Email design trends and inspiration for 2020

What does 2020 have in store for email marketers like you? 

It can be hard to believe that the concept of email marketing is more than 40 years old. The industry is ever-evolving and the competition can be fierce. You need to take inspiration from new trends and technologies constantly if you want your campaigns to stand out.

How do you know which marketing shifts to follow and which digital developments to consider? Let’s talk about how you can freshen up your design strategies and techniques for the new year.

Where do you get forward-thinking email design inspiration?

An email campaign will, at the very least, serve its purpose if you get the basics down. You should never stop there, though. 

Do you want to set new marketing goals for 2020? To improve your metrics, something needs to change in your process. You can’t expect better numbers if you don’t do better work.

How do you identify what to focus on? You can trust your gut if it’s never led you astray. But if you need some assistance separating fads from future standards, you can also listen to our marketing experts.

We’re always here to help.

What’s some 2020 email design we can learn from?

If you’re ready to assess and digest ideas that will shape and influence email design in 2020, we’ve collected eight below.

1. Dark mode

Last year marked the adoption of designated dark mode options by three of the world’s top email service providers. 

Apart from being easier on the eyes for some, switching to dark mode can lengthen the battery life of some smartphone models. Apple, Google, and Microsoft have all rolled out the feature. 

Designing for dark mode may soon be necessary, if it’s not already. And you don’t want your emails to be eyesores. Instead of always worrying about how your emails will look on different screens, why not make all your work dark mode friendly?

designing for dark mode

Source: Really Good Emails

Switch visual file formats from JPG to one that can handle transparent images, like PNG. Add a white stroke to dark text to make it legible no matter what color is underneath. You can also use a dark palette when creating your emails.

The reMarkable email above is a great example. The black background complements the dark image, drawing the eye to the stark white text and pictured product. The rare pops of color accentuate the call-to-action (CTA) button and countdown timer, too.

2. Muted hues

Like dark mode, muted hues can alleviate symptoms of eye strain. They appear more calming and less aggressive than bolder colors. 

If it doesn’t conflict with your brand’s guidelines, you can create a muted palette to use as email design inspiration. Add some white or black to existing brand hues to tone them down. 

muted palette example

Source: Really Good Emails

ThirdLove used muted background colors to punctuate their copy and separate email sections. Matte purple to go with “ambitious,” powder blue to go with “relaxed,” and so on. When the email says “pick your mood,” you feel the urge to comply because you’re presented with delineated choices.

3. Minimalism and email accessibility

We’re not saying you must revert to plain text email designs. However, some minimalist considerations could benefit your campaigns.

Why? More than 70% of people go through email using a mobile app. In fact, at least 50% of all emails get opened on mobile. Your emails need to display correctly on smartphones these days.

Maintain a healthy compromise between plain text and overloaded HTML for forward-thinking email designs. Minimalism was a 2019 must, but the trend continues to grow. Prioritize solid colors, single columns, concise copy, and intuitive link placement. Don’t forget to make room for negative space, as it helps draw attention to important elements.

Minimalism is also compatible with email accessibility and the importance of inclusive design. Simple and smart layouts make better and more accessible emails for those with hearing or visual impairments.

4. 3D and isometric imagery

More than email design inspiration, 3D and isometric shapes have been everywhere recently. It’s a modern 2020 graphic design trend appearing in everything from websites to actual works of art.

3d and isometric design examples

Source: Really Good Emails

Versatility is the best thing about 3D and isometric renders. They always look impressive and they can amplify messages of almost every tone or branding. 

The Designmodo email above leads with a 3D illusion: “60% off” in simulated pink neon lights around traditional-looking text spelling out “Black Friday.” It holds your interest and tells you the point of the email. 

What about isometric illustrations? How do they differ from 3D imagery? Isometric illustrations are 2D and created around the idea of 30-degree angles. They may feel three-dimensional, but they’re just successful illusions. 

