Email Design Systems: Bringing Order to Chaos

Email Design Systems: Bringing Order to Chaos

Email Design Systems: Bringing Order to Chaos

Jen Cain

Senior Designer

20 Jul 2022

Firstly, let me explain what an email design system, or an EDS as we call it (sorry for the industry jargon), actually means. An EDS is a collection of reusable modules that can be assembled together to create a variety of different mailings, all which fit within the brands guidelines. You’re probably thinking, “wow, I bet that sucks all the fun from designing” or “sounds templated and boring” but I’m here to blow all your misconceptions out of the water. So, just bear with me…

So, why do we use an EDS?

1. Efficiency and scale

A benefit which can’t be overlooked is that an EDS allows us to create a loooong body of modules which we already have the design layout and the code for. Some of the brands we work with have campaigns that consist of 40+ emails with tight deadlines. An EDS allows multiple designers to collaborate on an individual project without having to worry that their designs will be different from one another.

From a design perspective:

  • We have all font sizes, padding and image sizes available at our fingertips without having to start from scratch each time.

From a code perspective:

  • We do not have to re-code each module for every single mailing which cuts build time by half.

  • If there is a problem which arises (outlook no doubt!) we can make the amends within the EDS html and this will follow through all new mailings.

2. Brand consistency

A design system allows us to create a set of rules from the very get go. This, alongside utilising our email specific brand guidelines for each client, reduces the risk of unintended inconsistency. We want brands to be instantly recognisable in the inbox, and an EDS is a sure fire way of making that happen.

3. Gained time

Since the majority of our most used modules are already taken care of, we can spend more time investing in other areas. We focus on hierarchy of content, storytelling, journey management and user experience rather than worrying about tweaking pixels. It also allows the design and code team to collaborate on innovative ideas for more bespoke campaigns - one of our main objectives is to keep pushing the boundaries of email design and this gives us the desired time to do so.

Ok, so how isn’t it just a boring old template?

I know, I know, I haven’t really explained how it isn’t just “a template” but honestly, it isn’t. When we are designing an EDS, we take significant time considering how we can design each module to be as flexible as possible, avoiding a too modular design, and how we can ensure each email isn’t a carbon copy of the others.

We do this by:

  • We’re D E S I G N E R S … don’t think of it as a “template” - when creating an EDS we ensure all modules can be combined with each other to create interesting and beautiful layouts. Don’t always go for the obvious!

  • We can always change background colours, font sizes and padding to make each campaign stand out from the rest.

  • We allow a certain level of disruptiveness - for example, if a campaign has a particular colour palette, go ahead, incorporate it in the design! No issues whatsoever.

Can we break free from the EDS?

Don’t be fooled, we love our design systems for BAU email campaigns, but we’re always excited to chuck away the template and create completely bespoke designs where we can pull out some innovative ideas (like I mentioned previously…) and wow the audience.

When a client comes to us with a stand alone campaign or an exciting upcoming launch, this is the perfect opportunity for bespoke design, and albeit our EDS is designed in a flexible way, sometimes you need to work from a blank slate for maximum impact.

You’ve convinced me… what do I need to create an EDS?

  1. Have a spy at old mailings to understand which modules would be most beneficial for a clients email design system.

  2. Have a good understanding of the brands look and feel, and ensure you fully understand their ethics and values.

  3. Find out who their audience is and what email clients have the highest open rate. There’s no benefit in adding interactive modules to an audience who predominantly open on Outlook now is there?

  4. Think about flexibility. Yes, we want all modules to be able to stand alone, but an email doesn’t only consist of one module (at least most of the time it doesn’t).

  5. Invite everyone to the party, get other opinions from designers, check in with your strategy team and certainly make sure what you’re designing is possible in the build!

Do you think you and your email campaigns could benefit from using an EDS? If you’d like to have a chat and find out if this could be the answer to your email problems send us an email here and we’ll get back to you.




Got a project or want to know more about what we do? Drop us a message here, and we'll get back to you.




Got a project or want to know more about what we do? Drop us a message here, and we'll get back to you.

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