We asked Senior Art Director, Rachel Lord, to share a bit about the process behind the incredible email designs she creates. Here’s what she told us:

“At Sage, the designer/art director is heavily involved in the strategy. We work closely with our client and writing partner to craft communications that effectively convey the key message and connect with the prospective audience to elicit a response.”

Designing marketing emails is not just about pretty design, but effective design. It’s important to give your audience communication that is attention-grabbing but also compelling and easy to respond to.

Here are some steps I take when designing a new email campaign:

  1. Brainstorming and Concepting. I like to meet with my writing partner after having done some research myself. While brainstorming, no idea is a bad idea! A writer’s words may spark a different visual for me. Or my visuals may inspire new and different words. I usually come out of this meeting with multiple fun ideas to “sketch” as the copywriter begins to craft the content.
  2. Sketching Ideas. Sketching, both digitally and with good, old-fashioned pen and paper, is the fun part for me. It is like solving a puzzle. I tend to put some music on while I search for the perfect image for a headline concept or while I am playing with different layout options. Interestingly, using old-school pen and paper often tends to speed up the process for me. As a creative team, both the writer and designer work collaboratively to solidify our ideas, which almost always elevates the creative to a place that neither of us would have gotten to on our own.
  3. Establishing a Visual Hierarchy. Once I receive the copy, I place it at the size and line length that aligns with the messaging hierarchy. I also ensure the message is easy to read, highly scannable, and easy to act on.
  4. Ensuring a Logical Flow. I typically arrange content to follow natural reading patterns to help form the flow while also thinking about white space. A “z-pattern” will guide a reader’s eyes back and forth, starting from the top left and zigzagging through the content to the call to action. In contrast, an “f-pattern” will guide a reader from left to right in a series of lines. Either pattern can be highly effective.
  5. Incorporating Compelling Visuals. Once I have established a solid hierarchy and visual flow, I work on the details by adding imagery, icons, animated gifs, and other visual elements—to emphasize key information, strengthen the message, and help guide the reader’s eye.
  6. Balancing Freshness with Consistency. In addition to visual appeal, I review the design for adherence to the visual identity. One piece of the puzzle when designing email is balancing looking fresh while adhering to technical and brand requirements.
  7. Taking a Step Back. The design process tends to be iterative. Often times, a design doesn’t come together in one shot! I find it helpful to review my work from a different vantage point or even walk away and come back to it another day with “fresh eyes.”
  8. Checking the Work Against the Creative Brief. I always like to circle back with the writer and review the creative brief to ensure we don’t miss anything.
  9. Ensuring the Design Works for All Devices and Readers. I typically meet with the production team along the way to confirm that the design will render well on mobile and desktop in both light and dark modes. And most importantly, to ensure that the calls to action pop across all devices.

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