The evolution of email over the last 30 years has skewed toward management and utility, not readability. It's an understandable progression: As our inboxes increasingly overfloweth, email has increasingly become something to avoid, to put off, to delete without reading, to discard as quickly as possible.
In a world where inbox zero is the ultimate goal, who cares about good typography? But is that really the way things should be? Can laser-like focus on readability be a successful tool in email management? If email is more pleasant to read, won't it by extension be easier to manage?
This is the thought process behind the latest concept by 1910, a graphic design and art direction studio. Called "A Typographic Approach To Email," it suggests that the ultimate email management tool might be readability.
"We believe that email is about two things. Reading and writing. And that focusing on these two is what would truly move email to where it deserves to be," 1910 writes on its blog. As such, the studio tries to imagine what an email client would look like if designed from the ground up with typography in mind.
1910's concept isn't meant to be an actual app. Rather, it's an exploration of what email could be like in any app that put serious efforts into its typography design.
An approach like this could be applied to virtually any email application, native or web, and would work no matter what visual style was ultimately desired. Applications like , and websites like have already taken the first big steps towards bringing interactive type up to date with technology, and we can’t wait to see how other text oriented products and services will follow along, focusing on what really matters.
Starting with the body of an email designed to resemble the perceived text size of a regular printed textbook with around 12 words per line, 1910's concept adds additional elements like navigation windows, reply buttons, sender and date fields, and so on in such a way that they never distract a user's focus from the readability of the content itself. The same holds true for composition, which stays clear of boxes and input fields to focus on the actual words being written.
In some ways, 1910's concept is bold simply because it takes for granted that reading and writing email is something that we should all want to do, as if getting an email can be just as pleasant an experience as getting a handwritten letter in your mailbox from an old friend, that email's primary problem isn't spam or management but presentation.
Maybe they have a point: No matter what apps or tools we try, our inboxes aren't getting any easier to manage. Through good typography, though, there are real gains to be had by making them prettier.