Employee Newsletters

Email Newsletter Design: How to Use Templates and Create Engaging Layouts

By Alex Cleary


A good email newsletter design is like the opening title sequence of a TV show. The first time you watch the show, the theme song sets the mood for what you’re about to experience. By the third episode, you’re already singing along. 

In the same way, consistent newsletter design sets the tone for the information contained within your email. 

Patterns make identifying and memorizing information easier and set the tone for your newsletter. By the third time a reader receives your email, they should already know what to expect. 

Whether sending out an event invitation or onboarding a new employee, ensure your newsletter design helps recipients find the information they need. The best way to achieve this consistency is by creating set email templates in Outlook and Gmail that you can reuse again and again. 

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Why Newsletter Templates are a Good Idea

There’s room to be creative with your newsletter design, but using familiar patterns and elements works to your benefit. 

In the same way that audiences expect a title sequence to be at the beginning of a show (and not the middle), there are industry standards that email readers have learned to look for. 

Following email design best practice accomplishes a few goals:

  • Speeds up the design process. In order to balance creativity with familiarity, it’s best to use a concept called modular design. With modular design, an email is broken up into blocks. These blocks are then modified and repurposed in every message, making the email creation process fast and easy. 
  • Furthers brand awareness. Using the same templates consistently helps establish a brand identity by adding easily recognizable content to your communication efforts.
  • Builds trust. Over 45% of emails are considered spam, so it’s important to design emails in a way that helps recipients distinguish your emails from suspicious ones.
  • Makes it easier to find information. In 2019, the average person received an estimated 126 emails per day. That number is only growing. Because of this, emails need to be as intuitive as possible. 
  • Helps you comply with laws and regulations. As rules like the GDPR and CAN-SPAM act develop, it’s essential to consistently include mandatory information. By creating email newsletter templates, you can ensure that you comply with regulations in every email. 

How to Create an Engaging Email Newsletter Template

Engaging newsletters are composed of compelling design elements and creative employee newsletter ideas. From inserting gifs into your Outlook emails, to using interesting background colours and fonts, there are plenty of key details you should hone in on to optimize your email newsletters. 

Focusing on the design details will ensure that your email newsletters boost employee engagement.

Follow along with these 7 tips for creating an employee newsletter for an intriguing design that better connects with your recipients. 

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Step 1: Choose a layout

Deciding on the right layout for your email newsletter is all about building with the visual hierarchy in mind.  Reader attention will be influenced by the way in which you organize components of your email. 

For example, big buttons show readers where to click, and headers let them know the most captivating information. It’s best to design emails that feel most natural to read, are skimmable, and are easy to scan. Two patterns that effectively establish a visual hierarchy are: 

  • The F pattern. This email pattern is designed for scanning and works to prioritize the most important email newsletter information. Employees will begin by reading the first horizontal line of content, so make sure you are putting necessary key details in that first line.
  • The Z pattern. This email pattern imitates how Western readers scan text, from left to right and top to bottom. This creates a Z-shape pattern. The top elements of the email should be the most crucial info, with detail in the middle, leading to the bold CTA at the bottom. 

With ContactMonkey, you can choose from a library of professionally designed Outlook and Gmail newsletter templates that fit the Z or F pattern layouts. The Z-pattern is best for emails that won’t contain much copy or dense information, and the F-pattern is one where you should add heavy detail, but stick to the organization of the layout. 

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Step 2: Use your brand colours

When designing your email newsletter, be purposeful about your colour choices. The email background, CTAs, copy, and other elements should all stick to your brand colours consistently.

A consistent color scheme that matches your brand identity will allow employees to easily recognize your emails in their inbox time after time. When deciding on what brand colours to stick to, focus on:

  • Selecting the amount of colour you want to use. Decide on colours for your background, foreground, and highlight. Then include a couple variations of those colours if you’re looking to create a larger palette. 
  • Creating a strong balance of colours. Don’t include 7 neon colours for your email newsletter, instead try to focus on what feels right for your brand by focusing on the emotions that are associated with specific colours.

