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Everything You Need to Know About Email Signature Design

June 18, 2020

email signatures

Email signatures are one of the most powerful marketing tools in your arsenal.

What’s more, it’s a powerful sales enablement tool as well.

Let’s look at the numbers. A company of only 100 employees generates roughly 1.2 million email signature impressions per year, worth about $100,000 in ad spend.

Those email signature impressions are highly targeted, uncontested, and unblocked; there are no competitors ads or ad blocking in emails. In fact, email signatures are often the first visual impression that a potential prospect has of your company. In more advanced use cases, email signatures can be your highest ROI account-based marketing campaign channel. In other words, email signatures are a golden opportunity to drive sales, start conversations, and inform prospects in unique ways.

This is why email signature design is absolutely critical to marketing and sales success. This guide will lead you through how to think about email signature design and how to get your company the email signature design it needs to drive sales, grow content marketing, and build brand awareness.

How to perfect email signature design

Any good email signature should be easy to read and understand. At a minimum an email signature design should have the following necessary elements:

  • Name
  • Job title
  • Contact email (optional)
  • Contact phone
  • Company URL

Email signatures that contain only these five elements can be added to emails either as plain text or as simple HTML. This, however, represents the bare minimum and adds little marketing or brand value to your email. It is boring and does not grab the eye or convey richer messages. Check out another example of a fairly simple but beautiful signature below.

stackadapt email signature
 

You could add a marketing CTA in plain text signatures, but it will have minimum impact. This CTA will be yet another text element in an email that is already full of text. If you only have a plain text email, then you and your company are missing out on massive marketing and sales enablement opportunities that we will go over in greater detail in this post.

Contact emails are optional because a recipient can just hit reply to reach you, so adding your email is redundant. Even so, some organizations prefer to put emails into signatures to make it easier for recipients to find them.

If you want an email signature that gives you a rich canvas for expression with colors, images, fonts and interactive elements, then you will need an HTML email signature. If you do happen to have images and banners, make sure you are using a signature system that is NOT plug-in based because it can cause display problems or other reasons people may not actually see your stunning signature banners.

Email signatures with images and banners

It’s obvious that you are going to have an HTML email signature block rather than pure plain text. Now, you can treat your email signature like a canvas and an extension of your brand. This means you can add some elements that will drive engagement, build trust, and boost your brand recognition.

Here are a few elements you may want to consider including:

  • Company logo
  • Company social media icons
  • Personal headshot
  • Custom or styled fonts
  • Use your brand color palette
  • Beautiful email signature banners

The above elements are depicted in the email signature below:

opensense email signature
 

Let’s go through the above elements in order.

Company logo

Your logo conveys your brand and your values. There is little downside to adding it, and plenty of upside, with a few caveats. Your logo should be properly sized for email. Very large logos are distracting. It is hard to design them so that they scale and display properly across all the devices and email clients that your email recipients might use.

For logo placement, make sure to design your logo somewhere in the signature that does not interrupt the user experience or information flow. A centered logo may work at the top or bottom of a signature block, but it doesn’t work if text and information are both above and below it.

We generally recommend that logos go either on the right or the left side of the signature block, depending on our preference and text layout. Also, ask yourself a simple question. Do you want readers to see your logo before or after they see contact information? If you want them to see your logo first, put it on the left side and left-justify the signature text block. If you want them to see it after they read your contact, put it on the right. 

Social media icons – pick your best two 

Many signatures use them and with good reason. Clickable icons can drive engagement with the email and direct prospects or partners to your social channels where you highlight more of your rich content. Too many icons may be overkill and clutter your email signatures. They also actually discourage engagement by overwhelming recipients with options.

A good rule of thumb is pick your favorite or most important two social channels and use those. For consumer brands, Instagram and Facebook are probably far more important than LinkedIn. For B2B brands, LinkedIn and Twitter are the best channels. Also, use your best judgement. If you have a YouTube channel, but haven't posted there in months, and your videos have few views, don’t add it to your signature.

Personal headshot - keep it small and shape-formatted

Headshots are an excellent way to say “Hey, a real person is sending you this email.” Humans also react strongly and emotionally to faces and eye contact. In a business setting, as well, LinkedIn has conditioned us all to expect headshots when we see personal information in a business setting. So yes, adding a headshot on either side of your signature can be an effective way to increase engagement with your signature.

