January 17, 2022

8 Newsletter Design Tips to Drive Engagement

Reading time about 13 min

Newsletter design. Is it a walk in the park? Or, is it rocket science? Depends on who you ask…

Email newsletters are a staple of any effective digital marketing strategy. They give you direct access to your contacts’ inboxes. They let you create personalized content. Best of all, they are highly cost effective.

But once you’ve covered the basics of how to create a newsletter, it’s time to pay attention to newsletter design.

Beyond driving conversions, a newsletter is supposed to convey your brand’s image, build credibility in the eyes of your audience, and cultivate a community around your product or service. 

Knowing how to design a newsletter will help you do just that! 

Now, you may be thinking, “I’m no artist… How am I supposed to know how to design a newsletter?”

That’s where we step in.

Newsletter design may seem like a tall task, but using the eight tips in this article will make your next email marketing campaign feel like a walk in the park. Don’t get us wrong — newsletter design is seriously important, but it just doesn’t have to be difficult.

1. Include original copy

Newsletters shouldn’t just be a catalog of links. Create unique content so your newsletter adds value in its own right!

newsletter design with good copy

In this example created with Brevo, UniKitOut offers their subscribers value in the form of packing lists, food packs and other kits to help students as they start university.

The benefits of newsletters may be lost on marketers and business owners who think they’re just collections of newsworthy articles from internal and external sources. But a newsletter is so much more than that!

Newsletters are also a stand-alone resource for your customers to get valuable information related to your product or business without having to leave the inbox. 

The primary goal of a newsletter is to build credibility and a following and for your brand. This means you should use it as a separate editorial channel that provides unique value beyond just directing traffic to your site. Readers want to see more than just another list of links in their inbox every month.

Newsletter content is a place for a brand’s voice to shine while educating and informing subscribers. Telling a story is the key to creating an engaging newsletter. Taking your email list on a journey via a mix of text, images, and other rich media is the best way to convey information that resonates.

Where design comes into play with content is your brand’s voice and tone. Even the smallest of businesses can and should have a defined writing style. 

Even if it’s just a list of adjectives that describes the voice behind your writing, having a consistent tone in your communications is essential to effective email marketing. It’s truly the core of your newsletter. Without a consistent voice, your subscribers are unlikely to buy into even the most eye-catching graphic design.

Hang tight, we’ll touch on this more in Tip #4!

2. Have a hierarchy of calls-to-action

Layer your CTAs to direct users to the content that is most valuable or important.

While promotional emails should contain only one primary call-to-action (CTA) to maximize engagement and conversions, newsletters are a different story. 

Email newsletters are about content and information rather than encouraging a purchase decision. To maximize engagement with your content, organize your newsletter CTAs in a hierarchy to clearly communicate to readers where the most important information is.

The best email newsletter examples read kind of like digital newspapers. You’ve got the main story on the front page with smaller news stories interspersed throughout the rest. 

In the same way, a newsletter should have a primary focus in the form of one article or piece of content featured above the fold. 🔦 This main piece represents the overall theme of the newsletter, which can be continued or supplemented below the fold with additional information, downloadable resources, external links, etc. 

The result is a well-focused newsletter with a main CTA followed by a hierarchical “tree” of smaller CTAs allowing subscribers to dig deeper. 

3. Use a newsletter template

Email newsletter templates are a great way to nail your content’s structure. 

newsletter template gallery by Brevo

Take a look at Brevo 40+ ready-made newsletter templates.

Email templates serve as a launch pad for effective newsletter design. For those of us without coding and graphic design skills, templates are true lifesavers.

Email templates allow you to start with a solid newsletter layout and basic design elements. From there it’s up to you to customize the content and bring your brand to life. 

When building up from a template, there two considerations to keep in mind: 

First, make sure the format of the template you’re using lines up with the goal of the newsletter. Do you want people to read about your awards and charity projects? Or do you want to showcase your new product? The design should cater to your idea either way. For example, your content-heavy monthly newsletter probably won’t fit the promotional email template. 

Second, don’t be bound by the original template. As we just said, the structure of the template is typically not worth changing, but everything else is free game! 

Changing the color palette, adding/removing white space, and throwing in any other design ideas you have is how you make the most of email templates. Otherwise, your email newsletter will come across as generic.

Pro tip: With Brevo, users on all plans have access to over 40 newsletters templates.

4. Maintain brand consistency

Building on the previous section, creating consistent and on-brand content is key to developing trust and credibility in the eyes of subscribers.

Maintaining a familiar newsletter design is extremely important if you want to build a dedicated following. The easiest way to do this is by sticking to a template. (Starting to see how this all ties together?)

Ground your efforts by using the same header and footer across newsletters. Then, all you have to do is update the content without having to worry too much about design every time.

Another newsletter best practice is to maintain consistency in your headings across newsletters. This isn’t to say every newsletter needs the same exact headings, but keeping the same sections and similar headings from newsletter to newsletter will help your subscribers make the most of your content.

