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The Valentine’s holiday had me wearing the customary rose-tinted glasses and thoroughly enjoying it, from the candy to the life adventures (our first daughter was born the in wee hours of the 14th). [Editor's note: Congrats, Chris!]

It was a reminder, too, that email design is often discussed only in the context of its big brother (Web design) or as an enabler of the great marketing panacea (optimization). We spend a lot of time talking only about challenges in email design, but we can do better than apologetics.

So, in a post-Valentine’s and week-old-baby haze, here’s a short list of what I genuinely love about designing email.

1. Solving Communication Challenges. It’s at the core of any design process, but working through email messaging at a tactical level is just a lot of fun. Content, layout and data are our primary weapons, and our medium’s fast and furious pace make this process a blast.

Establish clear, catchy hooks, headlines, content structure and calls to action. Get in the subscriber’s head and get out. Drive action. We get to mobilize audiences immediately, through a surprisingly organic combination of visual design, user experience and optimization data, and plain old creative problem solving.

2. Data As An Asset & Feedback Loop. Data’s big right now, and the conversation around it evolves daily. I like data’s role in email because of its importance as both an input and output. Data as a design element is one of our primary tools for shaping user experience.

Smart use of this tool can elevate a visual designer from playing Photoshop jockey to developing truly creative solutions. As an output, data informs emails designers in ways that can inform tactics with a speed and clarity rarely available in other media.

3. Design Affects The Bottom Line. Design always impacts the bottom line. But the reporting available in email gives us the ability to rapidly act upon and improve those numbers. To be fair, this wealth of data can seem scary at first. Some non-designers even interpret the availability of performance data to suggest there’s a “magic formula” which designers have consistently failed to guess!

Obviously, unthinking optimization isn’t the answer, but rather than reject the numbers, we need to embrace the wisdom which can be found there. Designers have the ability to make a material impact on the revenue of any email program and are better positioned to enact change than most. It only requires you be willing to dive into the numbers enough to understand how your visual design impacts the business.

If you’re tired of feeling like design isn’t valued appropriately, it’s the single biggest step you can take toward changing that perception.

4. Iteration.  As a designer, iteration is the component of email that’s both the most powerful and most difficult to manage. All of the ideas above ultimately relate to iteration.

How do we communicate, stay engaged, and use data to drive value over time? The impact of iteration in email can mean many things: creating exciting visuals week to week, improving conversion month-over-month, driving CTO day-to-day, and more…

The most notable constraints in email are around antiquated code and the transactional nature of the work. That said, our freedoms are impressive and under-utilized. We can explore, prove out options and test decisions faster and more effectively than any other medium. It’s remarkably cheap to experiment, and in many organizations the designers hold the keys to innovation and need only realize they can own the initiative for innovation, as well.

As a community, I think we’re finally moving past the apologetic phase of email design. The business case has been proven many times over, but it’s time for us to take more pride in our work beyond its ROI. Email’s a lot of fun and I love working in this crazy medium.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line in the comments.

Stock image provided by Shutterstock

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Email Marketing | Email Marketing | Email Marketing Column

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About The Author: is Global Practice Manager, Design Solutions at ExactTarget. He heads email design execution and standards at ExactTarget and works with leading brands across a range of industries, from Expedia to Bank of America. Find him on Twitter @cstudabaker and ask what board games he's playing lately.



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