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Branded Email Templates in MailChimp

Andrew Gregory
Apr 16, 2018

Summary / TL;DR

You’ve seen beautiful emails from other companies. How do you get your organization’s emails to look this good? As always, begin with strategy. What are your goals for the emails and who is the audience that they will be reaching?

The next step is planning and writing content, choosing photos, and deciding if you are custom coding the email template or using an email builder. After these decisions are made you begin the design phase to create a beautiful email ready to be delivered to your audience.

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What You Need to Know to Get Started

As always, we begin with strategy. Start by asking yourself (and/or your team) questions, such as:

  • How does email marketing fit in to your marketing plan and what are your goals for it? Will you be engaging current customers to directly drive sales? Nurturing prospective customers? Communicating with clients...

  • What types of emails will you be sending? Newsletters, announcements, surveys, transactional eCommerce emails…

  • Who will be creating the emails and who will manage sending them? Yourself, an internal marketing team, a marketing agency...

These questions will provide clarity about what types of resources you will need to achieve these goals. It may be a custom branded email template, or it may be a basic email template.

Content First

Now that we have defined our goals and strategy, it is time to dive into the design, right? Wait a minute. We first need to consider the content that will be included in the emails. Remember, the design is there to support the content of the email as well as to support the brand. The purpose is not just to send a “pretty” email.

It is not mandatory to have finalized content before starting the email design. Yet, it is very helpful to at least have thought about what types of content will be included in the email. For example, a newsletter may contain sections that are consistent in each email. Do some brainstorming and draft outlines for a few emails. Be sure to include specific photos or types of photos that support your text. This content will provide a basis for the design.

Custom Coded Email Template vs. MailChimp Templates

An email template uses HTML/CSS to tell the email program how it should look. There are two main options for how to create this. Let’s review the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Custom Coded Email Templates

  • Can create completely unique designs.

  • Can be created to use MailChimp’s editor so that emails using this template can be built without coding knowledge.

  • Requires knowledge of HTML/CSS coding.

  • Requires significant testing to insure it works in many different email clients.

  • More difficult to make changes to the template in the future (requires coding and testing).

MailChimp Email Templates

  • Can create an email template without needing to know how to write code.

  • Limited design options. Colors, logo, etc. can be changed, but not completely customized.

  • Minimal testing is needed.

Now Comes the Fun Part!

Whew, we covered a lot just to get here. Now it’s finally time to take everything we have put together so far and start designing a beautiful new email template!

We always start by sketching out some possible layouts. After selecting our favorites, we begin designing the email. This will either be within MailChimp or in an editor (depending on if we are using a MailChimp template or not). We always include real content so that we can see what an actual email looks like.

Remember to pull together your logo, colors, fonts (limited fonts can be used in emails), and any other brand elements that you have. Also, one of the best ways to make an email stand out is to include professional photography.

One thing to keep in mind is that emails will not show up identical in all email clients. This is OK. Focus on creating a design that will look good even if it has some minor variations.


Creating a beautiful email for your brand requires preparation before jumping into design. You will need to consider your goals for email marketing, how customizable you need the design to be, and what content you will include in the emails. These factors will all drive the actual design decisions for the email. In the end, you will create an email that is not only beautiful, but also serves your organization’s needs. 

Andrew Gregory
Author Name
Andrew Gregory / President & Founder
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