The 2023 email trends have just hit our inboxes, and this year, the message is loud and clear: 2023 is all about showing rather than telling. We’re seeing graphics move to the forefront of email design, with product photos ascending the page, color taking greater risks and animation stealing the spotlight.
While there’s some obvious attention-grabbing behind this, these trends may signal that readers are craving entertainment over cold, hard facts. After years of ongoing pandemics and economic crises, no amount of clever copy can convince buyers that a product will solve all of their problems. Instead, these email design trends reflect a response to the current times and demonstrate a collective yearning for rebellion and a desire for freedom.
But the upside is that emails these days can get away with taking themselves less seriously, becoming vehicles for escapism and even hopeful optimism. Whatever the cause, the following email trends are delivering plenty of eye candy into our inboxes in 2023.
The top 7 email design trends for 2023
- Floating products
- Irregular frames
- Overlapped lettering
- Colorful and patterned drop shadows
- Mixed dimensions
- Animated product displays
- Ecstatic color schemes
Given that (on a good day) less than 20% of emails are even opened—let alone, read—images carry the burden of immediately capturing attention and encapsulating what a product is all about. In order to make these images even more effective, designers are favoring product photos that appear to float in midair.
This style is a surefire way to make the product photo the most important piece of content—not only is the image large, but it is almost transcendent, hovering above the earthly concerns of the rest of the email. Even as these products are impossibly levitating, they carry a sense of 3D realism. They show how the product might actually look and seem real enough that a reader could reach through the screen and grab it—all of which encourage closing the sale.
3D realism is just one approach for styling email images in 2023. Another is to reinterpret the frame of the image itself. While straightforward frames—like squares and rectangles—are the most common for digital images, many emails are turning to drastically irregular frames, such as starbursts, pill shapes, and other, weirder abstractions.
This trend creates a fun and playful aesthetic, reminiscent of arts and crafts cutouts. The effect is bolstered by bright colors, duotones and off-kilter placements, as though the images have been pasted in a scattered, sticker-book style. The end result is a casual, youthful composition that makes the reader feel nostalgic for childhood. It gives the reader a way to escape and find refuge from the current state of the world in the memories and comfort of the past.
Beyond the subject line of an email, one of the most important text elements is the headline. But it’s not always enough for headlines to be big and bold—they have to contrast artfully with the email’s design. But this year’s trend for styling headlines has to be one of the most counterintuitive: designers are creating dynamic headlines that overlap with images, colors and even other text.
While this unexpected overlapping creates a basic visual interest, it also deliberately obscures the text. To what degree varies: this trend ranges from the subtle (as in the Black Ambition example on the top right) to the copy being made entirely illegible (as in the Brewbike example on the top left). It depends on what the designer is trying to achieve. If the actual content of the copy is most important, a light overlapping can simply make the headline even more eye-catching. If the brand personality is more important, a more extreme overlapping can come across as rule-breaking, messy and expressive.
Either way, this trend blurs the line between text and graphics turning the email into an organic work of art that reflects a global sentiment of rebellion toward the current economic environment and political climate.
Sometimes, the best trends are the simplest, like those that refresh a minor design element in a surprisingly effective way. And for 2023, the drop shadow—especially for CTA buttons—is coming back in style.
The drop shadow is one of the most common design features, useful for adding a touch of skeuomorphism to buttons, which creates the illusion of a physical button in place of a square link. But the new wave of drop shadows is stylized with solid colors and patterns, making page elements stand out through a bold outline. It represents a continuation of last year’s trends, the color blocks and subtle Memphis patterns evoking the ’90s. Although the effect is toned-down, the nostalgia shines through, reminding readers of an innocent and playful past.
While this trend isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, it does provide both a tactile sensation (essential in a digital environment) and a burst of joyous color. The trend’s popularity has much to do with how easy it is to implement, as a solid color or pattern adds a dash of style right where it is needed most.
It is conventional wisdom that a good design picks one style and sticks to it. But heading into 2023, many email designs are showing a mixture of opposing techniques—specifically, pairing simple doodles with professional photography.
The appeal here is both practical and emotional. On the practical side, this trend creates contrast, making product photos stand out because they are juxtaposed against illustrative elements. On the other hand, the combination is inherently whimsical: it can only exist in our imagination, a space unmarred by the troubling global events of the real world. By merging the imaginative and the real, we get the best of both, a new world made in our own image.
At the end of the day, it is the cartoonish, brightly colored and free-flowing qualities of these doodles that make the email feel less formal and more friendly. It becomes something more than an email—something closer to a note passed between friends in class.
We’ve seen how floating images can revitalize product photos, but nothing brings an image to life quite like animation. For 2023, animation sequences are applied to email product displays, showing the product in action while providing a dazzling spectacle.
In order to keep emails lightweight, these animations are often extremely simple, consisting of a mere handful of photos. One benefit of this style is that it’s reminiscent of stop-motion—in many ways more unusual and consequently more stylish than traditional animation. The slower speed of stop-motion invites readers to spend more time on the email, watching the full animation. There is also a rough, imprecise quality to stop-motion, and this can resonate with viewers looking to get away from the refined and polished to something more grounded and relatable.
The effect can be mesmerizing, with the products moving on their own in a coordinated dance, as in the Gastronomical example below. But of course, the real advantage is that this trend shows how the product looks and works in a purely visual fashion.
With war, pandemic and inflation on every news channel, we could all use a little more brightness wherever we can get it. That’s why in 2023, email trends are going full bright with walls of color.
Color in itself has primal ties to emotion, and a happy hue can be the quickest way to put a smile on the reader’s face. But this trend isn’t stopping there—even traditionally “sad” colors like blue are invited to the party, dressed up in highly saturated, energetic tones. This trend is also not content with a splash of color here and there—it is bathing the entire email in vibrant color. The effect is immersive: even a narrow strip on a screen can draw the reader in thanks to the infectious joy of these jubilant colors.
Ready for the 2023 email trends?
With the email design trends of 2023, our inboxes are about to get a whole lot more picturesque. From floating product photos to animated displays, images are doing more than taking center stage—they are stealing the whole show. Irregular image frames and overlapping lettering are rebelling against world events in playful and creative ways. Images and CTAs are jumping off the screen with ’90s-inspired drop shadows that allow us to escape and find comfort in the past. Overall, these email trends are bringing entertainment, light-hearted fun and most of all dazzling artwork to our communications in 2023.