You probably don’t give your email signature much thought. But given that we spend 13 hours a week — or 28% of our workday — on email, it’s an important marketing tool to leverage.

It’s a practical tool that provides helpful contact information, as well as a branding tool that creates a good first impression. It visually represents your brand personality and professional identity. But if it’s not used correctly, it can be an unwieldy mess that reflects poorly on you and your business.

So how do you make an email signature look better? Here are 3 design tips for effective email signatures.

1. Don’t be afraid to use white space

Just because you have unlimited space in your email signature doesn’t mean you have to use every inch of it. How many times have you seen signatures crammed with 26 ways to contact someone, cheesy quotes, and silly pictures? Nobody has time to read all of that, and moreover, it’s visually overwhelming.

The bottom line is: Less is more, and white space is your friend.

Remember, white space is a great way to lead someone’s eye to important information. If you limit your contact information to the essentials, each element will stand out brilliantly. The fewer elements you have, the more powerful they feel.

Along those lines, use icons when you can. They relieve visual fatigue and save time otherwise spent wading through unnecessary text (it takes our brains just 13 milliseconds to interpret an image!)

Avoid this:

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Try something like this:

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2. Create a visual hierarchy

In most Western languages people read left to right, top to bottom. If you organize your content with this natural reading order in mind, you can create a clear visual hierarchy.

To add visual weight to the most important information, try boosting the font size (or bolding it) and placing it at the top of the signature. Your viewer will instantly know what’s important and prioritized because you’re leading their eye to key parts of your signature.

You can also try breaking up chunks of information with pipes (the “|” symbol) or slashes. This makes things easier to read and helps guide the eye as well.

Avoid this:

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Try something like this:

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3. Use contrast in fonts and colors (but don’t overdo it)

Our eyes are naturally drawn to contrast — by using different fonts and colors, you can make certain elements of your signature really pop.

But too much contrast is a bad thing. Too many fonts and colors will make your signature look cluttered and distracting, or worse, completely unreadable.

Generally, you should only use 1-2 fonts and colors. To ensure consistency, make sure they support your brand’s visual identity — use the same typeface and colors found in your logo, marketing materials, and so forth. For a high-contrast look, try a complementary accent color (just look for the color in the opposite position on the color wheel).

Avoid this:

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Try something like this:

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Always remember to test out your signature in different email clients — what shows up great in Microsoft Outlook might not look as good in Gmail. Also, given that 53% of emails are opened on mobile, make sure your signature is readable on mobile devices too. If it’s too wide, it can get cut off or scaled down on the screen, making it hard to read. If this happens, opt for a stacked design, which may fare better on mobile displays.

Have any tips for email signatures? Share in the comments below!

Top image: Hand pressing an email icon on blurred cityscape background by Melpomene