Resources Hub » Infographics » Anatomy of a Winning Email Design

We were recently part of an esteemed panel of judges for Email Monks’ The Best Email Design Hunt and thought we’d use that experience as the inspiration for our next email design infographic. We teamed up with our pals from Emma and Email Monks to bring you the Anatomy of a Winning Email Design.

Designing award-winning emails is not a simple matter of slapping some images together and adding copy.  Developing great emails is science, and you have to master it if you want to run profitable campaigns.

Anatomy of an email: Factors that make for great email design

Before you go and design your next email, consider these elements that will help it stand out and convert well.

Grab their attention from the beginning.

A well-designed email jumps out at the reader from the inbox. It’s hard to resist and demands attention. So, how do you achieve this effect?

Nail the subject line.

The subject line is the first piece of your email that your reader interacts with. It’s your only chance to woo your reader into your email to entice an open. A great subject line is:

  • Personalized
  • Highlights the benefit of opening the email
  • Is short enough to convey your message without revealing too much

Spend time crafting subject lines that your readers won’t be able to resist.

Use a simple template.

The mistake many marketers make when designing emails is choosing complicated email templates with multiple columns. Beautiful as such templates may be, they are so busy they just confuse the reader.

Simple templates with 1 – 3 columns are effective because you can easily use them to direct the readers’ eyes to the most important parts of your email.

Hypnotic copy

When you study the anatomy of an email that converts well, you will discover that there’s a mesmerizing element embedded. What makes such emails capture readers’ attention?

Short, punchy copy.

Research shows that people don’t read email copy in its entirety – they skim over it. Don’t fear; you can use their skimming to work in your favor. Simply design your email to have blocks of text with attention-grabbing copy.

Once the first block hooks them, curiosity will demand that they follow each “scene” you create with your copy until they get to the most important part of your plot – the call-to-action.

Well-arranged content

Finally, the way you arrange all the elements in your email is important. Use the inverted pyramid principle to direct your readers’ attention to those parts of your email that contain the most important information.

Anatomy of a Winning Email Design

Anatomy of an email design that wins

Anatomy is the study of the structure and function of something’s parts.

Here, we examine the anatomy of a winning email design to help you create emails that come to life in your subscribers’ inboxes.

Subject line

Is it catchy and engaging without being clickbait?

Content width

The golden rule is 600-640 pixels wide.

Relevant and personalized

Only collect the data you need. An email address and first name are a good place to start.

Is it on brand?

Check logos, colors, and fonts.

Inverted pyramid

To encourage action, focus layout around the call-to-action.

Quality images

Ensure images aren’t pixelated or blurry.

Text hierarchy

Use font size and weight to create a clear hierarchy.

Call to action

Is the call to action clear and easy to understand?

Meaningful animation

Ensure animation doesn’t distract or compete with a key message.

Value add

Add value, not just shameless promotions.

Animation fallbacks

Does the first frame make sense as a standalone image?

Alt text

Does your image have a text fallback?


Is the text size at least 16pt? Have you used alt text for those using a screen reader?

Web fonts

Do you have system font fallbacks set where web fonts aren’t supported?

Clear and concise

Be mindful of the medium and keep copy straight to the point.

File size

Try to keep the files under 300kb except for GIFs which should be under 1MB.

Mobile responsive

Ensure every email you send is mobile-friendly.


Is the content consistent with what your subscribers signed up for?

Kim Courvoisier (Campaign Monitor)

“A great email design is a great marriage between form and function where there is a bit of sizzle and a lot of substance.”

Jaymin Bhuptani (Email Monks)

“In today’s crowded inbox, images, typography, and interactivity help brands stand out and leave a lasting, positive impression.”

Logan Sandrock Baird (Emma)

“Creating a clear content hierarchy so that the eye knows where to focus shows respect for your subscribers’ attention and time.”

Wrap up

Now that you know the anatomy of an email that shines and converts, you’re ready to take your email marketing to the next level. Before you run off and launch your campaign, be sure to augment this knowledge by reading our ultimate guide to email design.

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