Email Signatures

November 6th, 2009 | Industry

A picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you don’t need a thousand words to say what you need to say.

When it comes to email signatures I can see the appeal to have your logo in there. I used to do it! I used to spend hours testing different ways of embedding the image to work with the widest range of clients possible – but it didn’t always work, and it often required the audience to “allow” images.

Only once in three years of running my own company have I earned business simply because someone liked my logo (not that it was seen by them in an email). I don’t see that adding it in the signature will add any ROI or glorious tales of victory , it could only create problems.

Look at the message you’re sending. Sometimes you only get one first impression.

An email caught as Phishing in Windows Mail

Worse case scenario is the attached image will make your email look like the worst form of spam; a phishing attack. This doesn’t happen often, but one person I know (who uses Mac Mail I believe) has this routinely happen to their messages to me. If your first impression is spammy, it fails! If the user even sees it, they will associate it with the most malicious form of junk they receive.

Obviously, the phishing phenomenon doesn’t always happen (if it did I wouldn’t have to explain the virtues of avoiding images). Images in signatures aren’t a best-practice for a couple other reasons.

• I often find myself asking “Where’s that email from so-and-so with the PDF attachment?” Suddenly the attachment icon notice is of no use, since all messages from that user have attachments. Every email I get with an image in the signature has an attachment icon because of that signature image.

• Even small images are a few kilobytes. This space ads up. If I was working in an office that enforced images in the signature I might get hundreds of inter-office emails weekly. This accumulated space leaves you stuck with a slower system, and large archives.

• Some images are too large physically. Some users might be reading your emails on mobile devices. Many signature emails are over 320px, and this will cause scrolling on most smartphones (I’ve even seen an extreme case where the signature image was 1152px which was ‘breaking’ my Gmail in my 1280px desktop browser!).

Here are some real world examples of text signatures in action from relatively big players:

Paul Boag is a popular podcaster, author, conference speaker and is a principal at Headscape.


Gary Vaynerchuk is “the wine guy”, a podcaster, social media advisor, consultant and an author


Norma is an Art Director from Henderson Bas, one of the big agencies from TO.


You’ll note they’re just simple straight up text. Text is simple and beautiful. Text readers can read them, they work the SAME way regardless of browser, OS or mail client. Text never breaks, it’s the smallest and easiest way to communicate with readers in light of so many technical obstacles that could become barriers.

9 times out of 10 email images don’t make or break the signature and can be removed with no further modification to the signature. Removing them removes clutter and gives the reader only one simple thing to read: your name, and maybe how to contact you.

Sometimes, simplicity is worth more than a thousand words.

Arley McBlain
Debut Creative

10 Responses to “Email Signatures”

  1. ArleyM says:

    This is my most trafficked page on this site, and no one has ever left a comment! In the years since writing this I’ve been working in an office that uses Outlook.

    I now have my default signatures as one-line:

    Name | Title | Company Name.

    99.9% of my emails are internal. People know the address. They don’t need the legal warning nonsense. It’s clean and simple.

    On the rare occasion that I have an email to send to a client I can Insert > Signature > and select “Full” which is a lot more descriptive and informative.

    This has worked like a charm for me. What are you doing?

    • jkoreska says:

      Images and crazy Word-formatted sigs always bug me, in an email.

      I vote for your simple, informative sig. Maybe include a phone number. Please don’t bother with the email address, I’ll respect you less.

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