The Power of Great Design in Newsletters

Why “good content” isn’t enough to succeed with newsletters.

Is your newsletter the best at what it does compared to others?

Being different will help you stand out and get attention.

But earning attention is just half the battle.

Like money, the hardest part is keeping it and protecting it, so that we can grow it and build leverage.

Can you honestly say that your newsletter stands out [consistently] in a sea of sameness?

Does it break through the noise or get lost in it?

Most newsletter creators forfeit their own voice, genuine perspectives, soul, and values to be exactly like other successful newsletters in the hopes that they’ll become as successful.

By doing this, they are forfeiting a big part of who they are and how they show up [with their work] in the world every single day.

How do you stand out when you do that?

Simple: You don’t.

You don’t cut through the noise by copying exactly what they do and how they do it.

Any Toyota Corolla will get you from A to B.

The problem with the Toyota Corolla is this: 

  1. there are many of them on the road

  2. they all look and sound the same 

  3. therefore, they become invisible

Nobody gives a damn about the Corolla.

Boring = Ignored.

A well-designed newsletter is like a Ferrari. 

A Ferrari will turn heads.

They get the “Woah! Did you see that!?”

Newsletters are a crowded space. 

Everyone is vying for the highly desired inbox. 

In a competitive world, you need to turn heads. 

How do you turn a Corolla into a Ferrari??

Thoughtful Design. 

Time and time again, I see the same mindset repeated by newsletter operators: 

“But if my content is “good,” who cares what it looks like?”

“I’ve gotten this far without caring about design, why bother now?”


“I suck at design.”

The truth is… I don’t consider myself a designer.

And yet, I design Ponderer

Some say it is the best-designed newsletter on beehiiv:

There is no other newsletter like it–for now.

I’m expecting that to change. 

That’s one of the reasons why I created the beehiiv design training.

But that is a story for another time.

The good news is, that there’s a way to unlock the true potential of your newsletter and transform it into a Ferrari-like masterpiece. 

I’m about to show you how to design a modern, powerful, and highly effective newsletter with zero code; thanks to beehiiv!

But to understand how you can design a beautiful yet powerful newsletter, you must learn how to think about newsletter design.

Before I show you how I get it done for my own newsletter, Ponderer, let’s answer a foundational question that will reveal how I think about it:

What is newsletter design? 

Design is language. 

It is a way of communicating ideas and elevating the written word.

It is so much more than how your newsletter looks.

It really is how it works, how it feels, how it resonates with your subscribers–and how it shows up in the wild.

It is how people interact with your product. 

Yes, your newsletter is a product. You should treat it as such. 

It could be the representation of a big idea or business.

Design is how people talk (or don’t talk) about you when you’re not around.

Design is how they consume your content.

It is how they feel when they experience each edition of your newsletter.

Design is a storytelling weapon.

That being said…

I’m about to break it all down for you:

By that, I mean, each section of Ponderer’s newsletter design.

The framework, examples, and some “dirty” little secrets behind it.

So, let’s get to it.

The Breakdown of Good Newsletter Design

The principles of designing your newsletter (and how I design Ponderer) get broken into 3 main categories:

[1] The Vehicle 

Your offer, mission, and overall product or service.

[2] The Engine

Your strategic design and consistent structure. 

[3] The Fuel 

Your key differentiator.

Let’s dive a little deeper into each one of them:

The Vehicle

The Vehicle is your foundation. It’s what drives you. 

It is the product or service you monetize, but it could also be a mission or goal you are working towards.

Here are some examples:

How you convey the mission is what entices readers to subscribe and open emails–time and time again. (The thing you want)

This mission should be clear from the outset, guiding the type of content you curate and how you present it. It's the promise you give to your readers, and it's what sets the expectation.

It should be clear but also spark some intrigue. 

Let’s break down Ponderer. 

Ponderer – The AI newsletter for smart creators. 

This may look simple. That’s intentional. If it looks simple, it was hard. 

The name, Ponderer, sparks curiosity and intrigue. 

What are we pondering? What will we explore? 

The name of your publication is a key part of the vehicle to give the reader a taste of what to expect.

The tagline uncovers the main topic and who this newsletter is for; smart creators. 

Our target audience is creators but we don’t sell the idea of “get smarter.”

Many other newsletters already do that. We are inviting the smart ones in.

The vehicle is engineered to create intrigue to begin reading past issues or subscribe immediately.

This required many iterations as we refined our mission and vision. 

And frankly, we are always refining it. 

(Pause, subscribe to Pixels, and get weekly beehiiv newsletter design tips.)

Remember, the internet is a noisy place. Your vehicle is your chance to create a signal. 

The Engine

The engine is your design and consistent structure. 

Its job is to get the vehicle running.

What does that even mean? 

It means delivering value and monetizing your products and/or services.

This is not just about how pretty it looks…

It is also about how it feels and how easy it is to digest… 

It is about actually helping the reader to truly consume the content you worked so hard on–not just scroll down like everyone does on social media platforms. 

It is about how well it inspires the reader to take the actions you want them to take.

A good newsletter design should be clean, uncluttered, and consistent across issues. 

Your engine is the framework for your newsletter. 

Ponderer’s structure is a simple 1-2-3 framework. 

It is the opposite of James Clear’s 3-2-1 newsletter. 

See what we did there? 

No need to innovate at every step–you’ll see why in “The Fuel” section.

Ponderer’s framework: 


Welcome + anything new (often with humor/personality) + what to expect.

Here is an example:

Ponder This: 

1 Big Idea with a beautiful motion graphic conveying the main idea, concept, or principle of the week. 

Here is an example:


In this section, we share two resources to skill up and expand your mind.

