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Email Design 101: Latest Trends, Examples + Free Templates

Samavia Malik

We get it – the struggle is real when it comes to making your emails stand out in a sea of inbox chaos. But fear not because we've got your back.

In this article, we're diving headfirst into the coolest trends that are shaking up the email design game. We're talking about more than just fonts and colors – we're getting into the nitty-gritty of what makes people open, read, and actually enjoy your emails.

We’ll also walk you through some of the great real-life examples to inspire your email design 101.

But that's not all – we understand the value of time and resources, so we've included a selection of free email templates to let you create visually stunning emails. 

So, let’s get started! 🚀 

Brief Overview of Email Design Best Practices

Here’s a brief overview of email design best practices to make your designing process easy, breezy, lemon squeezy.

13 email design best practices.‍
  1. Sender name to add credibility to the email and make the reader curious enough to click the email.
  2. Subject line to grab your customers' attention.
  3. Preheader text so your reader gets the full scope of what you’re trying to say in the subject line.
  4. Header to tease the reader about what is coming ahead in the email.
  5. Email copy to effectively communicate your message to the readers. 
  6. Images in emails to add value and present more information than just words.
  7. Colors to ensure your email is perceived positively. Plus, ensure every color used in your email perfectly matches your brand’s colors.
  8. Call To Action (CTA) to guide your customer about what step to take next.
  9. Email footer for readers looking for actionable information like contact details and social media profiles.
  10. Email personalization through merge tags and dynamic content because customers expect to receive messages explicitly tailored for them.
  11. Layout that is balanced with perfect text-to-image ratio, white balance, and spatial balance.
  12. Responsiveness so the emails automatically fit the screen size of all the devices they’re read on. 
  13. A/B testing to see which version of your email performed better.

10 Latest Email Design Trends You Can’t Afford to Miss in 2024

The following trends are set to redefine the email design landscape in 2024, offering exciting opportunities for email marketers to create captivating and memorable campaigns. 

1. Minimalist email design

Less is more. Clean, minimalist email designs are gaining momentum, as 17% of Americans describe themselves as minimalists, and 23% prefer to become one.

In short, this allows you to focus on essential elements to reduce clutter and improve user experience.

You can follow the below tips to create a minimalist email:

  • Stick with visual hierarchy and put the most important information (text and images) at the top of the email.
  • Avoid adding unnecessary details. 
  • Focus on keeping the message short and sweet.
  • Avoid using too many colors; aim for two to three colors at most.
  • Make use of negative space to make your emails more structured.
  • Use legible fonts to make sure they’re easy on readers’ eyes.
  • Avoid adding too many CTA buttons.

Here’s an email example from West~bourne that perfectly follows the latest minimalist email design trend.

Minimalist email design example from west~bourne.

2. Retro email design

Nostalgia is in. From vintage color schemes to retro-inspired graphics, retro email designs are making a comeback and are drawing inspiration from the bygone eras.

You can too ace your retro emails by following the design tips below.

  • Choose a color palette inspired by retro aesthetics. Pastel tones, earthy colors, and bold, contrasting combinations were popular in different eras. Consider colors like mustard yellow, mint green, and coral.
  • Think about fonts like Old Standard, Lovadelic, Barbra, Tan Twinkle, etc.
  • Integrate textures like worn paper, distressed effects, or patterns like polka dots, stripes, or geometric shapes that were prevalent in retro design.
  • Use vintage images and illustrations, or even add grainy textures to give that authentic retro feel.
  • Add design elements such as telephone sets, scrapbooks, vinyl, an old radio or television device, etc.

The below email example from RTRO checks all the right boxes.

Retro email design example from RTRO.

3. Interactive spin-the-wheel widget

Interactive elements like a spinning wheel capture attention and encourage readers to actively engage with your email content. This increased interaction leads to higher click-through rates

After all, who wouldn’t love to click on the button, causing the wheel to spin and get a prize revealed in the most fun way?

We recommend using this in your holiday emails to offer exciting promotions to your customers.

Check out how DXL spiced up their email game with this cool trend.

Spin-the-wheel email example from DXL.

4. Fun wordle game 

Traditional email content can become monotonous. Fun wordle games inject an element of excitement and playfulness, breaking the routine and providing your subscribers with a refreshing and entertaining experience.

This game within your email campaigns will require readers to think, analyze, and solve problems. This cognitive engagement is a powerful way to connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Also, don’t forget to add a CTA within or after the Wordle game. This way, your customers can explore your products, services, or promotions, leading to increased click-through rates and a higher likelihood of conversions.

Here’s an intriguing email example from Action Rocket that covers all the bases.

Wordle game email example from Action Rocket.

5. Engaging scratch cards

The element of surprise in scratch cards, where your subscribers get the chance to reveal hidden discounts, creates a unique and memorable experience, leading to higher engagement.

Whether for promotional purposes, customer engagement, or internal initiatives, the interactive and playful nature of scratch cards is undoubtedly going to add a unique touch to your email marketing campaigns.

