HomeNewsEmail Design Trends of 2017 (so far)

Email Design Trends of 2017 (so far)

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My wife, parents, in-laws, and friends ask me why I spend so much time analyzing spam which just gets deleted by everyone else. Instead, they argue, I could easily binge-watch some remake of a 90’s classic on Netflix. You know what they say, though?: #EmailGeeks4Ever. (Okay, no one says that anymore.)

But after last year’s email trends article was published, lots of people have requested an update. So to please those interested, here are the trends that have been happening this year. If you are curious what was tracked last year and how the trends have changed, I’ve thrown a link to that at the end. Have fun, y’all!

Email Trend Thingy #1: Make a Sweet Background

Gone are the days of boring white backgrounds (other than this forced white background which Medium imposes for articles like these). When the world is your oyster, and over 16 million hex color codes are at your fingertips, why not spice things up a little bit?

The popular spice seems to be using colors in the pastel family:


Left to Right: The Hoxton, Offscreen Dispatch, and MailChimp (links go to the full emails)

But another great spice is a gradient. Whether it is horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, a nice fade can do wonders for a design.


Left to Right: Hulu, On, Fig Tree

And when you get bored with just a few colors and you want to mix a large amount of colors together in a big ol’ photo instead, that can be pretty cool — especially if it goes edge-to-edge.


This one is from Harry’s

AND if you just want to show off, you can do things like this:



Left to Right: Uber 2016, Uber 2017

In all of the examples above, the text, buttons, and, in some instances, images, are coded on top of the background. Why go through all that extra work instead of saving it to one image? Because these email geeks understand responsive layouts. That’s why.

Email Trend Thingy #2: Go Crazy With Fonts

Once you’ve mastered the color background, it seems like the next logical step is to master the color foreground. I’m talking about coloring the text and showing the world that you aren’t afraid to show off your colorful side like Joseph and the technicolor dreamcoat. (That’s a lot of color.)


Left to Right: Litmus, Facebook, DPDK

If you aren’t ready to be that outrageous, then you can use some beautiful font pairings instead. Typically, the most popular has been a large, bold serif with a smaller, non-serif. Here are just a few in addition to the Litmus email just above.


Left to Right: David Kind, Conductor

And it isn’t cool to have super tiny letters anymore, either. What’s cool is to make your font size 18 pixels or larger. 18 is the new 12.

Email Trend Thingy #3: ⚡🚀 😻

It seems natural that the texting world of emojis and icons would make its way into our emails. While we’ve seen them being used in subject lines for quite some time, we are now seeing them being added straight into body copy.

What if one of those emojis doesn’t match your brand guidelines? Then you can design your own icon and throw it into the text or use them as bullet points. We also saw some of this last year.


Left to Right: Blink XTFitbit

Email Trend Thingy #4: Play Tetris With Content

Boxes are everywhere. Probably because Amazon is taking over the world. That is spilling into the design subconscious and probably soon into Whole Foods.


Left to Right: Target, Helix, School of Life

The nice thing about boxed content like this is that it scales up and down nicely in responsive designs, as long as you’ve coded it to do so. It can go from a 4 column to a 2 column or up to a 6 column, all based on the screen size.

Speaking of screen size: a sponsor for this article is InVision. You can design for any screen size and get feedback from your friends or enemies. Visit them or keep on reading the other top 6 trends…


This article is brought to you in part by InVision.

Email Trend Thingy #5: Make Your Commercial a GIF

Your marketing team has probably put a ton of money into getting a video produced. After it hits the tube, why not slice some of the best scenes and GIF it up? I am pretty sure I’ve watched these GIF loops like twenty times.



Left to Right: Nike, Readdle

Or if the video is quick, just embed it and have fallbacks for older email clients that point to dedicated landing page. The experts at Wistia have been experimenting recently and even put together a comprehensive guide on when to use video in an email.


And just a few weeks ago, Kristian Robinson wrote about creating a faux-video in emails and how to do it. It is pretty schnazzy stuff.

Email Trend Thingy #6: Pulse Your Buttons

In the age of more interactive emails (or to bring some additional attention to people who don’t know what to do with a button), you can make your buttons move a little. It reminds me of the Microsoft Paper Clip which would pop up and ask if you needed help. Thanks, Mr. Clippy!



