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Illustrations in Email over Photos – Benefits and Inspirations

Emails nowadays have progressed from being just a text-only email body to full-fledged visually appealing medium. Email marketers go the extra mile to grab the attention of the subscribers by making use of visual content such as Videos, illustrations, Graphs, GIFs and static Images in their emails. The Monks at the Monastery are all set to enlighten you with the divine edge provided by Illustrations in Email compared to using photos.

Illustrations vs. Photos in Emails: Better Visual Content

In the email from Eddie Bauer shown below, what do you observe? Two models dressed in the latest fashion line offered by the brand, a short email body, the brand logo and offer banner. But in a first glance, the focus stays on the image.

On a similar note, in the promotional email sent by Nintendo, the illustration in the hero image is the most prominent factor.

email illustration and clipart

In both the email examples, the first focus is always captured by the image and then depending on the layout, the subscriber moves on forward. Photography is capable of capturing the essence of tangibility. However, owing to vibrancy and abstractness of illustrations, many email marketers are adopting pure illustrated, illustrations over photographs to create extraordinary visual content (that brings character) in their email campaigns.

What makes Illustrations visually alluring?

  • Unbounded to physical domains – Visualization via Photography provides great results but it gets restricted inside the perceivable and tactile domain. Illustration can incorporate many infographics such as maps, diagrams, statistics and symbols to convey information to the viewer. This way abstract or complex message can be immediately conveyed.
  • Flexibility – In Photography, you are bound by laws that define the regulations against modification and reuse. Stock illustrations offer a little more flexibility as you have access to the source vector artwork, to customize and tweak.
  • Representability – Personalized Illustrations help brands represent themselves in showcasing their services in a personable level.
  • Cost – Visualizing your fantasy via illustration is cost-effective when compared to achieving same results in photographs.
  • Conceptualization – Illustrations give possibility to easily represent something which is quite difficult or impossible to film or to photograph (e.g. biological process, extremely small objects, non-existent in real life or deliberately exaggerated objects etc.)
  • Modularity – Addition or subtraction of elements in draft Illustrations can be altered before final prototype.
  • Team work or Solo? – Illustrations do not necessitate models or large teams. It can be achieved using a single illustrator.
  • Adaptability – Illustrations are timeless and can be re-used and re-edited to suit current requirement. Moreover the choice of representation can be numerous i.e. Flat design, Skeumorphic, Cartoon, Low Poly, etc.

Moreover many of the symbols are universally understood, eliminating usage of text.

Illustrations in Email Inspirations:

Mango Kids:

email illustration and clipart

The Halloween emailer by Mango Kids has incorporated illustration over photography for a Bang-on effect to the message. While white background and minimal body copy makes the email STAND OUT.


email illustration and clipart

This welcome email by Airbnb follows the flat design along with a single column layout which improves readability.

Code School:

email illustration and clipart

The promotional email by Code School has a very minimalistic design, with excellent color scheme, highlighting Daytime and Night. The short email copy and CTA button are also worth mentioning.


email illustration and clipart
Online Storage service provider Dropbox is well-known to make use of illustration in most of their emails. In their Welcome Email, they have made good use of the white space to accommodate the hero image and the email body in a seamless way. Using Brand color in the CTA button fortifies brand trust.


email illustration and clipart

The event based email for Lollapalooza Music festival has a very crisp layout with two segments separated by colors and contrasting CTA buttons to draw attention to each segment individually.


email illustration and clipart
Photography accessory retailer Photojojo used an Octopus to provide $8 discount on any product as a part of re-engagement email. The short body email body and emphasis on the Offer provokes the subscriber to take an action.


email illustration and clipart
Email by Mailcloud has a single column layout to generate hierarchy amongst the different features offered in the App. The CTA button could be provided below the fold also to reduce the efforts to scroll back to top.


email illustration and clipart
Cart Abandonment email by Ray-Ban, uses a comic tone in the heading and body copy along with an illustration of a Panda to lure subscriber to return to their cart and complete the purchase.


email illustration and clipart
A promotional email by Lomography for their Spinner 360O camera, has a very bold hero image of a race organized along with a hard hitting Tagline. The illustration at the footer signifies the capability of the camera to take panoramic images as well as the race around the world.


email illustration and clipart
Starbucks has incorporated illustrations alongside the photos of their products to highlight the seasons. Crisp layout and arrangement of elements gives a refreshing feel to this email.

Warby Parker:

email illustration and clipart
Online Glasses retail Warby Parker has a welcome email filled with hand drawn illustrations with different CTA to redirect the subscriber to different landing pages.


email illustration and clipart
This email by Sephora has a very enchanting mix of illustration and watercolored background which builds up the illusion of seeing actual product instead of a sketch.

After going through the benefits of using Illustrations in Emails and getting ‘Inspired’ from the above email examples, the Monks hope to see your next email become an Inspiration-worthy Email. Visit our order page to attain Enlightening emails that are hand-coded and delivered at just 8 hours TAT.

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Kevin George
Kevin is the Head of Marketing at EmailMonks, one of the fastest growing email design and coding companies. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes ‘email marketing’. He is a brand magician who loves to engage, share insights with fellow marketers, and enjoys sharing his thoughts on the latest email marketing best practices at EmailMonks Blog.

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