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5 Email Design Tips for Non-Designers

When it comes to designing a solid digital message, having a graphic designer on hand can be a great resource. But what if you don’t have one on your team?

Just because you don’t have access to professional design doesn’t mean you can’t start small and make any digital message look good.

To help non-designers create a well-designed email, here are a few tips for improving your digital design that can work for even the most novice designer:

1. Get Inspired

When working to create a strong digital message, it’s important to come into the creative process with examples that inspire you. Every day, we see design examples in messages, ads and website that we may not even realize work to grab our attention. Try looking at other similar agencies for examples of what works for them, but don’t limit yourself! Go beyond your vertical and see what resonates and create an email folder where you can store them in one spot.

If you need a place to start, check out the following guides with examples of well-designed messages:

2. Learn the Key Design Elements

When designing for email, there are a number of pro tips from experienced designers that don’t require graphic design experience. In GovDelivery, it’s easier than ever to set up your message for success by following these guidelines:


  • When working to make your emails personal, imagery can be a strong asset. Try to use genuine, relevant imagery and avoid generic stock images.
  • Imagery can be used to convey content hierarchy, the most important story in your message should have a larger image than lesser-important stories.
  • For the main story, instead of a full-width hero banner, try a half-width text-wrapped image. This brings lower content higher on the page, and still presents a nice, clear image to the reader.


  • Keep it simple. For most public sector digital messages, a header can be as simple as a centered logo. Avoid using text over an image, as this is less clear and harder to read.
  • Whitespace is good thing. Don’t overcrowd your message with a lot of design elements, otherwise your reader’s eye will get confused.
  • Use a single font for the tagline, if you have one. Examples of could be “A message from the Commissioner,” or “Small Business Bulletin.”


  • Making sure your content is closer to the top of the email will ensure your lower stories are read more often.
  • Replacing a huge hero image with a text-wrapped image will still convey importance and give meaning to your main story.
  • Bonus: Text-wrapping images will also look better on mobile devices.
  • For GovDelivery users, the text/image tool in the Advanced Bulletin Editor by default is set to NOT wrap images, so if you mark that setting to ON, it will display the text/image block nicely on mobile.

3. Explore the Tools

For GovDelivery users, there are number of professionally designed templates at your fingertips that require very little design support.

But if you know you’d like to explore designing elements that will go into your digital message, you may want to dive into training for Adobe Creative – but know that it can be expensive beyond the 30-day trial. Here are a number of other design platforms to explore:

  • Google Drawings is a very introductory tool for design beginners, and can be a fun way to explore the basics.
  • Canva offers a simple and accessible way to create headers or images to share on social in a user-friendly way.
  • PicMonkey provides an intuitive way to update photos, and even has a number of design tools available to explore.

4. Keep it Simple

For beginning designers, it may seem like you need to add more than you need to. Keeping designs clean and easy on the eyes is all you need for the most part when designing for email, so don’t overthink it! You only have 8 seconds (on average) to engage readers of your message.

5. Most Importantly, Be Consistent

Any professional designer will tell you that consistency is the foundation to strong design. If every design you create has different foundational elements, your brand will suffer because it won’t be recognizable to your audience. No matter what design path you choose to experiment with, stick to these design basics to ensure consistency:

  • Know your brand’s color scheme (this can be found in your branding guidelines) and the color wheel to experiment with complementary colors.
  • Check your lines – are they straight where they need to be?
  • Shoot for symmetry, but don’t let it rule every design. Bringing balance to a design is important, but try testing an asymmetrical design to see if it resonates.

Do you want to consult with a member of our Digital Engagement Services team on your digital design? Let us know at info@govdelivery.com.