Because our clients regularly ask us to design custom email signatures, I figured that I should make my standard response public.
Signatures can be added with all major email clients (Outlook, Mac Mail, Thunderbird, Google Apps, etc). As professional services firms increasingly use email for most communications, email signatures have become the equivalent of firm letterhead. While our creative team does produce gorgeous email signature designs derived from our clients’ brands, I actually recommend a very minimalistic approach. This is especially true for Vancouver business lawyers who seem to be convinced that large footers are associated with legal know-how..
What to Include
As little as possible. The signature should provide enough information for the recipient to know who you are and how they can follow-up with you. No more. While everyone has a different view of the minimum requirements, my signature reads (fake phone numbers):
Skunkworks Creative Group Inc.
I include my full name, my job title, the company name, our website URL, and my direct phone numbers. The recipient will already have my email address from the header information. Mailing addresses will depend on your particular market, but they’re of secondary importance for my work. Our address can easily be located with one click through to our website. Twitter or LinkedIn identities, while good ideas, ultimately depend on how active you are on those networks and are probably not required on all correspondence.
Images + Design
Think twice before inserting your firm’s beautiful logo in your signature line. While it certainly helps with the look & feel, there are other technical considerations specifically related to email.
The problem with including a logo is that you are attaching a file to every email you send. You really notice this if the recipient is using an email client that cannot view rich text (including HTML emails). The formatting will appear as code and the message will include an attachment. Many email archiving systems will also register the attachment, meaning that if you’re trying to find a document that a client sent you 9 months ago, it won’t be much help to browse for the email on the basis of the attachment.
Then there’s the matter of file size. If you have 20 employees at your firm sending 60 emails/day, with a logo that’s 200kb, that’s 240MB/day on top of the substantive email content itself. If you absolutely want to include your logo, have a designer create a version with the lowest possible file size. While there is no universal rule, it should probably not be > 100kb.
The web’s bounty will provide you with countless opinions on what to include in your disclaimer. As an articling student, I had the privilege of doing a due diligence review of approximately 20 banker’s boxes full of printed email chains. I learned two important things:
1. Emails do get printed; and
2. “Chow” is not an appropriate sign-off for professional communications.
For my part, I want to repeat my preference for the absolute minimum in terms of disclaimers. If possible, do not use boiler plate. Consult your regulatory body (law society, institute of chartered accountants etc) for guidance. If you’re a solicitor, show that you can draft by crafting your own confidentiality notice.
Just remember that whatever you use will be appended to all of your emails, ad infinitum.