Trends in transactional email design

It’s June 23rd (2022), when Mike Nelson (Really Good Emails) gets on the EMAS stage to talk about trends in email design and strategy. A keynote filled to the brim with very cool examples – of marketing emails. As true transactional email afficionados (yes, they exist), we investigated how up to date transactional emails are on these trends. The result is this lookbook, covering 5 prominent email design trends:

  1. Arches
  2. Gradients
  3. Pastels
  4. Large Fonts
  5. Retro

What are transactional emails?

Contrary to marketing emails, transactional emails are the emails a recipient often triggers themselves or are the direct result of a (financial) relationship. Think of welcome emails, order & payment confirmation, etc. The list of transactional email types is long and so is the number of systems used to send them out. This results in a disinterest for marketers to add them to the marketing mix. At Spotler, we believe transactional emails deserve much more love and care – and we’re showing you how.

Arches

\ ˈärch \ : a typically curved structural member spanning an opening and serving as a support

The first trend we’re analysing is the use of arches. Arches themselves are centuries-old, aesthetically pleasing ways to support buildings and infrastructure (e.g., Roman aqueducts). In modern design, arches are used to draw attention in an otherwise rectangular design, give the feeling of height to a design, and can make the context and image look more spacious. Arched text makes emails look more playful.

Who’s using arches?

To inspire you to also start using arches, we’ve listed some examples of brand emails that already make use of this technique:

Gradients

\ ˈgrā-dē-ənt \ : change in the value of a quantity with change in a given variable

We couldn’t have put it better than how the people at Envato described it:

“Gradient colours feature a smooth, gradual transition from one colour to another. Blending two or more similar or contrasting colours, gradients often feature soft tones and grainy, experimental textures to create an ethereal look and feel.”

Through either images or CSS, gradients take your email design to a whole new level. Though it’s a more technical approach to design, we’ve listed some examples of brand emails that already make use of this technique:

Pastels

\ pa-ˈstel \ : any of various pale or light colors

Using pastels is a way to make your emails feel lighter, softer, and calmer than when you use ‘primary’ colours – the ‘standard’ when you think of red, yellow, and blue.

Pastels are less saturated, really lowering the effect the colour has on the eye. They have different meanings depending on which colour you’re using. When using pastels, be mindful that they
don’t mix well with more outspoken colours:

Large Typography

\ tī-ˈpä-grə-fē \ : the style, arrangement, or appearance of typeset matter

Large typography is one of the broadest trends across web design. Whether it’s a poster, a website, or an email: the bigger the letters, the better. But what defines large typography?

Typography can be large in a few ways: in absolute font-size, in extravagancy, and/or in thickness. In email, a font-size 18px and above is considered large, but that’s the ‘mainstream’ large. From the emails we’ve considered ‘large’, font-size starts at 28px. So, as per the ritual, here are 5 brands using a font sizes of 28px and over:

Retro

\ ˈre-(ˌ)trō \ : relating to, reviving, or being the styles and especially the fashions of the past

Retro design choices make an email look like it belongs in another, previous century. Whether the email colors looks like an old ad, the composition takes you back to Woodstock, or the font gives you 80’s glam rock vibes: everything goes when it’s retro.

Retro design is not (necessarily) about copying older styles but taking them as inspiration for your new email design. Retro can be a very bold design choice to some but looks very good when executed correctly:

Design choices for your next email

We hope this lookbook has inspired you to improve the design of your transactional emails. Remember that everything you’ve seen – you can do, too. Most of the emails in Really Good Emails’ collection have a ‘Code View’ so you can see how it would work in HTML/CSS. Collect your liked emails, take inspiration from their code, and create your sleek new email design. Happy email designing!

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