The Impact of Visual Elements in Your Email Campaigns

#TeamOnsharp Welcomes Trevor Christiansen to the Business Development Team
February 3, 2017
What’s Your Favorite Chrome Extension?
March 22, 2017

If they’re not already, email campaigns should be on your radar as one of your go-to marketing channels this year. Email audiences are continuously growing – and they’re going mobile, too. While designing an engaging email can be difficult, you can make a great impression on your audience and see a great ROI by understanding and implementing visual elements.

Whether you’re getting creative with your layout, adding photos and GIFs, or adding a call to action (CTA), each element should have a strategy to get your viewer engaged. Let’s review some visual elements and see how you can implement them to create a successful email campaign.


The Impact: Visually, choosing the correct template affects how users interpret your message.

Before you start designing your email, you need to create or select a template. Emails are typically square and fragmented, which can add to your design or limit your creative options if you don’t think outside the box. While selecting or designing your template, take into consideration what the purpose of your email is so your message remains focused.

Templates will either have a single column or multiple columns. So what’s the difference and why does that matter? Because it affects how your message is interpreted. Let’s compare them.

Single Column

  • Best for focused messages
  • Easy to read
  • Allows for a simple CTA

Two+ Columns

  • Best for informative emails
  • Works well for emails with a wide variety of content
  • Non-crucial CTAs

Check out some of our favorite email templates:


This email campaign utilizes a single column template effectively by putting the message front and center with a bold CTA. The simplicity of the design also makes it easy to read and follow along with. You can tell they chose the correct email template to showcase what their purpose is, which is another reason why we love it!


We love this layout for several reasons, one of them being that they embraced a fragmented, double column template in a modern way. Each section covers a different topic while incorporating graphics, photography, and a small amount of text which leads to a strong CTA.  The balance between information and design makes it easy to follow along with and fun to look at.

Images, Videos, & GIFs

The Impact: Adding these elements allows you to catch the reader’s attention and convey more information in an interesting way.


Images are an obvious addition to your email campaign; however, there are several things to take into consideration when you add them in. We’ll break it down and tell you what to do and what not to do.

What to do:

  • Add your logo at the top so users know right away who the email is coming from.
  • Include photos from your social media feed. Not only does this add a personable aspect to your email, but customers are actually 6x more likely to purchase a product if the page includes pictures from social media.
  • Use images for selling products or services. Find a way to include photos that add to the purpose of your email.

What not to do:

  • Don’t rely heavily on using only photos to display your information. It’s important to remember that some email service providers don’t display photos.
  • Don’t let your email go to spam with too many images. Using images in your campaign is important, but remember that using too many may cause your email to go to spam.
  • Don’t use large image files. Before sending, resize any images that may cause concern. Small, compressed, well-formatted images are the key to success.

Here’s one of our favorite examples of using images in an email campaign. 

On | Road

We love this email design because the images they incorporated tell a story of what the brand is about. The simplicity of their photos is appealing because it draws the user into the CTA. We like how they incorporated these images in a way that was interesting, simplistic, and doesn’t distract readers away from the CTA.


There’s nothing better than a good GIF – and that reigns true in emails as well. Adding a GIF adds creative complexity that isn’t possible with a static design. Brands in all kinds of industries have embraced the GIF, mainly using it to highlight their products. GIFs can also be used to illustrate complex ideas.

So, how do you make a GIF? Adobe broke it down for us so it’s easy to understand. The preferred way to create them is with Adobe Photoshop, although you can also use Adobe After Effects (and make GIFs out of existing video).

Here are a few tips on how to create a compact GIF:

  1. Make sure to crop the image as much as possible.
  2. Animate only a small area of the image.
  3. Reduce the colors in your saved .gif file.
  4. Remove as many frames as you can (note: you don’t need as many as you think in order to make a smooth transition or tell a story).
  5. After saving your image as a .gif, using it in your email is as simple and straightforward as using any other file. If you’ve ever uploaded images to your email campaigns before, you’ll use the same approach to upload your newly made GIF.

Let’s check out a killer example of how to use a gif in an email campaign.

American Apparel

American Apparel added some flair to their sales pitch by adding a GIF to this campaign. As you can see, the GIF draws the reader’s attention in while conveying a unique aspect about the product they’re advertising. The GIF itself is strong, unique, and relevant to the purpose of their email, which is why it’s one of our favorites.



