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  • June 21, 2013

Paint Me a Picture: Illustration in Email

Call me easy to please: if there's one thing that always catches my eye in the inbox, it's a pretty picture. Paint-and-paper ads may be extinct (except on Mad Men, of course—you can read more about that right here), but a lovely icon or a hand-drawn headline still goes a long way in adding a human presence to your emails.

Before you pick up that paintbrush (tool), here are a few guidelines to make your foray into illustration a smashing success:

-- Keep the design simple. If you have a large, compelling illustration in your hero, you don't need much else. So don't clutter up the email with lots of modules or copy. Let the image tell the story, and provide a great CTA to get the customer to where they can get more info. If you can’t suppress the impulse to jazz it up, consider an animation. Responsys copywriter Angela Thurmond covers the basics of animated emails in this post on the New School Marketing blog.

-- Watch your fonts. Script might add a human touch, but it's almost always hard to read. Non-script typefaces tend to work best in email, especially if you've got illustrative elements competing for the subscriber's attention. Think comic book: block letters and simple sans serif fonts are easiest to scan. Converse does a nice job of making this illustrated headline look organic while keeping it easy to read. The only thing missing is some web-safe copy to make this email just as effective with images disabled.

-- Make your copy do double duty. I'm gonna go ahead and contradict myself, because this Land of Nod email is so cute, script typefaces and all. Instead of opting for an illustration, this email takes a page from the letterpress handbook and makes the type do the work of an illustration. Note that even though a few different typefaces are used, they're not different enough to induce a headache, and the true script is confined to the logo area. Brilliant!

What’s your take on illustration in email? Chime in below!

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