Email Designs That Are Current and Evolving

email design series part 2: current trends in email design
By Pace Editor |

Part two of this series takes a look at email design trends that are here to stay and are helping to liven up readers’ inboxes.


Illustration is now a key component of brand identities being leveraged across lots of channels in marketing. As brands are making more cohesive journeys for customers, they’re bringing design from other areas into the email inbox. Custom illustrations are a fun, adaptable way to visually set a brand apart from others and offer a way to help bring a brand’s voice and values to life. Illustration is also an expressive format that can be easily repurposed to showcase elements that may be harder, or too expensive, to capture in real photography. Custom illustrations are especially a good fit for brands that want to appeal to more playful emotions when interacting with consumers.


study showed that 75% said a brand’s web design, including email design, is the first thing they use to base whether or not a company is credible. A clean, trustworthy appearance encourages viewers to click thru and engage. To help establish this credibility, take into consideration how you’re balancing your elements—such as colors, font weight, and typeface—that establish a hierarchy and scannability within the layout. When it comes to text and alignment, always gravitate toward left alignment, especially for longer blocks of copy, to make it easier to read. And remember when laying out all your elements that white space is not wasted space. In fact, it actually entices readers to engage more by allowing them a less-cluttered layout that helps direct the eye through the contents and leads them to one clean CTA.


The “dark mode” trend has been gaining popularity and has now opened a gate to change background color for email. Dark Mode, as defined by techahead, is “a supplemental mode that can be used to display mostly dark surfaces on the UI. The design reduces the light emitted by device screens while maintaining the minimum color contrast ratios required for readability.” There are a handful of advantages to dark mode that are driving this trend to increase in popularity. It reduces eye strain and improves visual ergonomics, enabling screens to adjust to current light conditions and making them more comfortable to use at night or in dark environments. Also, dark mode consumes less battery power, allowing for longer mobile device use without charging. Dark backgrounds in email designs work flawlessly with this new darker design concept. 

But wait, we just talked about white space… Correct! However, “white space” doesn’t always have to be white—it’s just the statement of space. On the flip side, a dark background allows for a lot more contrast and is a great method for announcements. Dark mode also doesn’t have to be pitch black; it just shows high contrast. Any dark hues will work, and some colors are softer on the eyes, like a really dark gray complemented with a lighter gray. While dark mode won’t be a perfect fit for every brand, it is definitely an emerging trend that is aesthetically pleasing and has other valuable benefits. 


Embracing bolder color palettes that are exciting and “loud” is a great visual way to demand attention and help focus the subscriber on the main message. Gradients can also help to emphasize the messaging and create a sense of depth and excitement. Bold colors too may not be the best fit for all brand guidelines, but they do offer a fun, friendly way to spice up your email designs. 


Animations—beyond just amusing GIFs—are great for helping explain things that may be more complex. You can utilize less copy per screen in a series of images put together in an animated format to explain something quicker than just words would allow for. For example, showcase a new feature or process—explain in animation, and show people how to use small actions before they’re exposed to the full feature. Delightful animations can also help bring to life an otherwise dull email and offer a sense of surprise. 

If you’re not already interweaving some of these trends into your email designs, there’s no better time to take an idea or two that fits your brand personality and start incorporating them into your campaigns. Entice your readers with a vibrant new color or an animated intro header to grab their attention and boost engagement KPIs.