The Anatomy of an Email Marketing Promo Graphic

The Anatomy of an Email Marketing Promo Graphic

A request we receive often in the Design department from our clients is to create custom email marketing graphics for promotions and features. These images are usually the main image that sets the tone for the rest of the email and is used primarily to get more clicks to their website and hopefully increased conversions.

From looking through email newsletter galleries for inspiration and having to make so many ourselves, we’ve realized that there’s practically a formula to making these graphics…each email marketing graphic contains a base set of elements that can be arranged, formatted and styled to suit the brand.

Those base elements are:

  • A background (pattern, texture, solid color or a combination of any of them)
  • A photo of the product, or the person using the product, or a related photo (like a classroom for a specialized learning course for children)
  • The text for the offer
  • Call To Action

Before the design starts, there are a few things that should be determined first:

  1. What is the message/offer?
  2. What segment of subscribers will see this?
    1. Should there be different versions for different segments?
  3. Is there specific imagery that should be used?

Having the answers to these questions will start to shape what the graphic should look like and will affect the way you use the elements, even if you end up not using an element or two.

Let’s take a peek at a few examples!

Square uses this graphic in their welcome email for Square Wallet signups. Noticeably, there is no CTA because the goal of this email is to inform. It’s okay to NOT have a CTA when there isn’t a promotion or offer or any reason to go to the website. In this case, Square truly wanted to just welcome new folks without selling them and briefly explain how easy it is to use their product. To accommodate such a large image, there is good use of whitespace between the logo, the text and the phone to give each one its own “breathing room”. The positioning of the text in the lower left gives balance to the “busy” image on the phone in the upper right.


Pizza Hut

This promo graphic from Pizza Hut is doing a great job of making you consider pizza for dinner tonight. Even with a lot of elements in this example, they’re not competing for attention – this image is balanced without confusion. The text is “dominant” because the image starts to blur somewhat in the background (this helps us distinguish hierarchy) and the big red block makes the text stand out on its own but is slightly transparent to tie it back to the image. With the big bold text, bright red block and large image of pizza, the CTA still stands out above the rest due to being yellow and just as bold itself – the message and photo are equally working together to get you to click that CTA. Hmm, just $7.99 you say?


Here, we have a typography based promo graphic from Neiman Marcus. It’s simple but the awesome use of texture in the word “SALE” really grabs your attention. They’ve done a good job of using “opposite balance” with their font types – font types so different from each other, they balance out. Typography is an art in itself and can achieve the same results as the bold, image heavy previous examples. Even though both font types are kind of thin, the handwritten one complements the sans-serif modern one, keeping it from becoming “stale”. There are two hard to miss CTAs because, along with the lines on the side of them, they are the only shapes in the image.


Practice makes perfect so don’t be afraid to try making your own email marketing graphics! Here are some things to think about when using the base elements to make your own promo image:

  • When using photos, stock or your own, consider:
    • Who/what is in the photo – will the photo connect with the intended segment?
    • The main focus of the photo – how can it be positioned within the dimensions of the graphic
  • Keep a balance between the main focus of the image and the wording to avoid the graphic looking busy and getting ignored
    • Balance between amount of elements, sizing, colors and text
  • Incorporate things that will draw attention to what you want your subscribers to view/read
    • Lines, arrows, contrasting colors, whitespace (don’t think of it as space needing to be filled but area that separates elements to make them standout and not compete), bold font types
  • Be descriptive with the CTA (Download the eBook vs Click Here or Download)
  • If two CTAs are used, give them contrasting colors from each other
  • Where you place elements in the graphic can sometimes depend on where the graphic will be in the email, so it’s a good idea to have content written beforehand and even laid out in your email template already so you can determine image sizes too!
  • Check out places like Email-Gallery.com for inspiration

Now that we’ve broken down the anatomy of an email marketing promo image, we hope you’ve found some insight and inspiration to make your own! With just a base set of elements and a few simple “best practices” combined with your brand, products and the intended segment, you can create endless, unique promo images that will get you the results you’re aiming for!


Until next time – happy designing!