At first glance, the shared space between the designing of flags that represent nations, provinces, or cities and the creation of winning email marketing content doesn’t seem all that substantial. However, design expert, podcast host, and noted vexillology (the study of flags) aficionado Roman Mars explains in his 2015 TED Talk in Vancouver that the key concepts of great flag design translate to the creation of virtually any type of content.
To put this claim to the test, let’s break down the North American Vexillology Association’s (NAVA) basic principles of flag design from an email marketing perspective. From here, you’ll have plenty of insight into how to apply this unconventional thought process to your upcoming campaign and take your inbox content to the next level.
Keep It Simple
The first core concept offered up by NAVA in relation to flag design and the creation of content in general focuses on keeping things simple for your target audience. Mars explains in his TED Talk lecture that flags like Canada’s very own 11-point maple leaf in a white square on a red field are prime examples of this thought process in action.
Not surprisingly, the same notion of “keeping things simple” translates to the inbox as well. Your email audience doesn’t want to consume a 20 page newsletter that bogs down their browser with dozens of embedded images and videos; they would much rather have a straightforward and concise experience.
As you develop this content, don’t be afraid to be harsh with your cuts and edits during the refinement and optimization process. Higher quality messages that are easily understood and present a clear call-to-action (CTA) will always outperform their bloated or obfuscated counterparts.
Use Meaningful Symbolism
Next on the list of design principles from the world of vexillology is the utilization of images, colors, and patterns that relate to the message or ideology behind the flag in question. In terms of reimagining this idea in email marketing terms, we’ll need to shift our focus to the supporting images and graphics of your message content.
Essentially, these visuals are a powerful edition to your inbox offerings and help amplify your overarching message when used properly. Much like Mars’ commentary on flag symbolism, email marketing expert Martha Pierce of The Next Web points out that your images must be relevant and speak to the needs and desires of your target demographics. It also doesn’t hurt to have these inclusions optimized for the appropriate platforms – mobile, desktop, etc. – as a way of ensuring that the message conveyed by this imagery doesn’t become inadvertently diluted or convoluted.
Stick to Two or Three Basic Colors
As for the implementation of your email marketing templates, the NAVA design principles again suggest that simplicity and restraint are key pieces of the process. Specifically, strong templates – and iconic flags – stick to the usage of two to three basic colors and limit overlap between these selections.
While these design choices might seem to inhibit the “splashiness” or appeal of your email selections initially, the reality of the situation is that a simple and straightforward color palette promotes consistency and viewability across your inbox content. Choosing the right scheme for your brand also ensures that the person on the other side of the screen is able to easily identify your content in the preview pane of their chosen email platform and differentiate your offerings from the deluge of generic or poorly designed messages that flood the average inbox.
Be Distinctive with Your Content
The last way to blend the worlds of vexillology and email marketing together comes in the form of being distinctive with your message content. Flag designers and email marketers that adopt a novel approach to applying the aforementioned principles enter that special territory of innovation that truly sets apart good iterations from great final products.
This isn’t to say that pulling ideas from industry leading competitors and putting your own spin on these selections isn’t a perfectly fine tactic. Rather, that pushing boundaries should always be a part of your process and merely duplicating the concepts and methods of others simply isn’t good enough.
After reviewing all of these concepts, it’s easy to see that winning design practices – be it in relation to branded emails or national flags – are a fairly universal set of ideals. If your organization is able to abide by these guidelines, then adopting the overarching outlook on great design features of Roman Mars and bridging the gap between vexillology and email marketing is well within the reach of your brand.