I don’t know what people think is the best-designed newsletter out there today, but I see who people are copying: Axios.
I’m a former designer, so I picked six newsletter designs better than Axios. They key context here is that Axios’s visual design is driven by it’s in-house writing style — as it should be. Design is communication, not decoration.
However, most publications have fundamentally different audiences than Axios. Mimicking the style and design doesn’t have the same effect. It’s like sitting down at a nice restaurant with a white linen tablecloth and being served what is obviously a plate of Chicken McNuggets without the box.
Your newsletter design should be informed by your audiences, your style, and your point-of-view. It should reflect how your audiences see themselves.
Location: New York, NY
It’s cheeky! The paper airplanes quietly sailing across the header are fun, while the bright red brings back memories of a teacher’s notes and grades on papers.
Each section has ample room to stand on its own without being squeezed by neighboring sections. It’s easy to scan, while being easy to linger and read more deeply.
Location: Madison, WI
While Axios feels corporate, like an HR memo in your inbox, the hand-drawn elements of Madison Minutes make it feel friendly and warm.
I love the choice to use the light blue to underline the links. Light blue text wouldn’t have enough contrast on the white background, but black text with the thicker blue line is a great way to make the links stand out.
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Location: St. Paul, MN
I like the formatting of the Roundup section. Each sub-section starts with an all-caps, purple category heading. Next, the entry begins with bold text for the first sentence.
Additional details are in a standard weight text. Then the entry ends with a link to the story in bold blue underlined text. I prefer links that are more descriptive than “Read More,” but this layout is great.
Location: Fresno, CA
Simple doesn’t mean boring. The Toplines newsletter from Fresnoland is simple, but with the pops of orange and plenty of space, it’s simple, straightforward and pleasant to skim or read.
The 19th News
Location: Austin, TX
The 19th News appears on a lot of my roundups because they do quite a few things well. They are great to look at for inspiration.
This newsletter is light, with plenty of space between elements. It looks wonderful on a phone. It uses small, subtle section headings, but the on-brand magenta em dash ornament helps visually mark the change from section to section. It’s using the space without filling the space.