Guide to Creating a Professional Email Signature

All business collateral — letterhead, envelopes, business cards, etc. — uphold an identity standard that promotes brand consistency. Why should email be any different?

If email is sent from a corporate email address, it represents the corporation that created it. Uniform email signatures present a professional image while still providing brand consistency across departments, divisions, offices and locations.

A professional email signature isn’t the place to offer inspirational quotes or try out colorful designs with fun, new fonts. You wouldn’t scrawl a Comic Sans quote on each and every business card, so why would you include one in an email?

Ultimately, a signature exists to answer three questions: Who are you? Where are you from? How do I reach you? Here are a few guidelines to keep a signature professional while still answering the basics:

Keep it Short, Keep it Simple

An email signature need not be longer than the email itself. Let less be more. The recommended signature fits on four lines and should never go more than six. Go wider rather than longer, and use pipes to separate components.

Make sure to include your name, the name of your company, your title and the best method for getting in touch with you.

There is no need to include your email address in your signature since it’s just as easy to click “reply.” And while random quotes are fun among family and friends, they can risk offending professional colleagues who may not share the same points of inspiration.

Drop the Images

An image only increases the email’s file size and may be blocked before it’s opened. Most email clients store images as attachments or block them altogether, meaning the recipient will have to guess if it’s a real attachment or not.

Different email clients process images in different ways and there’s no way to ensure the image will correctly appear across the board, even if it’s the company logo. When compounded, images hinder delivery performance and increase storage quotas. In short, drop the images.

Forget Fun Fonts

Standard-sized fonts, black in color, are one of the only ways to ensure a signature will appear the same regardless of the client each recipient uses. Stay away from big, tiny, or rainbow-colored fonts. Simple fonts are easier to read on computer monitors and mobile devices than more complex script and cursive fonts.

Check the Rules

There are some countries with specific rules for what information needs to appear in an email signature. Most often these rules require a company name, registration number and place of registration. Check with the country where you are located to see if these rules apply.

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7 Responses to “Guide to Creating a Professional Email Signature”

  1. Patrick, I’m glad to know that someone else shares my fastidiousness for the email signature. It’s is a huge opportunity for outreach that is often overlooked and/or completely bungled. Thanks for addressing it!

    January 10, 2012 at 9:50 am
  2. Krisna #

    Love this. As a designer I cringe at most email signatures. (Especially those with QR codes embedded. Gah.) Guidelines for email signatures will be included in our brand standards once our redesign is done. I’m making sure of it :)

    January 13, 2012 at 8:42 am
  3. When our university was undergoing a name change in 2007 (from University of Missouri-Rolla to Missouri University of Science and Technology), we initiated a campaign on campus to encourage students, faculty and staff to use their email signatures as a medium to notify people of the name change. It worked. The campus community got on-board with adding a simple line to their signatures. One thing we didn’t realize, however, was that many people didn’t know how to change or update their signatures — or even create one in the first place. So we had to step back and provide a how-to for those folks. So, a couple of weeks after launching that campaign, we including step-by-step instructions for creating email signatures in an issue of our Name Change News e-newsletter. The lesson was clear: Don’t assume everyone is at your knowledge level.

    January 16, 2012 at 10:30 am
  4. Kenny JK #

    For signature i use Brandmymail ( ), which has full control over email signature and overall template :)

    August 19, 2012 at 6:29 am
  5. I have to disagree on only one point – an email address is just fine in the signature. Not all forwarded messages include the full email address in every email client. Some email messages are also still printed by those who are technologically challenged.

    September 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm
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