With a headshot, you want to bound it within a shape mask. This keeps the headshot distinct and prevents it from bleeding into other parts of the email visually. It also looks crisp. (Bonus points if you can put a headshot into a mask the shape of your company logo like the example we see below!). Also, make sure to keep headshots proportional and small. They are easier to manage as separate images rather than incorporated into larger images. This gives people the option of changing their headshots periodically more easily. 

Use your brand's color palette 

Just like a smartly designed logo, brand colors in the signature can lighten an email signature and communicate the company values. Recipients will be exposed to and get used to your brand colors in many cases via your email signature. This also fosters a sense of continuity and professionalism.

For professional brands - just like great pro sports teams - the using brand colors shows everyone on the team wearing the same uniform. In addition, email signatures (when centrally managed) can ensure that everyone is using the correct brand colors.

nativo email signature

Custom fonts

With HTML signatures then you can use your own fonts and have your communications match fonts in other channels. While it may seem small, this is important in projecting professionalism. Particular customers do notice the small details like what font family are you using. Also, plain text font options are quite limited and boring in emails.

Email signature banner

Email signature banners are unobtrusive graphical banners that blend into your email signature. They can function as a rich communications channel to catch the attention of and engage prospects and partners. They can also act as an extension of your marketing campaigns. We usually view them as a new owned media channel for organizations - one that usually outperforms paid media and is significantly less costly and better targeted.

Some of the worlds biggest brands and smartest startups rely on email signature banners to increase event attendance, boost content downloads and accelerate sales deals. Banners can also include polls, in-banner event registrations,  and more. Some companies regularly use animations in their email signature banners. 

outreach io signature banner
 

Click-through-rates can be as high as 15% - far higher than CTRs for most forms of paid media. It is simple to add a UTM to email signature banners to track their performance. You can also integrate banners with CRM tools to create a personalized display channel for already engaged prospects or for HR manners seeking to hire or company executives wishing to highlight thought leadership.

Guidelines for email signatures and banners 

Now you have the basics on what elements you can and should put into an HTML email signature. That said, designing compelling and engaging email signatures is as much art as science. So you will want to consider some broader questions about taste and the impression you want to leave behind with your signature. Here are some key design guidelines you should use when designing your email signatures. 

Keep signatures and banners consistent with brand design 

If your brand ethos is fun and informative, make sure you email signature design feels fun and informative. If your brand ethos is professional and highly competent, make sure you project that in the signature and in your signature banners.

This also means using the same fonts as your brand uses on its website and probably avoiding less used colors from your brand palette. Sounds totally obvious? It’s a bit tempting to try a lot of new things with an email signature banner precisely because you fully control it and you may feel like you have to stand out in a big way. 

opensense sig banner
 

While it’s a great place to experiment with messaging and new ways of presenting information, your signatures and banners are a very tight extension of your brand directly associated with an employee. So keep it consistent. Think of it this way. Would your email signature and banner be right at home on your homepage? If the answer is yes, then your signature is probably consistent.

Don't jam a ton of info into your email signatures 

Like most things marketing, less is more for email signatures. It might be tempting to try to jam a signature full of links, CTAs, and a busy banner. Before you do, consider the overall impression that the signature leaves on a viewer. We tend to be overwhelmed by tons of information presented in a small space. It’s also hard to project a clear message when too much competing information is included. Consider the following when creating your banners. 

Who your target audience is 

Cater all elements to the audience. This can mean having slightly different email signatures for sales and marketing employees, for example. Signature banners can also be customized with specific CTAs based on language, role or geography. Map your signature to the needs and tastes of your target audience.

What action you want to drive

Do you want them to click on the banner? Do you want them to go to your website for a demo or social channel? The primary action should be the top priority in designing content. So, for example, if you never expect them to call you on your work phone, then don’t include a work phone. It’s a waste of real estate. Alternatively, if you want them to text you, emphasize this by making your mobile number prominent and easy to find in the email signature information hierarchy - maybe by putting it as the first bit of information after the name and company website link.

