Designing an email signature seems like it should be simple. But finding the right combination of branding, contact information, colors and other important details can end up to be tricky. This is especially true when you are creating the signature for an organization. Different parts of an organization have different goals: The marketing department cares a lot about consistency of the brand, the sales department wants to get users to make the purchase, the legal team wants to add a disclaimer a mile long, and the CEO just wants it to look really "cool". It can be hard to balance these competing voices when it comes to designing a company email signature.
This article is more of a strategic overview of how to design an email signature. If you are looking for the nuts and bolts of HTML coding, we have an article about How to Code an Email Signature that may be what you are looking for.
Gather All of the Pieces
As with any design, it is important to get all of the elements of your design in front of you. If they are stuck in your memory, or across multiple sets of emails it can be helpful to get out a notebook and list them out, or consider quickly sketching them out. It doesn't have to look pretty, some boxes and squiggles can often communicate a lot more than a list. Force yourself to try laying out the elements in a few different configurations before deciding which one is the best. I think most designers are familiar with this process, but some avoid it for the email signature because it is more of an afterthought than considering it an important design element. Trust me, its worth it to make it look nice.
Decide what is the most important
Now that you know all of the components of the email signature that could be there, its time to decide what should be there. As with any marketing materials if you try to say too much you end up saying nothing. Your readers shouldn't be overwhelmed by the amount of information in the signature and gloss over it entirely. Try to choose what is most important to you or your company and trim out some of the unnecessary elements. Limit the number of images and graphics in the signature and at most choose one marketing message or call to action.
Typical Important Elements of an Email Signature:
Look for Inspiration, or Start with a Signature Template
If you don't know where to start, thats ok. Sometimes its helpful to look back through your email correspondences with other companies and see what they have done. There are many examples of email signatures online that you can draw inspiration from. Just looking at what other companies have included in their signatures and see how they have arranged the elements is a good place to start. Because starting from a blank canvas can be hard, our signature generator gives you some starting templates to choose from. Of course you should be able to add and remove from these templates freely in order to accomplish what you want.
Keep it smaller than you might think
One of the biggest mistakes I see as designers work on email signatures is that they become too large. A signature can be too large in a few ways:
- The first is making the signature font size too large. It can be tempting to draw attention to the name or title of the employee by making the font size 20 pixels or more. Often the body font of an email is 14px - 16px, so this often ends up to be huge in comparison to the rest of the text in the email.
- The second is with images or logos, its easy to make your logo large in order to make sure it is important. But this can also overwhelm everything else within the email and end up to be almost comically too big. The rule of thumb is to keep making your logo smaller until it gets too hard to read and keep it above that threshold.
- Finally, remember that not everyone in your audience uses a gargantuan 27" widescreen monitor. Most emails on a desktop computer are viewed in smaller windows of about 600 pixels, but even more importantly the majority of emails these days are read on a mobile device! Even squishing a 600px email signature onto a mobile device can make the text tiny and hard to read.
Think about Mobile and Dark Mode Early On
It can be easy to let mobile signatures and dark mode be an afterthought, but a greater majority of users are going to be viewing your signature in these ways, so you should be prepared for it. I have seen many good email signature designs that work great for desktop devices, but ultimately are too large and complex for mobile signatures. Signatures work best on mobile devices whey they are about 420px or less, and don't have too many elements included. I have written a guide on dark mode for email signatures and what you can and cannot control about them.
Consider Multiple Signatures
Sometimes a "one size fits all" email signature won't work across a whole company. I mentioned at the beginning of this article that sometimes different departments and employees will have different goals and purposes for their email communications. An alternative approach is to create a few different signatures for different roles in the company. Sales might want a different signature than the support department. Another alternative to consider is to create your fancy desktop signature but offer a simpler and smaller mobile only signature for employees replying "on the go".
Preview and Test the Signature!
When you think your design is ready, make sure to preview it within the context "normal" message in your email client. Step back and consider how the average sender and receiver of this signature will view it and respond to it. This will give you better perspective (I still find myself making them too large at times!) and help you to see your blind spots while you were designing it. It is also a great idea to test your signature in various email platforms. Outlook is often an issue when it comes to signatures because it follows it own rules when it comes to interpreting HTML code. Test it on a mobile device as well! There are testing platforms available like Email On Acid and Litmus that allow you to send an email and preview your design across tons of different email clients on multiple different devices or operating systems.
Hopefully you feel more confident to go create your company email signature and more aware of some of the common pitfalls that designers make when making an email signature. If you haven't already you should try out our powerful signature design tool that allows you to use our drag and drop interface to create email signatures in your browser without having to deal in the messy code required to make cross email client compatible email signatures. Hopefully you find it useful for your next project.