Breaking out of the inbox.

Four experts share best practices for standout email experiences.

Email is undergoing a renaissance. For decades it’s been the workhorse of marketing campaigns, the channel with the highest proven ROI. But in the rush to the inbox, email design has become a lost art, overlooked and forgotten. To make your brand stand out in the inbox, you need to share your intentional, authentic, bold, and brave brand personality and elevate the experiences you deliver.


Email marketing ROI

compared to channels like display advertising with just 35 percent.

Source: Econsultancy

Adobe partners Digitas, Email on Acid, StoryPorts, and Wunderman embrace strategic creativity to bring the unexpected, the unimagined, the je ne sais quoi to emails for top brands. We interviewed experts at each company and uncovered six ways you can bring creativity to customers’ inboxes too — and add value that they appreciate.

Creativity can ensure your emails connect emotionally and positively. What customers remember are the anomalies that inspire feelings, like curiosity, desire, and joy. That means bringing a creative mindset to every aspect of email, from strategy to design to delivery. Your design makes a vital impression, but your email must also load fast, look good on every screen, and offer new delights like interactivity and video, without ever leaving the inbox. Luckily, you can access a host of tools and techniques long used by other channels and apply them to deliver brilliant emails that make your brand the one customers love to hear from.

“I look at design as being the whole experience from a subscriber standpoint. What was the experience they had? Was it difficult? Was it easy? Was it visually appealing?”


Many thanks to our brilliant panel of experts.

Person 1

Molly Crawford

Group Creative Director


Person 2

John Thies

CEO and Co-founder

Email on Acid

Person 3

Craig Evans

Chief Creative Officer


Person 4

David DeVore

CEO and Founder


This preview version contains just three of the six best practices we’ve identified with our expert panel. Get an email when the full version launches.


design: Subtly or

Show customers you know who they are not only with words, but also with email design.

Like all of us, your customers appreciate special treatment. So you need tools that let you take advantage of every bit of data you collect to send emails that are meaningful to each recipient. Tap data including demographics, interests, location, and search or purchase history. But don’t stop at personalizing emails with copy. Also envision how design elements could speak to each customer and help your email catch the eye.

“People have a certain expectation. They share information with the brand and they expect the brand to use it in a good way to help enhance their experience. Personalized design is a way to reflect that.”


Sometimes your audience has such high expectations of your brand that you need to personalize by combining data with over-the-top creativity. Wunderman’s challenge was to celebrate the yearlong effort of every single Xbox player. The agency tapped 220 million hours of data on games played, time played, community average, and other unique stats to show each gamer’s achievements. But instead of simply sending an email with numbers, Xbox hired world-class street artist Jeff Soto to handcraft illustrations based on game genres and styles. Each individual’s gaming story was brought to life by combining Illustrations into a Gamercrest. Gamercrests received more than 6 million social shares.

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“We were extremely excited about the prospect of combining gaming data with a great creative idea to serve something unique and relevant to our audience. It was challenging to pull that dynamic content into an email, but the results were great and Gamercrest is considered one of the best examples of personalization Microsoft has done.”


Your brand’s boundaries may encompass customers who speak another language, live in another country, and embrace another culture. To be relevant, you need to show them you can relate in an authentic way. Multilingual messaging capabilities let you create emails in the language your customers speak, not just one they understand. But you should also translate design. Aesthetics vary among regions and countries — from muted and spare to vibrant and intricate. To inspire trust, translate words and design.

“In Scandinavia, the design aesthetic is very clear, very streamlined. In Spain, the design aesthetic tends to be a bit more big and... a lot more colors. So, organizations are not only thinking about language translation, they’re thinking about design translation.”

Topsify 1 Topsify 3

Topsify curators compile Spotify playlists for different occasions and locations around the world and post them on the web. StoryPorts develops emails for Topsify by consuming the approved web content already customized for each region and country. StoryPorts pulls the content into a template to create email versions that fans worldwide receive enthusiastically. The big win is being able to connect with an audience that previously had not received emails due to the prohibitive cost of manually building them in multiple languages.

Topsify 2

Consumers willing to pay more
for a product when given information in their own language.


Consumers more likely to buy
a product when given information in their own language.

Source: Litmus, an integrator and partner of Adobe Campaign


Translate: Language and aesthetics.

Speaking your customers’ language in an email helps them relate, but translating design makes them feel truly at home.

While you’re shaking off the constraints to creativity, don’t forget that some of your customers may not see things as you do. The visually impaired appreciate exceptional design as much as any of us. And you’re missing out on a large market if you don’t make your emails accessible to those with partial blindness, double vision, cataracts, or colorblindness. You also need to be aware that features you may want to use, such as animated GIFs, can harm users with photosensitive epilepsy if they flash at rates between 2 to 55 HZ. Make your brand inclusive by designing for every customer in your emails.


Visually impaired people


Americans using screen magnifiers and readers like Apple’s VoiceOver and Speaking Email.

Source: EmailMarketingDaily

Adobe created accessible emails to highlight products, share stock images, and offer tips from pro photographers. The emails incorporate many best practices: Ensure fonts are at least 12 pixels and contrast sharply with the email’s background, choose radically different hues to make images and graphics clear in grayscale, avoid red or green click buttons that trip up customers with colorblindness, and always include helpful alt text with images for those listening to the email. Understanding the challenges customers face and the technologies available will help you make the right accessibility decisions.

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Phone Phone

“If your landing page is accessible but your email isn’t, some of your customers will never get there.”



Make it
accessible: A
different view.

To reach your entire audience, design for customers with visual impairments, including those who experience emails by listening.