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8 Exciting Email Design Trends for 2021: From Pastel Palettes to Animation

Want to stand out in the inbox? Here are 8 email design trends to help you execute attractive email campaigns and convert your customers in 2021.

Posted 16 Aug 2021
8 Exciting Email Design Trends: From Pastel Palettes to Animation

While there have been many reports about the death of email over the past few years, it’s now clear that these claims were greatly exaggerated. If fact, in a lot of cases they were flat out wrong. Despite social media taking over a lot of marketing real-estate, email is still widely used, with the number of emails being sent actually increasing year on year. This means that email and email design trends are as important as ever for a lot of marketers.

Now halfway through another eventful year, we can discuss the various 2021 email marketing trends that have been shaping our inboxes. In this article, we’ll focus on the purely visual aspects of email marketing design. However, don’t forget about other trends like email personalization and storytelling when you’re creating an email campaign.

The Best 2021 Email Visual Design Trends (So Far)

We’ve compiled a list of eight visual trends to help you create trendy email templates, execute attractive email campaigns and convert your customers in 2021. 

1. Pastel Color Palettes

If you’ve opened your inbox recently, you’ve likely seen at least a few newsletters featuring pastel colors. This trend is universal, and we’ve spotted it across industries from clothing retailers to tech firms. Even giants like Apple and Microsoft have started sending pastel-colored emails, despite the palette being a far cry from their brand identity.

So, why has this trend taken off? Well, with more and more people switching to dark mode, pastel colors are a great tool for designers who want to add color to their work without straining the eyes of their audience with vibrant hues

If you’re looking to make your emails more stylish, the pastel color palette is absolutely the way to go. For reference, see how Apple struck away from their classic minimalistic look to ensure an event invitation stood out in the inbox.

2. Illustrations

Going hand in hand with pastel color palettes, Illustrations are a great way to make your emails stand out from the usual stock photo-filled campaigns. They add a little character to your product and allow you to highlight your company’s values in a fun and quirky way.

Quizlet does a consistently great job of creating simple-yet-engaging illustrations that work extremely well with their educational branding. 

However, this trend has its drawbacks. Creating an illustration is far more time-consuming than using photography, and if you want a new header for every send, that’s a lot of design resource Thankfully, there are thousands of illustrations, from pop art styles to vectors, to make your emails pop, available with a subscription to Envato Elements.

3. 80s Retro

From fashion to gaming to email design, it’s official – retro is back. While the mainstream has left the 80s behind for 90s pastel, if you want to reach a tech-savvy audience, you might want to get your purple and orange gradients out.

Thanks to the cyberpunk revival the gaming and tech world have settled on the 80s as a point of reference. This aesthetic is great for email design, as it’s eye catching, fun and nostalgic.

GOG.com shows how you can push the envelope with a retro aesthetic in their Summer Sale email. The beautiful design doesn’t end with the header, but continues into the email body and provides a fun throwback to a past era.

4. A LOT of Copy

Are you worried that your email is too stuffed with text? Stop. Longer copy is back in vogue, so don’t be afraid to pack a punch. You can even go as far as posting a short article in your email, as long as it’s engaging and relevant.

And long copy isn’t just limited to news organizations and blogs. Companies like Welkom aren’t afraid to contextualize their products. Just don’t forget to have a clear view of what you want your reader to do next.

5. Geometric Shapes

After a few years of abstract designs, a lot of visual work seems to be pointing to the return of geometric shapes. Geometric shapes can help give an email design a clean look and they also work well with pastel colors.

There are a few ways of incorporating shapes into your email designs. You can use them as simple illustrations to add some color and variety to your header or background, or even include them as a centrepiece of your design.

This email from Packlane is a great example of incorporating geometric shapes into both the background and main design of an email, making the photo rectangle fit right in with the circle and triangle shapes surrounding it.

6. Keeping It Simple

Now that you’ve seen a number of email design trends we’re sure you’ve spotted a strong trend towards minimalism. Keeping your communication clean and simple makes your emails easier to read, and helps you get right to the point.

Ando does a great job of simplifying their email campaigns, combining illustrations with a clean, clutter-free design that communicates everything they want to say and doesn’t go any further than that.

7. Back to Black

With a lot of users switching to dark mode, some companies are doing the same with their emails. This trend is prevalent in the tech/gaming space, with brands such as Elgato switching to an all-dark theme for their campaigns.

Death Wish Coffee also isn’t afraid to use their logo aesthetic in their email, which goes all-in on the black theme. It works extremely well both for light and dark mode users. Also note the use of geometric shapes in the body, making the design feel far more dynamic.

8. Get Animated

Animation, along with GIFs, is a format that just won’t stop growing – and for good reason. When Dell sent out an animated email, their click-through rate increased by 42% while the conversion rate and revenue increased by 103% and 109% respectively.

It might be unlikely that animating your emails will make your results skyrocket by that much, it’s still a neat little touch that will probably increase engagement if done right. Don’t overdo it though: use animation to enhance your message without distracting readers and you should be well on your way to boosting your email marketing results.

The LA Times did an excellent job of combining illustrations and animation in their Earth Day 2021 newsletter. Both the subtle header animation and the animated pie chart add some dynamic elements and draw attention to an important topic in an engaging way.

What Will the Future Bring?

While this article is focused on 2021 email marketing trends, we have to remember that trends, especially visual ones, don’t follow the calendar when going in and out of style. While we see some trends continuing for a long time, others might become tired pretty quickly. 

Of course, everything also depends on the niche you’re operating within. 80s retro is starting to slowly die off in the mainstream, but it seems that it’s never going out of style in the tech and gaming circles. That’s why it’s always important to take these trends with a grain of salt. Some may work wonders in your niche, while others won’t resonate with your audience.

We hope that this article helped you out when looking for inspiration for your next email campaign. For more inspiration, check out Envato’s email marketing trends for 2021.

Guest Author: Adam Kościelak

Adam Kościelak is an experienced writer and video content creator. After four years of honing his craft in the video game industry, he joined Elastic Email to grow their content library, both on the blog and via social media. Whenever he’s not creating content for EE, Adam’s either gaming, binging Netflix, or hooping at a local basketball court.

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