Step 3: Prepare your header

The email header is at the top of your newsletter and contains your brand logo and an image that goes along with your logo. It’s the first bit of your email that readers will see upon opening, so it has to be powerful to truly capture their attention. 

Examine email newsletters that hit your inbox: 

  • What intriguing elements do the headers contain? Maybe they had quality imagery, GIFs, memes and a clear personality.
  • What boring or overwhelming elements push you away? Maybe there was too much clutter, hard-to-read fonts and inconsistent coloring.

Also, to pinpoint what might be overwhelming to your readers, ContactMonkey allows you to implement anonymous pulse surveys and comments so readers can share their feelings about your newsletter. This will help you better understand your audience and improve certain newsletter elements to better cater to readers. 

Consistently intrigue your readers by adopting a formula for your headers. Find what your employees respond to and stick to that design. 

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Step 4: Write awesome copy

Communicating well with readers requires you to define your target audience. What personality characteristics would describe your specific employees? 

Pinpointing this answer before you begin writing copy is a more strategic way to plan what you’re going to write. When you’re ready to write, here are some quick copywriting tips to get more email opens and conversions:

  • Use bullet points for more skimmable and easy-to-read content.
  • Use simple language, don’t get complex with terminology, and make it easy for every reader to understand your message.
  • Format the copy properly to match a F-pattern or Z-pattern layout.
  • Use ContactMonkey’s personalization feature: Merge fields will personalize subject lines and body copy.

For top-notch copy that truly draws readers in, try using ContactMonkey’s OpenAI integration. Generate high-quality copy within a few seconds, and tweak it to fit your audience.

Step 5: Include captivating images

Filling your emails with captivating images is a great way to draw attention. Make sure your images are optimized so they don’t get clipped upon being opened. 

When planning to include quality images in your email, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Choose the right size. 600-650 pixels is best to ensure images show up in all emails.
  • Pick the right file format. PNGs are your best choice for high-quality images.
  • Keep file size low. Anything over 1MB is difficult to download.
  • Optimize for mobile. Use Mobile Design Mode to make sure images don’t get clipped.

Picking images that captivate your employees is only one part of the process. Use a variety of content like videos, email tables, clickable buttons, and other non-text elements, and stick to these key tips when implementing those images into your emails. 

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Step 6: Make your CTA button pop

CTA buttons are your conversion-driving tools. Clicking a CTA button initiates the next step of the internal communication journey. With ContactMonkey, it leads readers to a sign-up form, a place to leave comments or where readers can take an employee pulse survey. A CTA that is eye-catching to your readers will need to contain these characteristics:

  • Make sure it’s a bright color (a bright color is strong and will reign above the rest of the content)
  • Match your brand identity
  • Stick to the visual hierarchy

For a CTA button to truly drive conversions, you’ll need to make it pop in ways that intrigue your employees. Keep their wants and needs in mind when creating your bulletproof buttons and be sure to track the effectiveness of your CTAs with your ContactMonkey employee feedback dashboard. 

Step 7: Finish off with your footer

Don’t neglect this often overlooked element. Close out your emails with a gripping footer that keeps readers engaged to the end. Provide employees with any final details, social media handles, and other elements that you want readers to catch and engage with on their way out.  

Keep content to a minimum here, and only include the essentials that make sense for you. That could include:

  • Your linked social media icons
  • A link that leads to your website
  • An email address that employees can reply to

Adding too much content here might make readers just brush over your footer, which means it’s helpful to be mindful of what content you implement while making sure it caters to your employees. 

Read our blog on the future of email and discover more innovative trends to amp up your internal emails.

Create Incredible Internal Emails

Using the right email design template makes communication easy by speeding up the design process and ensuring that each and every email has all the elements needed to engage readers. From employee newsletters to leadership communications, email design can turn your average email into an attention-grabbing email.

Implement ContactMonkey for your internal communications needs along with email design tools that will simplify your email design process. This partnership is a sure way to increase employee engagement for your future newsletters. 

Learn how to use internal communications software to create stunning internal emails. Book a free demo of ContactMonkey today to see how to easily improve employee engagement.