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12 Email Design Trends for 2021 Worth Following

Saffa Faisal

Did you know that email marketing has the highest Return on Investment (ROI) amongst all digital marketing channels? According to Litmus, 4 out of 5 marketers would rather give up on social media than email marketing. 

However, not every email will bring you high returns. Emails designed with practices from the early 2000s will only result in a high unsubscribe rate. To create emails that attract and convert, you must design considering what’s trending in today’s day and age. 

In this article, we uncover 12 email design trends that will skyrocket the success of your email campaigns like never before. 

1. Bye Minimalism, Hello Maximalism 

Maximalist emails are everything that minimalist emails are not. 

With maximalism, think flashy designs, bold typography, vibrant colors, and multiple images. With 105 billion emails being sent each day, it’s a challenge to stand out in your audience’s inbox. 

Simplistic email designs are not what’s going to make their jaw drop. Your email has to be loud for it to grab the attention that it aims for. 

Here’s how you can start incorporating maximalism in your email design today: 

  • Play around with decorative and elaborate fonts. However, restrict their usage to only headings or words you want to emphasize. For longer text, use email-safe fonts
  • Experiment with different email layouts. Instead of playing it safe with the single-column layout, use the zigzag one. 
  • Display products that are of vibrant colors. Don’t worry too much about creating color harmony; maximalist emails are meant to be bold. 

The following email from Misguided looks crazy good: 

Maximalist email example

2. Black is the New Black 

Dark mode has taken the world of technology by storm. Did you know that almost 82% of people use dark mode on their phones? Surprisingly, almost 65% of people expect websites to have a dark mode. 

It’s only natural for people to demand emails that are compliant with their email application’s or browser’s dark mode. Hence, dark mode for emails is one email design trend you must be following. 

Why do people love the dark mode? Well, below are some answers: 

  • Easy on the eyes 
  • Saves battery life 
  • Appears aesthetic 

However, there’s still a lot of confusion about dark mode emails. To clear the air, it’s important to understand what a dark mode email is not and what it is. 

What is not a dark mode email? 

  • A black background email 
  • Creating 2 versions (light and dark-based) of the same email 

What is a dark mode email?

An email designed for the dark mode displays what the subscriber prefers. If s/he has enabled dark mode on their browser or email application, the dark mode email will appear. On the contrary, if the light mode has been enabled, the email for the same kind will be shown. 

How is this possible? Through coding. You can even change font and button colors when the email converts to dark mode. 

The following email from Litmus shows the same email but in both light and dark modes. 

Dark mode email example

3. Interactivity = Engagement

It is interactivity that will achieve all your email marketing goals. 

One plus point of social media marketing is that it is relatively easier to derive customer engagement. In emails, you have to make an extra effort. 

But by incorporating interactive elements into your emails, engagement will most likely be the outcome. Interactive emails not only capture your audience’s attention but maintain it long enough for them to convert. 

You can make emails interactive through the following ways: 

  • Videos 
  • CSS animated buttons 
  • Carousel 
  • Gamification elements
  • Embeddable forms 
  • Image rollovers 

The following email from Moo encourages engagement in an attractive way.

Interactive email example

4. Make it Editorial Worthy

Vogue, GQ, and Elle - what do all of them have in common? 

They display luxury and indulgence. Their careful selection of imagery and articles have made them a class apart. If this strategy is working out so well for them, maybe we email marketers can learn a thing or two from them. 

One up-and-coming design trend for 2021 is to follow an editorial approach for emails. Think magazine covers and try to replicate them on the email you’re designing.

Embed high-quality images, include minimal text, opt for clean layouts, and choose a muted color palette.      

The below email from Op e   n looks nothing less than a luxury magazine cover. 

Editorial email example

5. Keep it Vintage 

The world we are living in today is undergoing a transition - what was considered old is now trending. Be it high-waisted jeans or scrunchies; people can’t seem to forget the past. 

One trend that is making a comeback is vintage photography. From a surge in the sale of Polaroid cameras to aesthetic pictures on Instagram, vintage photography is everywhere. To stay on-trend, you must incorporate vintage imagery in the emails you send in 2021 and beyond. 

The following email from Nike shows perfectly what we’re talking about. 

Email example with vintage photography

We don’t entirely mean you should start investing in vintage cameras, but you can follow the below tips to give you the same result: 

  • Lower the color saturation 
  • Lower the contrast 
  • Increase the grain 
  • Add a surrounding reel or polaroid border 
  • Include a timestamp towards the image’s bottom 

6. A Pop of Neon 

Gone are the days when people associated neon colors with slime. 

Incorporating neon colors in your email design is an easy way to stand out. If we look at color psychology, neon colors represent boldness and excitement. While others play it safe with basic color palettes, neon colors will make your brand appear fun, youthful, and daring. 

