"There is one rule in graphic design, and that is there are no rules." It was a confusing introduction to the course as what was the point of being there if we weren’t going to be told anything? We were begrudgingly allowed pointers but with the caveat that we could ignore them if we had reason to. So the following is just advice as, according to our instructor, "your imagination is the only limiting factor".

However, once an email recipient opens your email marketing campaign, there is one overriding rule: email content is king. This is not a complete victory for substance over image as if the layout is repulsive, it will repel.

The first decision to make is the font or typeface.

Email campaigns displayed in html can only use the specified font if it is available on the user's computer. Loading additional fonts is not something many people can be bothered to do and most companies allow just the default ones.

There are two main classifications of fonts: serif and sans serif. The normal default sans serif ones are Arial, Arial Narrow, Comic Sans, Impact, Lucida Console, Tahoma, Trebuchet and Verdana, with the serif type being Garamond, Georgia, System and Times New Roman. Courier New falls into neither camp, being a replica typewriter font with all characters more or less the same width. With bold, italic and bold italic, there is enough variation to allow your imagination free reign.

There is evidence to suggest that serif fonts are best for books and print publications as it has been found easier to read in bulk, something to do with 'white space', although the popularity of Times NR bewilders me still. On the other hand it is generally accepted that sans serif fonts are preferred online because of the display characteristics of screens. You only have to peruse your inbox to see that this has become a universal truth.

Given my graphic design lecturer's reluctance to teach, you might pick a serif face in order for your email campaign to stand out from the crowd. Further, if you are after the grey market you might think your target audience would feel reassured by older standards. If your email campaigns are fairly frequent then they might well be easier to identify against a background of nasty unsolicited email marketing.

If you use a specific font on your website you might consider running with it for your marketing emails in order not to startle if they click through to your site. Unless, of course, you want to emphasise the change of venue.

Once the email body copy is decided then you need to figure out how to differentiate a headline. Remember that many readers merely scan the email campaign in the first instance, mainly the headings, only deciding to read the more detailed information if their imagination is tweaked.

Email headings should stand out. This does not necessarily mean a bigger font size, although that is the simplest method. Options include a bold text face, choosing a serif face if the text is sans serif, or vice versa. There is italic but it is often lighter and harder to read, so choose with care. Bold italic can look a bit overdone. Using bullets is a great way to emphasise but you might want to keep such things for something like a list.

Make email headlines clear. Opting for extra bold caps might be dramatic but it makes reading difficult. Putting an email headline in a box or on a reverse colour background can confuse although it will certainly attract attention as a rule.

Some things are almost laws though.

It is all too easy to let capitalisation run away with you. Email spam filters look for a stuck caps lock so think restraint. And the same goes for exclamation marks! You should certainly only use one at a time. Avoid underlining as those familiar with online formatting tend to think it indicates a link and futile left mouse button clicking can be very irritating.

By all means do your own thing but do it for a reason. You want to be remembered for value for money rather than graphic inspiration.

1. Imagination is the only limiting factor
2. Email content is king
3. Sans serif fonts are preferred online
4. Think about your target audience
5. Recipients may merely scan the html email
6. Tweak email recipients imagination
7. Email headings should stand out
8. DO NOT CONSTANTLY USE CAPS
9. One exclamation mark is enough!!!!!!!!
10. Only tracked links should be underlined