MAKE IT POP!: Playing with LEGOs – Dynamic Design for Dynamic Content

As we send more segmented, triggered and dynamically populated emails, it becomes necessary to approach email creative design in a new way. Rather than seeing each email design as a separate entity, we need to start thinking in terms of an email creative framework.

An email creative framework is like a set of LEGOs: It is a library of modular, flexible design elements from which we can build an exponential range of message configurations. Think of the components within each email you send—the header, the main message body, the submessages, the footer—as separate LEGO blocks that can be mixed, matched and stacked into different arrangements to build marketing and operational messages, skyscrapers and castles.


(1) Get Serious: Audit all of your current and planned message types to get a clear sense for the kinds of content your creative framework needs to accommodate. Then consider the LEGOs you’ll need to support them. For instance, perhaps you send marketing and operational messages. The two different message types might share header, footer and submessage LEGO components, but have different LEGO block bodies. If you are a retailer, you might send product promotions featuring 4, 8 or 12 dynamically generated featured items, for which you would use a stackable 4-item LEGO block to accomodate all three configurations.

(2) Get Creative: Once you’ve identified which LEGO blocks you need, it’s time to have some fun with graphics, type and color. Email creative has always been about extending pre-existing brand attributes appropriately and effectively to the inbox. Now that we are building creative frameworks to accommodate a growing number of segmented, triggered and dynamically populated emails, we have to make our color, font and graphics choices even more carefully. In addition to being “on brand,” they have to be “evergreen,” working with different types and configurations of information. This might mean choosing lighter colors and graphics to create a more neutral shell, allowing content to pop with blue, burnt sienna or another eye-catching hue. And it defininitely means using more HTML as opposed to graphical text. While we already recommend using HTML text because it appears in images-disabled inbox environments, it becomes doubly important now since HTML text—unlike graphical text—can be auto-generated as dynamic content.

(3) Get Practical: After succesfully choosing your LEGO block types and colors, you can begin to create your content library—an archive of pre-built components you can reuse again and again. For instance, perhaps you have a 150×180 right rail LEGO block submessage module with a blue headline, grey body text and an orange call-to-action button. You can now create and cache multiple submessages built to these specs—perhaps a “free shipping” message, a “become a member” message and an “update your email profile” message—to include across multiple emails over time. As you add to it, the content library becomes more and more valuable. It’s like having a cache of special LEGO pieces—think traffic lights and pink ponies—on-hand to help you quickly and easily build a more dynamic email experience.

As ever,
Lisa Harmon of Smith-Harmon

–>Read other Make it Pop! posts.