However, don’t go haywire with neon-colored backgrounds and elements. Make sure to follow the below recommendations: 

  • Use neon colors sparingly in a single email. 
  • Refrain from neon-colored backgrounds as it can be an eye-sore. Use such colors for elements only. 
  • Neon colors stand out more on darker-colored backgrounds. 
  • If you want to play it safe, add a blinking neon sign to your email. 

We love the below email from Starbucks. They’ve strategically used neon yellow for the sun, and if you look closely, it glows. 

Email example with neon colors

7. Persuade With Pastels

Don’t get us wrong; neon-colored emails work wonders but so do emails with pastel colors. If you’re confused about which color palette to use, refer to your brand’s identity and personality. 

Pastel-colored emails are a popular email design trend. If you don’t believe us, both the 2021 Pantone colors of the year are pastel shades. 

Pastel colors are associated with calmness, softness, and peacefulness - a total necessity in today’s anxious times. Such colors are a great choice for backgrounds. 

You can also use pastel shades when communicating negative/upsetting news, such as cancellations or account closures. It can help to calm the reader’s reaction to the bad news. 

Madewell used a pastel blue background for its following email: 


Email example with pastel colors

8. Representation is Power 

In today’s day and age, there is a high demand for brands to be more inclusive. Not only that, but people aren’t shy of raising their voice against brands that don’t show representation in their marketing communications. 

Show diversity in your email design by including people of different ethnicities, appearances, religions, sexual preferences, and abilities. 

We love this email from Kurt Geiger:

Inclusive email example

9. Data is the New Cool 

They say emotions lead to purchases. While that may be true, you simply can’t reply upon emotions to persuade your audience - you need to appeal to their logical minds as well. 

Consumers today are more aware than they ever were before. They’re familiar with marketing tactics and can identify false promises. Additionally, the intense competition has pressurized brands to search for an edge that will make them unique. 

This is where data comes into play. 

By displaying data in your emails, you can; 

  1. Make a convincing offer, 
  2. Show authority over a topic, 
  3. And create personalized experiences. 

“Okay, numbers matter, but how do I use them?” You can incorporate data in your upcoming emails through the following ways: 

  • Show personalized data, like monthly/yearly reviews 
  • Your average rating  
  • Number of products sold 
  • Quote a relevant study   

In the below email, Buck Mason has shared data related to the number of masks donated. 

Email showing data

10. Why 2D When You Can 3D?

One email design trend that will result in multiple conversions is 3D imagery. But, not any 3D image will work - only include those that are of your products. 

3D elements give life to emails. They also help readers move past the different stages of the buyer’s journey swiftly. When your prospects can see your product from all sides, it boosts their confidence and trust in your brand. Hence, promoting buying behavior. 

Be wary of not adding too many 3D images as it can appear distracting and drastically increase the email size

Nike has once again nailed it out of the park with their 3D email design. 

3D email example

11. Animate But Subtly 

We all know that motion attracts way more than static images can. Sending animated emails is a sure way for grabbing your audience’s attention for long. 

However, including animated content can make the email heavy in size. This will result in your email being unsupported by email clients and all your hard work going to waste. 

To combat this unfavorable situation, email marketers have come up with subtle animations. Instead of adding full picture animations, try making a singular element of an image animated. It will serve the purpose while keeping your email light and breezy. 

The below email from Moo ticks all the right boxes. 

Animated email example

12. Win More With Monochrome 

Monochrome emails look cohesive, stylish, and fuss-free. It’s no wonder why they are included in our list of email design trends for 2021. 

Don’t get us wrong; we don’t only mean black or white emails. You can choose any color that your heart desires - just make sure you include different shades of it. 

We would recommend keeping your monochrome emails short so that the reader doesn’t find them monotonous. Also, include a single feature image for a cleaner email layout.

The following email from Ilia is a monochromatic masterpiece: 

Monochromatic email example

Which Email Design Trends Should You Choose?

The above-discussed 12 email design trends are worth following to improve your email marketing game. But, should you try them all? We don’t think so. 

Before following any trend, ask yourself, “Is it consistent with my brand identity and personality?” If the answer is no, move on to the next trend on the list. You wouldn’t expect Vogue to send neon-colored emails. 

Another factor to think about is your audience’s behavior. If your target clientele isn’t fond of dark mode, don’t send emails designed specifically for it. You can always ask about your audience’s preferences through survey-based emails. 

The design time and cost is an additional factor. But that shouldn’t be a concern if you’re using Unlayer. With over a thousand ready-made HTML email templates that follow the latest trends, you can design beautiful emails within minutes. No need to code - just drag and drop to modify templates. And oh, did we mention, you can use these templates for free?

Wrap Up 

Email marketing is a profitable strategy, but it will only work if your emails are designed considering the latest trends. In this article, we discussed 12 email design trends for 2021 that will make your customers convert like crazy.

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