What is a digital signature in emails? (With tips and steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 3 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As the primary communication tool used in many businesses, creating professional and company-appropriate emails can help to make a good first impression. Digital signatures are one element that can be improved upon, adding personality to your email and providing clear insight into the sender. Email signatures cover various styles and information to suit different business and individual needs. In this article, we answer 'What is a digital signature?', explain what's included, outline how to create one and provide tips for making a digital signature that stands out.

What is a digital signature?

The answer to 'What is a digital signature?' is that it's the footer of your email, similar to the physical signature at the end of a letter. This signature provides the endpoint to an email, including details about the individual sender and the business. The purpose of digital signatures is to sign off on emails while providing further information to the person receiving the email.

Marketing departments may create branded email signatures in some larger companies to create a unified look for outgoing emails. The design of a digital signature can vary depending on the industry or different business requirements. For example, a creative sector may use an imagery-based signature to convey vibrant or colourful branding, while a law firm may use simple text to provide a professional appearance. A standard email signature includes the name of the person sending the email, their job title, and the company they're writing from.

Related: 15 guidelines for professional email etiquette at work

What is included in a digital signature?

Digital signatures have various structures and layouts, from plain and simple information in basic text to imagery-heavy footers with social channels and other relevant details. The exact details on a digital email signature can also vary depending on whether the email is sent from a group inbox or by a single person. For example, a support email from a large support team may not sign off in the same way as an email from a single salesperson. The information found on a digital signature may include:

  • the full name of the sender

  • job title

  • company name

  • company address

  • phone number

  • email address

  • a brand logo

  • a photograph or illustration

  • social media channels

Related: How to introduce yourself in an email (with examples)

Digital signature vs. standard signature

A digital signature is found at the end of emails and is typically created using HTML or simple formatting to create a clean, on-brand look. A standard signature often provides an end to traditional letters, where the sender signs their name. Each signature serves a similar purpose in providing a way to cap off and conclude correspondence naturally.

Businesses may use digital scans of signatures to sign off on specific emails, though this is less common than a standard digital signature. Sometimes digital signatures feature in the conclusion of an email after the sender has signed off with a traditional signature. For example, they may write their first name or full name to close a letter before their digital signature. Adding this additional sign-off is valuable for outward emails where imagery-based signatures or formatted designs may not be viewable on a recipient device.

How to sign an email digitally

If you'd like to apply a digital signature for your email, the first step is to decide how you'd like the signature to look and the information to include. For example, you may have brand guidelines in place for everyone's email signature or you may be able to make your own. Here are the steps you could take to sign off an email with a signature:

1. Define what your email signature includes

Choosing what information to include in your email signature can help you decide on a layout and design. Usually, digital signatures include the sender's full name, their company and the company's address. Contact information such as a phone number or email address is also standard, with many modern businesses introducing social media channels as buttons for more complex designs.

2. Pick a design for your digital signature

Digital signatures come in a range of different layouts and designs. Some simplistic formats may stack information for ease of reading, while others use bolding, italics and sizes to create an impact. Your choice of design for your digital signature may change depending on the information you want to include plus the branding of your business. For example, a signature for a creative company may look different to a local government office.

3. Create any imagery or photographs required

Creating or commissioning these graphics is essential if you require imagery for your signature, including resized logos, branded images or photographs. Certain email clients won't display specific pictures, requiring different formats and designs that can be easily readable across various systems. Imagery for email signatures is usually designed to be as minimal as possible or of a lower definition to improve download speeds for mobile users.

4. Choose the colours and font for your signature

Once you have gathered all the details for your signature and decided upon a layout or template, you can begin inserting your information and imagery. You may choose to alter fonts or the colours of your text to better suit brand guidelines. It's crucial that text remains readable for recipients, so using darker colours and bolding is valuable in drawing attention to information.

Related: What is employer branding, and why is it important?

5. Create your final signature with a plain text version

If you are happy with the overall look of your signature, you can then create a secondary, text-only version that displays on clients that don't support imagery. This plain text version of your signature can include all of the same information without the coding or formatting of your designed version. This due diligence allows all recipients to easily access the exact details and contact information regardless of their system.

6. Add a secondary signature for internal use

Using alternative signatures within your business is an effective way to provide information that's only valuable to certain people. For example, an internal signature could include your username for company chat software or your extension number for your phone. Internal signatures are beneficial in large businesses to allow other departments to contact each other effectively.

7. Apply signatures to your emails through your client

With your signatures created and ready to apply, you can use your email client settings to define which signature applies to which email. For example, you may set internal emails to one signature and external emails to another. You can also tailor your signature to suit different recipients, which may apply if you cover multiple roles in a business or temporarily step into an acting position.

8. Change signature seasonally or update information

Many businesses opt to change their signatures to suit upcoming promotions, seasons or product launches to advertise their business. It's vital to keep signatures up-to-date throughout the year to provide a professional impression of your workplace. For example, ensuring your signature updates with your new job title or removing old promotions that are now over.

Related: How to end an email

Tips for creating your digital signature

Your digital signature provides information to the recipient about you and the company you work for. Ensuring your email footer is high-quality and well-designed can help to improve your professionalism and provide a positive first impression. Here are some tips to consider when creating a digital signature:

Keep it minimal

The information in your digital signature is most effective when it's minimal. Too much text, including quotes or company mottos, can clutter your sign-off and make it more challenging to read. Sticking to basic company details, contact information and your name is the ideal option, with the addition of graphics and buttons as necessary.

Think about what's important to the recipient

Your email signature provides information to the recipient of your email. Consider what information would be valuable to them in learning more about you or getting in touch. For example, your job title tells that person who you are, and your phone number and email contact provide the required information to get in touch with you quickly.

Align signatures with branding

If you choose to use imagery and colour in your signature, matching this to your branding is ideal for improving professionalism and providing a cohesive image. Using different colours or even font styles may be distracting and confuse customers or recipients. Strong branding can give insight into who you are without the requirement to read the company's details.

Ensure signatures are readable and accessible

Accessibility is an important concern in business emails. Ensuring your digital signature is readable for partially sighted or dyslexic people is one way to improve accessibility. Including a plain text version of your signature can also support screen readers in your emails so the recipient is aware of who they're talking to if they cannot read themselves.

Related:

  • What is an electronic signature? (Plus types and benefits)


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