Understandably people want to extend their visual brand throughout their communication platforms – including email. But as anyone who has delved into designing for email knows, getting creative in email can be a challenge.

Often efforts at email creativity results in unintended layouts, different results across email programs, and broken images. So when you’re trying to present a consistent brand by using an email signature, how do you avoid these pitfalls? By keeping it simple.

Even if you manage your email in a browser (hello Gmail), you can’t count on the same kind of flexibility you have when designing for the web. So my advice is to make your email signature text-only, and to include a minimum of information.

It can be difficult to accept that NOT including your logo in your signature is the way to go, but if you do, here are some common results:

  1. The logo gets sent as an attachment to the email and isn’t presented as part of the signature. This can make it difficult for your recipients to be able to determine when you’re actually sending them an attachment. And if you have your logo, a Twitter icon and other images, they’ll ALL get sent as individual attachments. Yikes.
  2. Most email programs block images automatically (as a way to prevent spam), so it may not show up at all. And even if an email client doesn’t block images automatically, many email users have a setting to turn images off to keep their email clean and easy to read.
  3. If your image (ie: logo) does show up, you can’t guarantee (even with HTML) the way it will be presented. The layout may end up being a mess, or the logo may end up displaying in the middle of the email.
  4. If your entire signature is an image (including your name or web address), and IF it does display for the recipient, that information can’t easily be used by copying/pasting.

And beyond the logo issue, there’s the text formatting issue. Often you can spend time formatting your signature text just so — the right color, font and size — but many email programs will strip that out automatically, or worse, display it in a way you never intended.

Finally, there’s the content of the signature. We’ve all received emails with a signature that goes on and on — not only is their name and contact information included, but their address, phone numbers, fax number, Twitter and other social media profile links, favorite inspirational quote, privacy disclaimer, etc… Don’t be that person. Really think about your customers — what’s the minimum information someone might need to easily get in touch with you? Even if you’re active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and many other social sites – does that information really need to be in your email signature on EVERY EMAIL YOU SEND? In this web-savvy world, people will easily be able to find you online without a reminder in every email about how “connected” you are. Just like you wouldn’t overwhelm someone with a list of your connections and accomplishments each time you meet, the same is true in email.

Here’s my advice for what to include:

  • Your full name
  • Your company name/title (as appropriate depending on your business)
  • Your email address (even though it’s easy enough to see this in the email header, you want this here in case someone forwards your email)
  • Your phone number
  • Your website address (if any)

And that’s it. You may even be able to get away with less than that depending on your business! And this is just text, no formatting or images.

So if you’re reconsidering your email signature or are working to create one, just remember: keep it simple.