives people the information they need right away

CAIL Large Email Header with All Event Info

Option 3: Large hero image

  • Associations in Healthcare, Law, Higher Education, and Finance all have a hard time getting big images through firewalls. A pho hero image is a great way to stand out by using a combination of colored blocks, text, and images.

IMA Pho Hero Image with Text and Images



Headlines: 24 – 28 px Bold; a dark brand color

Sub Headlines: 20-22 px Bold; a dark brand color

Text Font: 14-16 px; black or a very dark grey


Content: Every email should have one goal, get subscribers to do something. Identify your goal, then build around it.

Associations are notorious for writing too much content! Keep it short and point people to the place you want them to click. Some stats to keep in mind:

Members spend on average 10 seconds reading your emails, and it is declining!

When testing a 5 sentence paragraph against a 3 sentence paragraph = 3 lines had a 21% click through increase


Call to Action

A call to action (CTA) is a prompt that encourages your audience to take a specific action. Like subscribing to a newsletter or registering for a conference.

What matters is that your call to actions are clear and easy to find.

Buttons are your primary call to action

  • Make them large enough that fat thumbs can easily click them on mobile devices

  • Use a dark background color and a text color that have high contrast

  • Please your button towards the top of the email – not at the bottom

Hyperlinks are your secondary call to action

  • Hyperlinks should be bold, underlined and in a dark color

  • Hyperlink multiple words, not one (remember the fat thumbs!)


Button Shape Ideas


Typical Image sizes:

350 wide for a stand alone image

250 wide for an image with text next to it

150 wide for headshot images

Make sure when placing and image and text next to each other that they wrap well on mobile!


Include modern social links

Clear hyperlinks: contact us, privacy policy, view in web version, unsubscribe, and manage email preferences.

Include your full address to stay CAN-SPAM and CASL compliant

Make all of your footers as similar as possible, color variation is okay, but the links should all be in the same places so members can easily get to other places no matter the email they are looking at.

Email footer design example


Dark Mode: It’s estimated that 80% of people have their computers or phones on dark mode. Check to see how your emails look in Dark Mode then make adjustments to colors to make them better. Here’s an in-depth guide from Litmus with more information.

Responsive for Mobile: All email platforms should have the option to see how your email will render on mobile – make sure your emails are responsive and easy to read on mobile.

ADA Compliance: Ensure that everyone can enjoy your emails. Run your email through or view this accessiBe blog for more information.


Once you get your designs down, create an email style guide so everyone is on the same page with the designs. Download a template here.

Well designed emails only do well if they aren't sent with any errors, grab our send checklist to ensure your emails are perfect!

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