What device or software the recipient is using

If most of your recipients are reading emails on mobile devices (which is often the case), map your design constraints to optimize for mobile consumption. This may mean more contrast between elements in the signature, to name one example. It also may mean you want to make sure that certain elements are set to scale and others drop out of the signature when oriented on a mobile device. A good principle is to design the information architecture of your signature and banners using the screen size that most recipients will be viewing on. This forces your default look to be your best look.

Fewer colors and fonts equal a better UX 

In the spirit of more is less, using fewer brand colors in your email signature generally makes them more readable. It also minimizes problems with display, contrast or other issues that come up with signatures being read across a wide variety of devices and email software.

or example, if customers are using dark mode on a website or browser, more colors means it's probably harder for them to see all the information in the signature. The same is true for fonts. We generally recommend sticking to a single font for email signatures. It is much easier on the reader and also creates a more professional and consistent look and feel.

Again, think of team uniforms. The most memorable use is a limited palette. Signature banners, however, are different. They function like online display ads and so there is no need to limit the palette. In fact, a broader palette with nice contrasts and bright colors in banners is more likely to catch the eye.

Create an in-house email signature style guide 

For your designers to be efficient and create good signatures, it’s best to give them very detailed guidance. Style guide is also critical not only for readability but also for deliverability. Signature images that are too large and are hosted on external servers may get your email blocked. Using the wrong image format or fonts that render poorly in some environments can also really hurt.

Your email signature style guide should contain the following:

  • A design brief describing the mood, look and feel that you want your signatures to create. Include how often you plan to update signatures
  • A description of the top three goals of the signature
  • An information hierarchy of simple bullets prioritizing what information should be in your email signature
  • Email deliverability requirements and design constraints
  • A description of how email signature banners might be integrated with other systems 
  • Which device or form factor should be considered the default for designs
  • Which other devices or form factors are important for your recipients 
  • Guidelines on what fonts and colors from the brand palette to use
  • Specific requirements for image sizes and formats for all graphics and photos in the email

Create an email banner style guide, too

Signature banners will likely have a similar design ethos as the rest of your signature but different constraints and requirements. In fact, you can probably treat your email signature banner designs as almost an extension of your general display advertising campaigns (although we are seeing increasing use cases of companies using email signature banners for internal marketing campaigns to drive awareness about company initiatives).

Here are a few basics for banner style requirements:

  • A design brief describing the mood, look and feel that you want your banners to create. Include how often you plan to update signatures.
  • Email deliverability requirements and design constraints for your banners 
  • A description of how email signature banners might be integrated with other systems 
  • What device or form factor should be considered the default for designs 
  • Which other devices or form factors are important for your recipients (can be the second or third most used by your customers, for example)
  • Guidelines on what fonts and colors from the brand palette to use
  • Specific requirements for image sizes and formats for all graphics and photos in the email. Include any potential requirements for animation

2 email signature examples to emulate 

Finally, let’s look at two amazing email signatures that we’ve recently seen and talk briefly about what makes them so good.

Qualtrics

Here’s the first one. An engineer at Qualtrics loved it so much, he shared his signature on LinkedIn: “This is my professional email signature. I feel extremely proud when I look at it.”

qualtrics email sig

Dynamic Yield

Dynamic Yield, an AI-powered personalization platform invited potential prospects and anyone interested to view an on-demand webinar for retail businesses. What stands out from this particular signature, is the GIF logo followed by the badge. It captures attention and leaves a lasting impression.

dynamic yield banner

You can design an awesome email signature. Start now.

You've just learned the following: 

  • Why email signatures are in fact an amazing owned marketing channel (perhaps your most underutilized one)
  • Why email signatures are powerful means to project and professionalize your brand
  • The two most basic types of email signature (plain text and HTML)
  • What elements to include in both types of email signatures
  • How to think about designing email signatures
  • How to create an email signature design style guide for your graphics team

Now it’s up to you. If you have a plain vanilla email signature right now, look at it and start thinking big and beautiful. What can you add to it? How can you use email signatures to better project your brand image? How can you integrate email signatures into broader marketing efforts?

Truly, email signatures are a beautiful canvas on which to tell stories and communicate with people who are already pre-qualified and highly targeted. They can also be a high-performance, high-ROI growth channel to grow your engagement and sales without breaking the bank. We hope this article helps you think about a braver, better, more beautiful email signature future for your organization. 

Make sure your email signature software helps your brand to stand out from the competition! Choose the right one for your needs on G2. 

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