Left to Right: ZurbBBC

Email Trend Thingy #7: Make Your Product Look Mysterious

You’ve seen those unboxing videos, right? The ones where people pull a new iPhone out of a brand new package, just to show off that the picture on the front of the box is true to what is actually inside the box? Super riveting stuff. There’s a little bit of mystery, kind of like that famous physicist Schrödinger who pointed out the dead or alive cats paradox: you don’t know which it is until you have opened it up.

This trend is kind of like that, but uses the lighting to elicit some mystery and paradox of its own. Drape it in darkness, and people will just need to click on the email to see if the glorious unveiling is a real product or not.


Left to Right: Nest, CowrksHarry’s

Email Trend Thingy #8: Make Neon Signs

You know those signs in restaurant windows to let people know you are open? Yeah, like that but in email. Now everyone on your email list will know you are open for business — all the time.


Left to Right: Quip, Sabah, Nike, The Black Tux

Email Trend Thingy #9: Recreate an Instagram Feel

Everyone uses Instagram (Well, not everyone. More like a debatable 1/7th). There’s something about recreating the wheel when there’s a proven feel to something. If you have a lot of content, or lots of photos, seems like this is a good route to copy.


Left to Right: GOAT, BURST

While the images above look like they are side-by-side, they are actually one column (I just put them side-by-side to save room). What is cool about both is that they give cred to the people who took the photos, thus increasing the chances of more fans to tag the brand in their respective photos in the future.

Email Trend Thingy #10: Stack Your Title & Text Side-by-side (Instead of Vertically)

You may have been taught in your elementary school english classes that a title always goes on top of your story or chapter. It is what we’ve been trained to do. But more and more, there’s been a break from this convention by some radicals who are putting their titles to the left of their copy.

BONUS Email Trend Thingy: Include an Impressive, Bitesize Quote

There seems to be a spike in people using customer reviews, exec blurbs, or celebrity words. Unlike LaVar Burton from Reading Rainbow, they definitely want you to take someone else’s word for it. And it also seems that the bigger the quote, the better?


Like this so far? Press the Heart and recommend it. It will let us know if we should continue to write stuff like this in the future as well as help others find it.


So, where are we compared to 2016’s email design trends? Let’s dive in one by one:

  • Tweeting content from your promotional emails didn’t survive. But we have seen it grow in long-form content in emails, where the email serves as a blog post more than an announcement or poster.
  • Emailers don’t really care about feedback any more. Well, they do, but just not in the way that we had seen them do it in 2016 with a checkbox/feedback link (seen below). On the flip side, we have seen an uptick in Net Promoter Score (NPS) emails — which are probably getting to the same answer.
  • The term “Pro Tip” is still popular on social media, but copywriters don’t use it nearly as much as we used to see.
  • An impressive Instagram photo at the bottom of your email is still running rampant in the streets. More brands are bringing in social photos to drive them to purchase, follow, or instill a certain mood through photography.
  • Z Patterns are still popular as ever, but the boxy cards treatment we were seeing last year has pretty much disappeared. We are now seeing a lot more use of circles instead:
  • Reviewing your past year in an infographic? Still popular. There’s just something nice about putting all of your accomplishments onto one thing and sending it to all of your readers as if they care how many scoops of ice cream your office consumed.
  • Despite Google’s Pixel phone doing better than expected, it still only has 2% of the market (as of the time of this article). Apple still has 83% of the market, so I’d be surprised to see iPhones disappear from emails that use a device to showcase an app, text message, or something else. But it does seem that people are digging a sliced-up phone image lately:
  • It appears that counting fell out of fashion, but we still see it here and there (such as this email from Lyft and this email from Care Of).
  • As I pointed out in email trend #3, icons are more trendy than ever – especially marrying them to text on the same line.
  • CTA Button colors weren’t researched this year. Why? Because it took me way too much time last year. But my gut tells me that it didn’t change that much. Trust your gut.

Conclusion: 5/10 are still going strong from last year. I wonder how many of the trends we see this year will make it to 2018?


This post was written by Mike Nelson (@mevlow) of Really Good Emails. Mike was the marketing director of an Inc 500 company, IRCE 500, and taught at the graduate level. In his spare time he writes sh*t like this.

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