Refreshing an email campaign with a user-centric mindset.

CADM Email Template


CADM (Chicago Association of Direct Marketing) is a local organization of marketing professionals. For years they have been sending email newsletters and notifications to their members with low amounts of engagement, and wanted to do better. My Creative Director and I were asked to redesign their email templates to better organize the large amounts of information they wanted to send, and drive more click-thrus to their website.

Research and Discovery

With a short timeline, and not much of a budget, we could not do proper research beyond deeply looking at CADM’s current communication materials, email best practices, and good examples of email newsletters sent by organizations and companies.

CADM had three emails they normally sent:

At the time, CADM’s emails were a simple setup of a logo at the top, and simple HTML text with headers and paragraphs. Both my Creative Director and I felt that the client would cram way too much information into their emails, in many ways make said emails do the work their website should be doing.

Our research showed how much average recipients wanted to quickly scan an email, so one of our priorities was to try to trim down the content, or at least organize it in a manner to build that easy scannability for the end user.


Moving to Wireframes

With our information in hand, I started putting thought to paper with some simple wireframes of what my Creative Director and I saw as modules for a final email. Our goal wasn’t to make one email layout that CADM could simply repeat endlessly, but a modular system so they could craft every message ideally for what they needed to send.

Each module followed a simple ideology of an image, headline, a small amount of supporting copy, and then a call to action. The size of the image and how the copy lays would differentiate. Calls-to-action would be buttons for more prioritized items, and text links for secondary items.

Final Design

Final Design

When we got to finally designing the illustrated result, I took some inspiration from the current PDF print newsletters CADM would send out as direct mail pieces. I liked the idea of using color to separate the types of content (and even the emails from one another) as a means to help make the email scannable despite the large amounts of content CADM might put in, such as the membership push at the bottom of the newsletter email.

Some items the client didn’t want to remove, so I made sure they had some purpose beyond just information. An example would be the bylines in the adMarks emails, which also play the role of visually separating one article from the next. The use of black in the Tempo Awards email was not only about building a sense of elegance and excitement, but also to make it stand apart from the newsletter. Our end goal was to get the user interested and engaging with every email.

Results and Takeaways

The biggest takeaway from this project is that a modular approach to email design can give much more versatility to a company’s email campaigns over just designing whole templates that cannot be changed. It’s become now my methodology when I approach designing any email campaign now.

Never be afraid to tell a client that they should change their thinking. For us, it was about content length, and while some debates were won and others lost, testing will find better answers to these questions of “how much is too much?” Unfortunately there was no budget or time to do deeper testing on CADM members initially, but the client is making plans on testing different amounts of content and what will drive better engagement.