Inside the Inbox: A design expert shares his top email must-haves

Inside the Inbox is a series created by Emma to empower you with an inside look at your customers’ favorite emails. We’re tracking down email subscribers from every industry and asking them to share the current state of their email inbox with us, ultimately giving you unfiltered consumer insight you can’t find anywhere else. From email messages they open right away to those that go directly to spam, we’ll uncover the good, the bad, and the undeliverable. 
This time, we're taking a look inside the inbox of design expert Logan Baird. Emma's design services lead and a seasoned email professional, Logan shares the messages that stood out to him, as well as the ones he could have lived without.

First things first: How many unread emails are currently in your inbox?

“My policy on this kind of varies—Work email is an inbox zero policy always. The last time I checked my personal email, I think I had 391 unread messages, but a good number of those are receipts or updates from the Next Door app. If it’s a personal correspondence email, I’m on top of that, but if it’s a helpful update email, I keep it for reference but usually ignore it.”

Which emails have you opened recently?

Crossfit: “I always read Crossfit’s email of the day because I go to a local gym here and their content is relevant to me. The email is always very clean—That’s going to be a recurring theme of emails I love. Clean, to me, means I don’t have to work to understand what a brand is conveying or what they want me to pay attention to. It’s really clear and direct. 
Crossfit usually follows the same formula for their emails: engaging imagery, a headline and one-sentence preview, two main stories, two sub-stories, and a workout of the day. 
I open these every day because I know what to expect and they always provide a nice range of content, from fun and lighthearted articles to more serious and community-building stories."

Takeaway: Daily emails connect Logan to his real-life community. By segmenting your list and providing location-specific details about local events, you can maximize the opportunity to provide relevant content to your readers.

Daily Dharma: “I have these messages sent to my work email, and I use them as an inspiring palate cleanser before I address any of my other tasks for the day. I almost never get past the daily quote, but if the quote’s interesting, I may click the article or book it comes from to find out more. 
It’s nice to start my workday with an encouraging thought. I also love the uncluttered design and that they present the content I look forward to within the first scroll.” 
The Skimm: “I find my news from a lot of places, but The Skimm is useful when I want a quick overview of what their editors think is important. 
Their emails are almost entirely text but they break up the content nicely. The negative white space helps. They also break it up into short paragraphs with bolded headlines, which allows you to skip from piece to piece instead of reading one wall of text."
Modcloth: “While I don’t shop at Modcloth myself, I think they have such a great grasp of how to cultivate visual engagement and receive their emails for design inspiration. Their animated gif game is among the best in retail. They prove that gifs can be subtle—it doesn’t have to be flashy or big—just enough to grab attention. I wish they used more live text, but their use of imagery is always really really strong."

Takeaway: Logan recommends using live text so that it’s easier for people who use assistive devices to experience the content.


What about the trash?

“Cold call sales emails get trashed regularly, except if I receive them and they are not CAN-SPAM compliant. Sometimes I will take the time to write that person back as a courtesy. I’m not above a Twitter callout on a company who does that intentionally, though. I understand why this is a marketing tactic but it always feels like a trick because someone is pretending they are in the midst of convo with you and you’re not."

Anything good in your spam folder?

“Mostly I just get chuckles out of phishing emails when people are trying to pretend to be someone else. 
Occasionally I subscribe to so many email lists largely for professional interest, and if I don’t get to them all, my ISPs will interpret that as unwanted and stick them in spam. I try to do a good job of checking that regularly and move them out of spam if they end up there. It’s the risk of being in email marketing and trying to watch a lot of different things, but you don’t want to tank their stats!”

What’s the last thing you remember buying because of an email?

“I bought a lovely whiskey from I initially joined their list when signing up for a deal, but I’ve been receiving their emails for a while. They do a good job with graphics, and they could do more with the layout. 
They usually have interesting articles, like ‘Best American whiskey under $50,’ and another series where they ask bartenders and bar managers from around the country to recommend their favorites. Overall, they have consistently clean and skimmable content about something I enjoy.”

Takeaway: Interesting content doesn’t just help you create a relationship with your customer; It can also help drive conversions. 


How often would you say you check your email?

“I check my work email multiple times a day, pretty much anytime anything new comes in. When it comes to my personal account, I usually respond to personal correspondence right away, but otherwise, I check it about once a day.”

Choose three adjectives to describe your ideal email experience.

"Inclusive in the sense that I’m interested in experiences that are considering all the different ways people interact with emails, such as perceptual difference, level of ability, and circumstances. 
I also look for an experience that features clean design, where the hierarchy of information is clear and I know where the sender wants me to look. 
Finally, I want it to be relevant—a mixture of valuable and timely—to me as a subscriber."

What do you wish email marketers knew about you?

“I wish they would pay more attention to how often I want to read what they’re offering. I think that means paying attention to when someone’s interest seems to be flagging and adjusting their strategy accordingly.
The brands I appreciate most check in when I haven’t opened a message in a while. Buzzfeed is great about this, and they’ll send me a message that says ‘We want to make sure we’re sending you what you want to receive.’
If we’re in a conversation together and I keep rambling on and on but you’ve checked out, that’s the equivalent of continuing to send emails that aren’t engaging.”

Takeaway: “The more that we can bring the email experience closer to the human relationships it emulates, the more successful we will be.”  


Wrap up

From live text to animated GIFs, Logan’s inbox covers a lot of ground in terms of what customers love to receive. If we could choose a takeaway from his interview, it would be this—Remember you’re talking to people, not inboxes. Happy sending! 

About the Author

Kaitlin Wernet

Kaitlin Wernet is a content specialist on Emma's marketing team. When she's not restraining herself from using too many exclamation points or grabbing one more La Croix from the office kitchen, she can be found working on her first book or planning her next big travel adventure.

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