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.

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.

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.

Co.Design

A Typographic Makeover Of Email

If email is more pleasant to read, it might actually be easier to manage.

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.

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16 Comments

  • Fred Phillips

    .....I could not agree more with 1910. We have been using our own 'designed' email stationery for at least 10 -12 years with the sole intent of it looking good, being pleasantly legible and carrying our corporate style, and still struggle with keeping the format. Outlook can rip it to shreds or treat it ok, but is all down to one's personal PC settings hence once sent we not longer have control. Did Bill gates people ever think that if they wrote a letter to someone when it arrive at the other end it looked like it was ready to go in the trash? Format acrsoos platformas should be maintainable, it's just the guys that do it think onlt tech....

  • Gary Ludwig

    Kind of ironic – if 1910 feels the conventions for online reading they describe are that much better, why not use them in the article in which they describe them?

  • Mail Pilot for Mac (http://www.mailpilot.co/) is attempting to bring both type (at least in the interface if not in the received messages) AND they treat emails like tasks. The latter is more intriguing than the display since it actually helps organize emails conceptually and not just marking follow ups as "unread" or putting them in folders.

    They've got some work to go, but that approach will be more revolutionary to email. If we can get great style as well, even better!

  • Alex Berkowitz

    You'd think that a re-design of ANY digital reading platform, especially one that makes ease of reading its primary goal, would take note of the fact that sans serif fonts are easier to read on screens.

  • Bruce Koren

    The fact is that most people nowadays read Email on their mobile devices. That means they read sentences of two lines or less. But they skip sentences/paragraphs that have 4, 5, or more lines.

    If you want your Emails to be read, keep them short. Write two lines, then double space. Then write two more lines and double space.

    This is the new ideal for Email that will most probably be read on a smart phone.

  • Agreed. But then, i as a copywriter, would like to get the information about how many words are in a line on a "regular" smartphone. Would make writing way more easy. I would assume something around seven, up to eight words in "vertical mode" and eleven, up to 14 in horizontal?

  • Brad Emmons

    This isn't so much about "typography" as it is about layout for readability. I can't begin to comprehend the nightmare involved in trying to reign in baseline typography standards through the multitude of email clients.

  • Amanda Lloyd-Sim

    Absolutely overdue, and imperative, not to mention the improved aesthetics and readability. Mac and its Mail leave a lot to be desired, I find it Mac’s biggest flaw! Email is a daily necessity and yet it is like riding a cart and horse to work in the 21st century - I would pay for this too . . . .

  • Stanley Manley

    This is a long overdue improvement, in my opinion. It's been a long time since the dark ages of email (ARPANET & Lotus Notes), so it's time we celebrate our sophistication.

  • Billy Carey

    It would be nice! Since upgrading to Mountain Lion I've found email very hard to read, but the new columns layout still works better than classic. If someone develops a better client I'd certainly love to know about it.

  • Benjamin David

    Anyone here up to join me and make a quick node.js open-source app based on the concept?

  • Or you could not steal 1910s concept. Intellectual property and more specifically ideation is a real thing and the result of hundreds of hours of research, experiments and failed attempts. While it is true that once something is out in the world people can do whatever they want with it, they shouldn't. Before you go ahead and make this thing I would implore you to think about a few things. 1). Integrity is doing the right thing, even when nobody is watching it. 2) . Professionalism takes effort and integrity, how about you take your work seriously and come by it honestly. Put in your own hundreds of hours and come up with YOUR own idea 3). If you are so fired up to make this thing, why not offer your expertise to 1910 (after all it IS their idea) they may want to make an open source app after all and would be happy to let you use their concept. The internet is full of great inspiring content, but it's not yours to take and do what you want with it without permission.

  • Benjamin David

    Indeed, it was never my intent to steal their work nor do anything against their will. I just wanted to start developing an app using their concept and since they clearly stated that they didn't intended to make an app out of it themselves I figured they would probably agree to see people develop an open source implementation of their design.