Email design trends for 2021

There have been many predictions of what email design trends will look like in 2021. From minimalist to maximalist design, brighter color palettes, font choices, and product highlights, email design differs from one brand to another. Yet somehow all follow the same guiding thread.
We wanted to hop on the wagon and give our take on this year’s email design trends- but not by predicting trends, instead, we are checking out real email campaigns sent out in the first few weeks of 2021, and highlighting the most common trends out there.

Pantone’s Color of the year: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating

A marriage of color conveying a message of strength and hopefulness that is both enduring and uplifting.

Pantone has announced the colors of the year for 2021. Yellow and gray, a match made in heaven, two colors that work perfectly together.

  • Yellow, the most luminous color, the color of happiness, optimism, enlightenment, and creativity.
  • Gray, the color of calmness, neutrality, and balance. It represents strength and practicality.

The color union announced by Pantone encapsulates the lessons we came out with after 2020 and paves the way for a brighter year ahead.
In email design, we can already see some brands getting inspired by the colors of the year.

Guess: New Styles Added: End of Season


Ashley Stewart: 😍 Denim Crush | NEW Must-Have Denim Styles


Nordstrom: On sale: tops, denim, coats, and more



Product-oriented emails

As the third wave of Covid hits us, many countries are getting back into confinement. Online shopping remains the most important challenge and winning bet companies can rely on to turn profits.
Emails are a means to promote products and encourage subscribers to visit physical shops and make purchases. But today, our behavior is shifting as we try to make do with our new context. Emails are therefore playing a more important role to showcase products and transform the medium into a pseudo-shop.

Read more | Level up your promotional emails

As seen in this email sent out by Hugo Boss a few days ago:

Hugo Boss: Bundle Up With 60% Off


The email highlights four main benefits of winter jackets. And then we see a whole section at the bottom of the email, where not one, not two, but 10 jackets are showcased. As if the email was trying to simulate the customer’s experience in the shop, inspecting jacket after jacket until they find what suits their tastes.
From a first look, Banana Republic’s email can be overwhelming. Following the same approach as Hugo Boss, BA tries to jam as many outfits as possible into one email, hoping to spark some interest from their customers.

Banana Republic: Today’s the day! Get Up to 50% Off + $49 Pants & Denim!


Dozens of products and outfits are showcased, but considering the logic behind the email, we can understand why the brand chose to highlight so many products.
In the next email example sent by Everlane, the brand includes high-quality close-up images of the finely selected products. Viewing the email, it was as if the subscriber can actually feel the cotton and touch the t-shirts.

The gray color palette of the email is a nod to the 2021 color of the year and adds a nice serenity and luxurious feel to the email.

Everlane: Uniform: Core Essentials


Loud vs Quiet design

Minimalist design has been a trend in email marketing for quite some time. Brands try to communicate as little information as possible to their customers, knowing that they are busy and overstimulated and that their attention span is getting shorter and shorter.

We see emails with a basic layout:

  1. Brand logo for recognition
  2. Email header with only 2 to 3 words, summarizing the email message
  3. Body content in a form of a short paragraph
  4. Call to action redirecting the subscriber to the intended landing page

These emails are simple yet effective; they get the job done yet remain stylish and professional. Not to mention that it decreases the chances of a broken email.

The Free People Event starts now

Nordstrom minimalist email design

Brooks Brothers: Great style is in our jeans


Minimalist emails are, however, not the only design trend on the market at the moment. In fact, many brands choose loud email designs, with bright colors and crammed visuals. 99 designs justify this trend with smartphones’ ability to handle busy designs with eccentric colors and elaborate details.

Uniqlo: Just dropped: Iconic tees from Keith Haring


Loud designs can be tricky and might not fit everyone’s tastes. But it can be the right move for your company from a branding perspective.
Anthropologie’s emails, for example, have always beautifully balanced the loud yet subtle design in their emails by pairing multiple visuals with muted colors and earthy toned palette.

Anthropologie: Because we *herb* you like floral prints…


Subtle and cute animated elements

What Litmus calls subtle delights, the tiny touches of animated images can delight your subscribers and add to your email an element of surprise and fun. GIFs in emails can be used to showcase different products in a visually-appealing way, as seen in this Steve Madden email.

Steve Madden: VALA: Your latest obsession

steve madden email gif

They can be so subtle that you might not even notice them at first. In this email example, the letter O is replaced by cute emojis and home appliance icons, which gives the email a little more character.

Nordstrom: The Happy Home Sale—extra 25% off!

The Happy Home Sale—extra 25% off!

Animated elements in emails sometimes don’t really have to make sense. In this Anthropologie email, the GIF adds movement and dynamism to a simplistic email.

Anthropologie: SALE refresh: up to 70% off & NEW styles.

Anthropologie GIF email

Wrapping up

Whatever the email design trends in 2021, it’s only important that your email campaigns are:

  • mobile responsive
  • on-brand
  • relevant to your audience

If these three conditions are satisfied, then you’re already on the right path towards a successful campaign.