Let’s look at the Lyft email below for an example of an isometric design element. We’re specifically looking at the three buildings and the car on a path. If you examine the image, you’ll find that it’s not 3D. 

example of isometric design element

Source: Really Good Emails

The isometric design in the Lyft email works because they create a scene rooted in reality yet stylized to fit with the brand’s preference for pink and purple hues. 

5. Abstract and organic shapes

Abstract art strives to be open to interpretation, meeting the viewer halfway. While not exactly needing concrete interaction, abstract designs inspire engagement. Abstraction demands at least a second look – and maybe a third, a fourth, or more.

Taken as email design inspiration, abstract art influence leans toward dreamy or distorted. You can play with exaggerating or taking an absurd approach to visual elements.

Consider the lead image of the Aesop email below. It’s representing a human figure, but the proportions are a tad unrealistic. It’s not apparent why the image holds your attention, but it does so with ease.

example of visual elements

Source: Really Good Emails

Not every brand or company can pull this off. Thankfully, there’s another art trend that can update the feel of your emails: organic shapes. 

Organic shapes are flowing lines, graceful arcs, and fluid-like blobs. Think rounded corners rather than jagged edges, or an asymmetrical aesthetic over grid-based works. 

If you find some email templates too rigid and blocky, replace some geometric shapes with organic ones. You can also separate sections of text with uneven lines.

Can you spot the organic influence in the Hawthorne email below?

hawthorne email example

Source: Really Good Emails

Wavy lines separate the sections of the email, but they’re pretty much invisible. There’s a seamless effect to it – like someone took figurative craft scissors to the sections and arranged them in cascading layers.

These simple organic lines add quirkiness. They also lessen the severity of the contrast between the dark mode friendly background and the muted main body.

6. User-generated content

Complementing email marketing strategy with social media isn’t limited to posting on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to get more email subscribers. If your brand also dabbles in social media marketing, adding user-generated content to your email campaigns is a win-win.

Embedding user-generated content in your emails is similar to relying on social proof. In some cases, it’s the same thing. It’s a tried-and-tested tactic to ask for testimonials and customer reviews – to share via email in future campaigns – on social platforms or through survey emails.

Look at the Paravel email below. It’s a great example of showing off user-generated content.

user generated content email example

Source: Really Good Emails

Paravel created two hashtags (#TheAdventurousLife and #Paravel) and encouraged their followers to use them while posting relevant photos. The result is an email with a dynamic catalog featuring the brand’s products, supported by a simple CTA button underneath.

7. Animations and videos

Your open rate could go up by 19% if you add the word “video” to your subject line – even if you don’t embed one in your email. When you do include videos in your email campaigns, click-through rates can improve by 65%. If they feature sound, they’re also ideal email accessibility additions.

Videos don’t even need to be directly embedded in the copy. You can hyperlink to one using a static image or an animated GIF as an anchor.

animated gif email example

Source: Really Good Emails

Optimized animations are strong performers on their own, too. GIFs can replace simple videos – slideshow-type or instructional ones, in particular. In 2020, you may want to switch to animated PNGs (APNGs), as they can support more colors and transparency.

8. Interactive elements

Did you know about 82% of email users prefer to receive emails with interactive content over traditional passive messages? Taking this into consideration pays off, too: Interactive emails lead to double the number of conversions.

Interactive elements include maps, quizzes, calculators, and more. 

interactive elements email example

Source: Really Good Emails

The PlayStation message above features interactive elements in the form of the “tap to reveal” stats. The tactile element adds direct participation to the email experience. It boosts engagement and entertainment, strengthening the connection between the brand and its customers.

Wrap up

What email designs should inform the way you craft your 2020 email marketing campaigns? Here are eight current trends to consider:

  • Dark mode

  • Muted hues

  • Minimalism and email accessibility

  • 3D and isometric imagery

  • Abstract and organic shapes

  • User-generated content

  • Animations and videos

  • Interactive elements

Ready to create revitalized email marketing campaigns? Sign up for a demo today and experience the ease of working with Emma.

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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