Embedding video in your email is a smart move, as it can increase click-through rates by 200-300%. Adding video will grab your audience’s attention and show them that you put time into your strategy.

So how and why should you use video in your email campaign? 

  • Educate your subscribers. Avoid boring your audience with tons of text in your email and condense your message into one intriguing video. Adding video to your email will allow you to engage your audience and convey your message creatively.
  • Give them a behind the scenes look. Followers love to know what happens behind the scenes. Whether you’re giving your audience a view into how you collaborate, create, or have fun, they’ll appreciate the transparency.
  • Speak directly to your audience. Creating a personalized message for your audience shows them that you care. This type of video is extremely useful for engaging with your audience because it allows you to make it more personal.
  • Engage and excite. If you’re hoping to excite an audience about a product or service you’re launching, a video is a great way to ramp up the creativity and give them a look at what’s coming up in the future.

Now that you know some basic factors to keep in mind when adding video and when to use it, let’s take a look at one of our favorite campaigns that used it. 


This is a great example of adding video in an email. It intrigues the readers in a visual way and encourages them to watch the full film with a strong CTA. This particular video fits perfectly in this email because it represents an aspect of the brand while encouraging them to still shop online by clicking on the store options above.



The Impact: Choosing the correct color scheme in an email can dictate the reader’s mood, emotions, and overall impression of your brand. 

Getting content out there is important, but we have an extended appreciation for when emails are transformed into art. Focusing on color is an aspect that will help set the tone, engage your audience, and draw attention to the purpose of your campaign. It also has the ability to affect your reader’s emotions, attitude, and purchasing habits. In fact, people make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62‐90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone.

When choosing the right color scheme for your email campaign, it’s necessary to think of how your colors will resonate with the audience. Here’s an example from Business 2 Community of how the colors you select affects your audience:

Now that you understand the influence that color has on the audience, here are some simple things to keep in mind when choosing the right colors for your email:

  • Avoid clashing colors. Assure that the reader’s attention is focused on the right aspect of the email by avoiding clashing colors.
  • Focus on your brand. Brand identity is a crucial element of email marketing. You can create a sense of familiarity for the reader if your brand standards remain the same in your email.
  • Evoke emotion. Like the guide above shows, color has the ability to evoke certain emotions from readers. This is important to take into consideration for each aspect of your campaign so you can set the right mood for your audience.
  • Seasons matter. When creating your email campaigns, certain colors work better in the spring than they would in the fall. Here’s an example of a seasonal email that we love: 


The darker shades of blue and green allow for a wintery backdrop, allowing the products to warm up the content. The accent colors also add some pop to the overall color scheme. They did an excellent job featuring the ‘Shop Now’ button in bright orange!

Call to Action

The Impact: Making your Call to Action visible and bold will direct readers to where you want them to go.

Finally, every email campaign needs to have a strong call to action. The ideal CTA is eye-catching and creates a need to follow through.

Creating a button that gives your audience ownership, direction, and a takeaway is important. And when it comes to what your CTA actually says, it matters. One study showed that by changing the CTA content from “Start Your Free 30 Day Trial” to “Start MY 30 Day Trial” increased conversions by 90%.

Some of the best CTA’s will be:

  • Visually pleasing with compelling copy.
  • It’s ideal to keep it under five words if possible.
  • Visible! You want this to stand out.
  • In contrast with other colors on the page.
  • Large enough to notice from a distance.

So what makes for a bad CTA?

  • Difficult to find. The purpose of an email is to get users follow through with the CTA. If they can’t find it, the email is ineffective.
  • Make sure the CTA can be used on multiple forms of technology. While customizing it is necessary, it needs to be functional.
  • Ask for a sale. CTA’s are meant to get the reader interested, not convert a new customer right away.

Here are some of our favorite emails that use strong CTA’s: 


While there are several CTAs throughout the page, the first one is noticeable and simple. It’s also customized in a way that makes users want to click because it’s a time-sensitive offer.


We love this example because it links directly to the section you’ll be looking – making for an easy shopping experience. These buttons are simple, customized, and obvious to the audience.

Overall, visual elements are a necessary component to a strong email campaign. Whether you’re taking advantage of a new template or utilizing a modern color scheme, your email needs to be visually appealing to keep your audience’s attention.

If you’re considering creating a unique email marketing campaign, let us help you get started! Our Digital Marketing experts would be happy to discuss unique ideas to ensure your digital success.

This blog was originally written by Anna Soderholm, previous Onsharp Marketing Coordinator.