Here’s a Labor Day email example from Glasses USA, which perfectly captures the essence of adding scratch cards to emails.

Scratch card email example from Glasses USA.

6. Playful scavenger hunt

Since the element of mystery and discovery in a scavenger hunt builds excitement and anticipation, you can incorporate that into your emails, website, and/or social media channels. 

Ensure that your email design is highly attractive enough to make your readers eager to unveil hidden clues, offers, or exclusive content.

Furthermore, a well-crafted scavenger hunt often involves multiple clues or stages, encouraging your subscribers to interact with different elements of your email or website. This multi-step process increases the number of touchpoints, reinforcing your message.

Here’s an awesome scavenger hunt email example from psd2html, which is now getdevdone.

Scavenger hunt email example from getdevdone.

7. Aesthetic geometric shapes

Geometric shapes align well with minimalist design principles as well. If you aim for a clean and simple email layout, geometric shapes can help achieve that aesthetic. 

Plus, these shapes offer a versatile canvas for creative expression. From simple lines and rectangles to more intricate patterns and polygons, you can use shapes to infuse creativity into your email design. 

This lets you stand out in crowded inboxes and leave a lasting and trendy impression.

Let’s have a look at the trendy email example from Headspace using geometric shapes.

Email example from Headspace using geometric shapes.

8. Trendy animations/GIFs

Animations and GIFs in emails are another way of drawing attention to your products. They provide movement and visual interest as motion captures attention more effectively than static images.

Remember to use subtle animations in your emails. Using excessive animations can overwhelm your reader and can make your email bulky. 

Bulky emails are usually not supported by many email service providers because of their loading times.

So, stick with animating a single element of the image you’re using in your email.

Here’s an email example from Lyft that does this with perfection.

GIF email example from Lyft.

9. Lively 3D illustrations

3D illustrations add depth and realism to your visuals, making them more visually appealing. Their lively and dynamic nature helps you to capture your readers’ attention in a crowded inbox.

For instance, 3D illustrations can be particularly valuable for e-commerce businesses. They allow you to showcase your products with more detail, offering a virtual experience similar to physically interacting with the product.

Moreover, It gives your emails a contemporary and trendy look, signaling to recipients that your brand is forward-thinking and innovative.

You can explore different interactive 3D elements that your users can engage with. This might include rotating a product, zooming in for details, or triggering animations based on your customers’ actions.

Below is an email example from Chick-fil-A to give you an idea of how this trend works.

3D illustration email example from Chick-fil-A.

10. Dark mode emails

Adapting your email design to support dark mode aligns with user preferences, enhances the visual appeal of your emails, and contributes to a modern and user-friendly brand image.

It reduces eye strain, especially in low-light environments. So, a lot of the readers find the dark background easier on the eyes, enhancing the overall readability of your email content.

However, don’t forget to include a light mode fallback for users whose email service providers do not support dark mode or those who prefer the traditional one. This ensures a consistent experience across different environments.

Here’s an email example from Netflix that follows this approach.

Dark mode email example from Netflix.

5 Free Email Templates You Can Use This Minute

Whether you're a seasoned designer or a novice, these email templates provide a foundation for crafting emails that leave a lasting impression.

Create Trendy Emails With Unlayer

Beautiful Templates. Fully Responsive. White-Labled.
Email Templates

1. Animated stay-tuned email template

Are you in the travel industry and want to give your customers a sneak peek into your next adventure? 

Use this email template crafted with a fun GIF to elevate your messages, ensuring your audience eagerly anticipates the excitement that each email brings. 

Stay-tuned email template from Unlayer.
Get this template

2. 3D Thanksgiving email template

Since Thanksgiving isn’t a time to experiment with flashy colors, use this email template that reflects simplicity. It perfectly resonates with minimalist email design, flaunting a welcoming and warm Thanksgiving aesthetic. 

Thanksgiving email template from Unlayer.
Get this template

3. Easter-centric email template

With competition so tight during the holiday season, you wouldn’t want to compromise on your email design, right? Therefore, choose this Easter-centric template to create emails that stand out amongst others.

Plus, this template is fully responsive on all devices, just like every other Unlayer email template.

Easter email template from Unlayer.
Get this template

4. Retro-themed email template

Want a template that incorporates an 80s feel to your next email design? We’ve got a perfect email template below to help you roll out your retro-themed fashion emails.

Retro-themed email template from Unlayer.
Get this template

5. Dark-mode Halloween email template

Suppose your email is promoting a spooky night-time getaway during the Halloween season. In that case, this dark-mode email template can provide a perfect transition from the email to the short excursion you’ve planned.

Dark-mode Halloween email template from Unlayer.
Get this template

Final Thoughts

As we wrap up our exploration of email design 101, remember that the key to capturing hearts and clicks lies in staying fresh and relevant. 

The latest trends we've delved into, coupled with inspiring examples and free templates, provide you with the perfect toolkit to infuse creativity into your email marketing campaigns. 

Now, go ahead, experiment, and let your emails sparkle with innovation. 

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