As simple as Bach.

Weird is easy. Simplicity is hard.

Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can play weird; that's easy. What's hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.

Charles Mingus

I’ve always called myself a minimalist when it comes to design. In my branding days, I was known for one and two color logos, and not going much beyond that. I think too much color, and by extension, too much design, clutters things.

Design should never hinder your message. Good design augments and complements your message. Like a nice one-column newsletter layout, or a simple hero image/headline/body text/CTA combo.

The same can be said for code. Efficient code often means less code. It’s easy to over-engineer things. I run into this a lot when working on my email design system. I’m not afraid to admit I have a lot of code bloat in some parts of it — I need to go back and clean some stuff up, since I’ve learned so much since starting this journey.

I want to make my designs and code awesomely simple. Awesomely simple means design and code come together in a way that’s accessible, maintainable, beautiful. I absolutely believe there’s a way to achieve all three without compromising anything. It might mean doing things differently (yes designers I know you love centered text), and different isn’t bad. It’s just different.

I’d love to see us all get rid of image-only emails (but the brand! creative directors everywhere cry. get over it I say back the brand will be fine. include email in your brand guidelines.) in favor of nicely designed images (with alt text!) and left-aligned text.

Below is an email example I like to use in general email marketing talks that I sometimes give to small groups. I adore this branding — the green on the darker blue speaks to me — but that text is a bit hard to read. So step by step I go through what I would do. The improvements are easy and immediate.

From left to right, we have the original, original + left-aligned text, then the text broken up into smaller paragraphs. I know which one I prefer. (You can view the original on RGE.)

image of the same email three times with edits. the first image on the left has two large paragraphs with centered text. the second image had the two large paragraphs left-aligned. the third image breaks the two large paragraphs up into four paragraphs for easier reading.

Interested in knowing what kind of email newsletters I like? I’ve curated a collection on Really Good Emails.

Happy designing/ coding, and chat again soon,

P.S. Haitian Fight Song by Charles Mingus is one of the favorite big band jazz songs. It’s joyful and cacophonous, and something moves in me when the upright bass kicks in. You should listen.