Now that we have a couple of decades of email marketing history to draw from, it could seem that every possible design concept that has is possible to place on a two dimensional email format has been already been applied by a plethora of businesses. However you don’t have to resign yourself to just recycling the same old designs and layouts if you use these tips to find truly creative inspiration!

  • Check old magazines. Magazine design in the 50s, 60s and 70s was very experimental and many publications created layouts that were never duplicated again. Some of these designs rightfully fell out of favor as they were uglier than sin, but some were innovative and flashy enough to stand the test of time. You can’t just get to see these pages online as most of the magazines which were designed in the boldest manner are not the ones whose back issues are usually available on the internet, but the more marginal ones. Some of the best and most inspiring designs will be found in magazines that deal in popular cultural issues such as music, movies, and television rather than news or trade topics. You’ll have no choice but to actually go to a library (you know… that big stately old building in the middle of your town that you haven’t been in since you were a kid) and go through the dusty old stacks or even reel through miles of microfilm. The treasures you will unearth will be more than worth it!
  • Go to an art gallery. At a time when Instagram plunks about 50 million new images a day onto the internet you might wonder what the point is to actually schlep out to an art gallery to do little more than wander around with a bunch of beret-wearing artsy types muttering about transformative dialectics while looking at paint splattered on canvases. The difference between your garden variety online image and true art is somewhat tantamount to chalk and cheese so when you take the time to truly absorb art in its natural environment (not just an image on a Google search) you’ll find an entire universe of inspiration you might not have known even existed. Absolutely can’t drag yourself to go see art in person, then check out Deviant Art online as some of the most exciting new artists anywhere are posting oodles of phenomenal art on that site on an ongoing basis.
  • Watch old movies. There was a time when movie comedies were actually funny (can you imagine that), tearjerkers really made you cry, and action didn’t mean blowing up Manhattan block by block with robots, monsters, or aliens for the third time this week. Yes, it was the golden age of movies and when you go back to the 30s and 40s you’ll find mind-boggling experimentation on the part of some of the leading directors. Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane is renowned by many film historians as the greatest movie ever made and a great part of it is the design paradigm that Welles literally invented. If you pay attention you’ll find that most of his sets have clearly visible ceilings which is something that hadn’t been done before in motion pictures. In order to show off his set designers’ great ceilings, Welles shot most scenes from low angles which made the characters look bigger than life … which they were. Go even further back to the Russian director Sergei Eisenstein and you’ll discover a world of images you had never thought possible. His Odessa Steps Sequence in his motion picture The Battleship Potemkin is the subject of mandatory study in every Cinema 101 class on the planet. You can integrate his ground breaking concepts of montage into your email layouts with a little imagination and a mindset of paying homage to one of the truly great artists of the 20th century.

Inspiration can be all around you if you open your eyes and abandon the tired old layouts that you and your competitors have been foisting onto your customers since the dawn of email marketing. Don’t be afraid to experiment and draw upon your inspiration!