Subscribers should know who sent an email solely from the design. This consistency builds trust and makes it easier for readers to quickly find the information they want in your newsletters. Using different color schemes and layouts with every new campaign can annoy recipients, which in turn can decrease open rates and increase unsubscribe rates.

branded newsletter

What we like about this example by Workona is how their brand’s personality comes through so well. The small graphics and drawings really help readers know immediately who this email is from.

5. Use high-quality images

Images can easily make newsletters more engaging, but a word of caution…

Logically, images enhance newsletter design by making it more pleasing to the eye and breaking up the text to make it easier to read. This gives readers a chance to rest their eyes, especially those using mobile devices with small screens.

Newsletter images are not only captivating, they also make the email more approachable, increasing reader engagement. Using your own images is always better for brand awareness, as stock images are easy to overlook.

Including informational images like charts and infographics is a great way to convey information visually as well.

Some email marketers swear by minimalist, plain text newsletters because of their simple clean design, organic feel, and enhanced deliverability. The argument is that while images are aesthetically appealing, they can quickly result in visual clutter. Too many images and links can also lead to your email newsletter automatically landing in the spam folder.

While plain text newsletters do indeed work better for certain topics, brands, or audiences, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your readers by thoroughly A/B testing different designs.

We recommend using images where they add value to your newsletter. Featuring a product, spotlighting an employee, and explaining something via an infographic can all contribute to effective, beautiful emails. Just don’t take it too far — if your newsletter looks like an inventory of all your new products, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. 

newsletter with images

See how the photos in this newsletter from Unruh add value? They feature the company’s own products, customization features, and streamlined online ordering process. Well done, Unruh!

Want to learn more? Check out our article on using GIFs in Email

6. Choose fonts and colors that are easy to read

This may seem obvious, but your subscribers won’t be too happy if they aren’t able to read your newsletter content.

Using colors that blend together or wash out your text is usually the culprit for these issues. If you have brand colors that are difficult to read, you may need to get creative by trying complementary colors in the surrounding areas. Use a tool like coolors.co to get help finding color schemes that work together. This can increase the readability of your emails and improve reader experience. 

Similarly, brand fonts do not always provide the best reading experience. While some fonts render well on the web or look great in small quantities (like in a logo or tagline), they may not be conducive to writing an entire email.

Instead, opt for a clear, legible font to ensure emails will be easy to read across different devices and various lighting conditions. If you really want to use your brand font in your newsletter, the headings can be a good place for this.

7. Make your content accessible

Ensuring your content is accessible across all devices and for people with disabilities is another essential consideration of newsletter design.

When an email or website can be properly viewed on various devices (desktop, mobile, tablet), it’s called responsive design. Considering that over 50% of email campaigns are viewed on mobile devices, creating responsive newsletters is absolutely necessary!

Thankfully, creating responsive content is super easy with most email marketing solutions. For instance, all of Brevo’s email templates are fully responsive and require no additional steps to be viewed on different devices. You can even preview how they look on various email clients!

To make your newsletter accessible to people with a visual impairment, be sure to add descriptive alt-text to your images. This way, a page reader will translate your text to speech.

8. Promote engagement

Optimize your email design to encourage more brand engagement and strengthen your customer relationships.

Subscribers can only engage with your newsletters if you provide a way for them to do so. 

Promoting engagement through your newsletter design is a great way to motivate subscribers to get involved. Even small design tweaks can make for high-quality engagement like following your brand across channels, sharing your content with a friend, and of course conversions.

Making sure you’ve optimized the CTAs in your newsletter is a great place to start. Be strategic and transparent about where you’re sending your readers. 

For instance, if your company newsletter is announcing a recent environmental project, it makes sense to include a “learn more” CTA linking to your landing page on sustainability. It does not make sense to send them to your new product line.

CTAs are there to help readers navigate through your content across channels. For this reason, any funny business around your calls to action is bound to hurt your click through rates.

Another great way to boost engagement is by incorporating social media buttons in your newsletter. Try adding them to your header or footer if you don’t want them to take up too much space. 

In the short run, it encourages subscribers to connect with your business across multiple channels. In the long run, this leads to a well-connected web of communication between you and your audience.

Finally, making sure it’s easy for your audience to share your content with friends and family is another highly effective promotion strategy. Try adding a “share” button to the most important or interesting piece of content in your newsletter. 

newsletter with button encouraging shares

Here, Pixlee does a good job of giving their audience plenty of opportunities to share their content. There are social media buttons in the footer and even a clear “share this with your friends” CTA button too!

8 email newsletter design tips later…

We hope you’ve gotten a better idea of what it takes to create newsletters that are both beautiful and perform well. As you’ve seen, newsletter design doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but there are a few considerations to take into account.

Whether you’re designing an ecommerce marketing campaign, a school newsletter, or anything in between, incorporating these tips into your email marketing strategy can help boost engagement, raise open and click through rates, and bring new subscribers to your email list.

For more content like this, take a look at our other articles on email marketing:

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