Lyris Connections Blog

The Anatomy of a Startup Email Design

Aug 20, 2014 by

I’ve been receiving a lot of emails from startups recently and noticed that they are surprisingly good at email design. So let’s take a look at the anatomy of a startup email design.

Cool logo

Obviously the first thing every startup needs is an über cool-looking logo that’s fun and funky, yet sophisticated and professional. A startup’s logo almost always features prominently at the top of the email with very little else surrounding it, as if to say, this is our brand, ‘nuff said.

Startup logos


Large amount of white space and minimalist designs

More established companies could learn a lot from startups’ minimalist designs that usually include large amounts of white space, making their emails super easy to read and scan for the info you want. Startups also tend to use very large line heights, which I think also really helps make an email easier to read, especially on smaller screens.

Basement Jaxx


I like big buttons and I cannot lie

Startups have the art of button-building down! You don’t see startups inserting important links within paragraphs of text these days; they almost always have a large, sometimes bullet-proof button. I’ve also noticed that most emails that I receive from startups seem to be very focused on one particular message, so having one main call-to-action seems to come naturally.



Custom fonts

Many brands seem to be afraid to deviate from standard Arial, Times New Roman, or Helvetica fonts. Not startups! I’ve seen Gotham, Proxima-nova, and Helvetica Neue used within startup emails, which is awesome to see. Why not use something a bit more interesting as your main font? You can always have Arial as a backup anyway, so I’m not sure why some brands are scared of trying something different. Plus those fancy fonts are going to work on Apple products, so you’ll know at least a good portion of your database should be able to see them.

Lyft uses Gotham Book as the primary font within its emails.

Lyft Line


Mobile optimized, but not necessarily responsive emails

One thing that I’ve noticed about emails from startups is that they are often aware of the need to optimize for mobile – I mean most of their apps / products are mobile-centric, so it’s only natural.

However, some startups have been making interesting design decisions when it comes to mobile optimization. For example, Venmo doesn’t mess around and just goes to every subscriber directly with a 320px wide email. And that does kind of make sense since its product is mobile-only and most of its subscribers / customers are probably checking their emails on mobile anyway.



Uber and Lyft recently went responsive with their emails, which is a blessing, since it was getting tricky to check your ride details on an un-optimized email.



Good text to image ratio (usually)

Most emails from startups seem to have a fairly good amount of HTML text, which is great to see. I put this down to many of these emails being triggers that include many dynamic elements. It’s still good to see though, especially when Android devices don’t download images by default.

Getaround is a car sharing startup, and most of its emails are almost all HTML text, yet they still manage to look good. As with other startup email trends mentioned above, they also have a good amount of white space and a large text line height, making the emails extremely easy to read.



Key areas for improvement

Headers – these can often use a navigation with a few key links to useful parts of the website. This can sometimes lead to a less clean-looking design, however many brands, like Everlane, seem to manage and probably collect a lot of additional click-throughs.

Recovery module – Similar point to the above, adding useful links to the bottom of their emails could help startups capture additional click-throughs, just in case their subscribers didn’t see anything in the body of the email which interested them.

Pre-header text – Most startups don’t pay much attention to pre-header text, possibly because they don’t want it to mess up their clean-looking, minimalist designs; however, it really is worth doing right and it can be hidden if necessary.

Overall, startups are coming up with some refreshing email designs which larger companies could really learn a lot from.


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Questions? Use the Comments section below, or email

Andrew King

About the Author: Andrew King

Andrew is Senior Strategy Consultant at Lyris. He has worked in marketing across three different continents for major car manufacturers, institutions, and retailers. He joined Lyris in 2010 and consults with a variety of clients on email strategy, design, mobile optimization, testing, segmentation, and much more. Andrew regularly contributes to the Lyris blog and Marketing Land, and participates in industry events.

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