Fluid design and the pixel-perfect dream

By APSIS

2015-10-09

We sat down for a quick chat with two of our APSIS Email Experts, Cynthia Hernandez Mejia and Tim Hansson, about the importance of mobile design and how it has become essential to email design all around the globe.

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Before we start, could you both introduce yourselves in a few words? 

Cynthia: “Of course! Hi, I'm Cynthia, and I'm a multitasking email designer here at APSIS. I've worked with email design here for more than two years now. I’m creative at heart and in my free time I love to travel around the world and find inspiration in all kinds of places, people and food. We have a colourful world that I love to embrace.”

Tim: “I’m Tim, and I'm a graphic designer at APSIS, so I'm the one responsible for the graphics at seminars, website, email and prints. I've been working with email design for over 4 years, and web design for 5 years.”

First of all, could you tell us if there’s a difference between responsive design and mobile design?

Cynthia: “Yes, I would say there is. When you’re talking about mobile design, you’re talking about only one device. And looking at the technique today, we have plenty of sizes of mobile screens, and also plenty of different devices! I think we should forget about mobile design and only use responsive design, so that emails will adapt to the subscriber’s environment, based on screen size. That would work in both desktop and mobile views.”

Tim: “I think that there is and there isn’t a difference, so to speak – because mobile design is a type of responsive design, after all. Which can confuse many people. Here at APSIS, we talk a lot about mobile-optimized design, to make it clear that we use a "one-step" responsive design. Meaning that the design has only one breakpoint, between desktop view and mobile view. (A breakpoint is where the style for your email changes.)

What people usually mean by responsive design is fluid responsive design. Fluid design is most common in website design, where the design flows smoothly while scrolling down the webpage. This still has steps, but you don't notice them, since you're working with a percentage for width, instead of fixed width figures.”

Do you remember the first time you thought, “Every email needs mobile design”?

Tim: “I think it was in 2012, when we first managed to create responsive design for email. Since then I’ve never seen a reason why you shouldn't have it.”

Cynthia: “I don’t remember the first time, but every time a clothing store sends me a newsletter where they’re trying to show their entire stack in one little e-mail. Less is more, por favor!”

What’s the first thing you do when you receive a customer request for a new email design?

Cynthia: “My first question is always the purpose! What does our customer want to create? Do they want an informative newsletter or a selling newsletter? I’ve become a good judge of character, working with both big and small Swedish and international companies, multiple personalities and different levels of knowledge; this has given me a good insight to see each task as an individual project, and make decisions based on the situation, rather than just follow a manuscript.”

Tim: “I always ask for the purpose too, and how they want to work with their content. Otherwise it's hard to create a good email design. After that, I try staying with a single column design to keep things simple and scannable.”

What about the future? Will you have to change your design habits, or will these principles work years from now as well?

Tim: “Now that we’ve managed to conquer responsive design, I think the next step is conquering typography. As for email design in general, I think that although we’re in the lead, there is still a long way to go. We can't make fluid designs for all email clients (since there’s generally a lack of support for CSS), and that lessens the chance of creating great email, at least “under the hood”. It seems like a faraway dream at the moment, but we can always hope!”

Cynthia: “I think we know the best thing for what we have right now. It’s all about trends, and how technology advances. If people start waking up from their pixel-perfect dream, they will discover a lot of fresh and new design options. One thing I can promise is that the future has a lot more to offer.” 

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