Email newsletter design ideas from an expert

Please welcome GoDaddy Email Marketing’s head designer, Sascha, to the blog! He is an expert with email newsletter design so hold onto your seats and absorb his ideas.

How did you train to become a designer?

SaschaI’m an autodidact (a self-taught person). If you can call yourself that in our field. The amount of knowledge and support you can find in the online community is unreal — it’s like a huge classroom with a library next to it. This doesn’t mean that having a basic grasp of graphic tools or code makes you a designer, nor does it mean that a proper institutional design education is in any way worthless.

Rather, it’s a certain persistence with the field that makes you a designer. Creating things and improving stuff — be it code or design for the senses — that’s where the training comes from. And even though I do call myself autodidact, I’ll never stop learning from clients or colleagues. That’s what I really love about my job. It’s easy to expand your horizon and learn something new every day.

It’s a certain persistence with the field that makes you a designer.

I started to learn basic coding around 1997 and published a gaming review site a couple years later. I designed the site myself and some of my friends from school wrote articles. Shortly after, people started asking me to create their websites. That’s when I knew I should start thinking about getting serious with design.

Describe your personal design philosophy.

If I had to choose a design mantra, it would be:
Strive for the purest, make it functional. Add some spin and smile.


I don’t take it too seriously. It’s important on the one hand to take a step back once in a while in order to see the complete picture. It’s important on the other hand to really sweat the details when that’s called for. Sloppiness really has no place in design — that is definitely something I don’t like. Another central part of my thinking is that in order to make things fantastic, a project requires good communication and peer opinions.

Sloppiness really has no place in design.

What websites do you like for design inspiration?

Lots of people collect design examples from gallery websites (see Sascha’s Dribbble & CodePen). For me, that collector’s craze got out of hand eventually. Now I try to only bookmark stuff that is really new or does a certain task particularly well. I enjoy looking at architecture for a different line of inspiration, though.

Long story short: I tend to read more about design than look at design galleries now. Medium has a constant stream of amazing articles about design, both big-picture and “small-picture.” That’s a bit more satisfying for me.

Still, you need to look left and right once in a while. ;-)

Let’s talk about email newsletter design in GoDaddy Email Marketing. Is there a go-to size you recommend for email banners?

Don’t make them too tall. The optimum ratio for email banners should be between 3:1 and 4:1. That way they sit nicely atop your content without making them appear like heavyweights dragging everything down.

In GoDaddy Email Marketing, your banner should be 590 pixels wide. So to follow Sascha’s advice, shoot for a banner height of approximately 150–200 pixels. A nice place to start: 590 pixels wide by 170 pixels tall.

What should a non-designer keep in mind when designing an email banner?

  • It can be tempting to go overboard with color variety and contrast.
  • Unless you’re promoting a gallery of colorful paintings or an ’80s party, keep it to two or three colors max.
  • A beautiful graphic or photo can push your engagement over the top.
  • Don’t use ClipArt™ ;)

What is your favorite font?

Palatino is a really nice font. Very elegant with good legibility and a light feel. Goes very well with Helvetica. In general, try serif and sans-serif fonts between headlines and body text for nice results.

What’s the #1 thing emailers can do to ensure that their emails look good on mobile devices?

Don’t hide text in images — it may not be legible if your images don’t render properly.

What are your top tips for creating strong “calls to action” (from a visual perspective)?

Strong CTAs do well standing alone. Don’t add too many. Include one or two CTAs maximum and help them stand out in your email by reserving a key color just for them and by giving them proper breathing room from your body text. Typeface diversity can be applied here, too: when your body text is of the serif kind (Times New Roman, Palatino, Georgia), set your call-to-action buttons to be sans-serif (Arial or Helvetica, for example).

What’s the biggest mistake you see users make in their email newsletter design?

Thankfully, the GoDaddy Email Marketing tools make it difficult to shoot yourself in the foot, so most emails look great, but:

  • Have a long look at the colors you’ve chosen for the background and your text. Don’t use “eyebleed” color combinations. For example, neon green and pink. My photo further above is a slightly less criminal example ;)
  • Don’t use font sizes that are too small. Values of 16 to 21 pixels are usually great for body text.
  • Don’t add too many small pictures. They distract from the important stuff more often than not. I prefer one or two larger images.

Thanks, Sascha! Readers, do you have more email newsletter design questions for Sascha?

Image credit: Alice Achterhof via Unsplash

Image by: tecrekka via Compfight cc

Emma Wilhelm
Emma Wilhelm loves punchy words and uphill battles. She’s a proud member of the GoDaddy GoCentral team. When she’s offline, she relishes long runs, baked goods and dance parties with her kids. Follow her on Twitter at @emmasota.