Please stop putting images in your email signature

This is something that has bothered me for a long time. It’s time I spoke up about it.

I like email signatures. I like having a person’s contact information and title at the ready. But email signatures should be simple. There are three reasons why no one should ever put images in their email signature, no matter how tempting it might be:

  1. It’s Wasteful – images are attachments. No matter how cute and insignificant they may look in a single email, they still serve to unnecessarily bloat the size of your message. Even as the cost of disk storage continues to decrease according to Kryder’s Law, that’s no excuse to unnecessarily inflate the size of your email message, as well as the size of every subsequent forward and reply.
  2. It’s Ineffective – I have yet to see any evidence that images in email signatures ‘work.’ If they contain text, they are unsearchable. Within an organization, it might be tempting for marketing departments to encourage employees to use branded image to promote a product or event, but individual employees have a tendency to poorly execute marketing’s best intentions. Worse yet, people don’t tend to touch their email signatures for a long time, which means that signature images are frequently off brand and out of date. The result is not an effective marketing strategy. To the contrary, the results are often quite embarrassing.
  3. It’s Inefficient – for me, this is really the crux of the matter. It goes back to the fact that images are attachments. How often have I searched for an email from someone in order to find a particular attachment, only to find that EVERY message from that person contains an attachment? In the absence of being able to use ‘attachment/no-attachment’ as a search criterion, I have to either build a more complex query (based on attachment size, for example), or else go through individual emails one by one within a large search domain. Either way, the process of simply finding an email becomes an ordeal. It unnecessarily wastes my time, and results in a non-trivial amount of resentment.

The temptation to put an image (or several images) in your email signature can be great. We want our social media links to ‘pop.’ we want to highlight our personal or corporate identity by including a logo. But a signature is not a marketing tool. It is not a business card. It is powerful in its simplicity.

When crafting your signature, think about the information that would be inconvenient for your recipient NOT to have, and include that. Next time you’re tempted to fancify your signature with wiz bang graphics, don’t.

Also published on Medium.