However, we start with a quote by me and a motion design that represents the main idea of this section.

Try it: 

In this section, we share 3 vetted AI tools that we feel our audience should try out. Again, we start with a quote and a motion design that conveys the main idea of this section.

Crew Ponderings:

In this section, we simply share 3 interesting news or AI-related videos that made us ponder (think deeper on the subject).

We often add humor or go straight to business in this section.

And we always follow the same format.

Simple, right? That’s intentional.

We do not share 20 links to whatever is making the most noise in the AI industry.

Tweet to Ponder:

In this section, we usually share a tweet to inspire conversation on the platform–and sometimes, with one of our posts or someone else’s.

Vehicles + Referral Program:

In this section, we showcase two different things:

  1. Our products and services (aka the vehicles)

  2. Our referral program (growth loop)

One monetizes. The other grow our newsletter audience.

When it comes to designing the referral program section, there is a way to go about it to make it look different than every other newsletter out there.

I teach this and much more… in the beehiiv design course.

We have had cases where a single subscriber refers over 100 new subscribers to us and this is at no extra cost–which is pretty sweet.

The key here is to offer something that can be fulfilled/delivered on autopilot.

beehiiv makes this very easy!


We follow a very simple format in this section…

You can see that we start by giving credit where credit is due.

We get readers to follow us on Twitter (X) and reply to the newsletter to let us know what they think about that edition or simply to say anything, really.

You’ll also notice the very last hyperlink at the end.

This is the “P.S.” section.

This link is a “mysterious link” that leverages the reader’s curiosity and need to close an open loop (storytelling strategy).

We usually link to a short video from YouTube that could be related or unrelated to AI.

The idea is that whatever they see after they click the link, makes them smile, laugh, or reflect on something meaningful.

Finally, we have the footer.

In the Ponderer newsletter, we keep the footer stupid simple on purpose as you can see in the image above.

However, beehiiv makes it easy to customize that section… the way you see fit based on your own brand, links you’d like to expose more, etc.

In the Pixels newsletter, you’ll find a great example of a beautifully designed footer without using any code. See the image below to get the idea:

The engine is your foundation. 

You can think of it as your newsletter content outline.

The framework is designed to train your reader through consistency and congruency–what to expect, what to click, and what to do. 

A consistent design allows the reader to focus on the content rather than a new format on each issue. 

They know how it will be formatted so the design elements and content shine through. Your engine is your sustainability. 

This structure should be maintained over time to build familiarity and trust, making the content easy to navigate, and easier to understand.

The strategic framework also proves an added benefit for the newsletter creator: 

You can produce the newsletter faster because you are not reinventing the wheel in every newsletter edition. This saves time and optimizes the process.

Humans are simple creatures but we tend to complicate things.

Teach them the framework and delight them with the content. 

Caution: If the structure is boring or complex, you will lose readers or create fatigue. Your Structure on day 1 does not need to remain the same over the life of the newsletter, but you should be careful about tweaking it too much.

My recommendation: Find a structure you like and let the vehicle and fuel do the heavy lifting through iteration over time. 

Remember, engines live under the hood. 

They go unnoticed and just work (most of the time).

The thing that makes your newsletter go is the fuel. 

So, let’s get to it.

The Fuel

In Ponderer’s case, the fuel is the combination of our dominant color and the motion designs throughout the newsletter edition.

Yes, the animations may look cool or slick (like many have described them) but the underlining skill or power behind them is this…

The ability to convey something with the design.

It is not about looking cool.

It is about saying something with less words or giving meaning, adding context (or clarity), and communicating a perspective through it.

Here is an example:

The merge: good content + great design = remarkable experience.

The fuel is your key differentiator. 

What makes your letter unique? What keeps readers coming back for more? 

It might be your writing style, the specific niche you cater to, the design, or exclusive content unavailable elsewhere. 

This uniqueness is your value proposition and should be evident in every edition.

Become a category of 1. 

What do I mean?

A category of 1 means being so unique that you’re essentially without direct competition. It can also mean becoming known for a specific thing.

Be proactive about differentiation. 

Engineer Originality. 

What can you become known for?

I attribute Ponderer’s success to 2 things: 

1. Motion Graphics — simple graphics explaining complex ponderings. 

2. Consistent Unique Color Palette — well, sexy blue is our color.

I launched Ponderer in the AI niche. 

A crowded space, yet I was able to stand out because of the way I was communicating: via unique motion graphics. 

Without them, Ponderer wouldn’t be anywhere close to where we are today. 

Ideas conveyed through motion designs fueled my newsletter. 

Most people think we use Adobe After Effects to create them.

Not even close. We use a free tool (that’s not known for creating motion designs).

My DMs are flooded with requests asking how I made them including the animated content divider you see above which is a playful version of Ponderer’s logo.

Because I have been intentional with my design, it became an essential component of our strategic positioning.

It is the reason I am writing this piece for you today. 

A well-designed newsletter is like a Ferrari. 

Ferrari’s can’t drive without fuel. 

With these 3 elements:

  1. The vehicle 

  2. The engine

  3. The fuel

…you can design a newsletter that will stand out, create opportunities, and grow your business. 

The best part: beehiiv makes it easy. 

You just need to develop a bit of a “design eye,” and the desire to create something that separates you and your brand from the herd.

If you are interested in learning more about how to design and craft a newsletter, I have consolidated my experience into a self-guided curriculum for you to elevate your newsletter design game with zero code.

Learn more and pre-order today for just $149 (50% off)

The price will double once we go live. 

Make sure to subscribe to Pixels to get weekly newsletter design tips for non-designers.

Join the conversation

or to participate.