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February 24, 2024 - Articles

Email Peeps 37: Crystal Ledesma


What attracted you to email marketing, and how did you get to where you are today?

I accidentally ended up in email marketing, long story short I was fresh out of school seeking a front end developer position and ended up meeting someone at ExactTarget who was looking to hire an email developer. Wanting to get my feet wet as a developer period, I went for it. The unique and high level complexities for email and email being this sort of underdog in the wider tech and marketing world kept me hooked.

Currently I am a Senior Engineering Manager for a design systems team that spans across email, web and native apps. There are several layers that led me to where I am today: my experiences as a service worker and administrative assistant prior to being in tech, my direct experience as an email designer and developer, working with leaders who were actively invested in empowering me with opportunities to grow, and my desire to advocate for other developers who are incredibly talented with ideas that need to be translated into business speak to gain support and buy-in all led to where I am now.

Whatโ€™s your favorite email code hack?

Itโ€™s been a while since I had my hands in code, but my favorite email code hacks are practical: any hack to deal with Outlook. In email we often have to deal with Outlook and having those hacks help relieve those headaches so we can focus elsewhere!

What are your top tips for creating and maintaining an email design system?

If you are just starting out creating an email design system, understanding how a user interacts with a product and how email is part of that user journey to help inform the building blocks or โ€˜atomicโ€™ pieces of the system would be my top tip.ย 

If you already have an email design system and are entering or in maintenance mode, adoption or sustained adoption might be a challenge. Adoption and maintaining adoption is probably the biggest challenge I have faced, and to a degree still face, regarding email design systems.

My top tip would be to think about the following statement from Lauren LoPrete, Design Director at CashApp: โ€œDesign system adoption is culture change disguised as a UI kit.โ€ Taking time to gain a deeper understanding about your company culture and what the company cares about most, and learning how to speak that same business language to advocate and influence the culture to rally around the system is critical to maintaining its impact and the efficiency gains that it is meant to achieve.ย 

Are there any brands that have email design systems that you admire?

There arenโ€™t many brands that publicly showcase their email design systems but Figma has a great sense around design systems and though Iโ€™m not privy to the inner workings, their emails showcase a sense of system and patterns that are scalable and repeatable that lead me to believe they at least have a form of an email design system within their company. Receiving Figmaโ€™s emails is always exciting to see. (they also happen to have a great intro to design systems course)

Salesforce also has a great email design system that I admire greatly. Iโ€™ve bounced thoughts and ideas with their team a few times and the scale they are dealing with is massive. That team has consistently worked to understand and socialize what is needed for their system, and have aย  commitment to continuing to evolve the system based on new internal user needs, new business case needs, and other unforeseen changes that may come their way. Willingness and openness to adapt and evolve to change is an element of what makes any design system a success and for that reason I admire their system and their team quite a bit!

Whatโ€™s in your email design system toolbox?


Aside from our laptops, we each have our mobile device and we recently added an iPad to our hardware list to test with.


Figma and the preferred code editor of each team memberโ€™s choice and Litmus for render tests. Other tools have been evolving as our scope continues to evolve and widen and I will be better able to answer this question by next year, which I am very much looking forward to!

Whatโ€™s your favorite email campaign of all time? Why?

Heidi Olson created this awesome interactive email for Taco Bell once upon a time that enabled people to select three different ways to get to a Taco Bell. The design was fun and delightful as was the interactivity! Back when I was an individual contributor email developer, seeing that email really opened my eyes to what is possible in the inbox. I cannot find a link to it anymore and I reached out to Heidi to see if a link to it exists somewhere because more people would benefit from seeing it, it was a great one!

In lieu of having a link to the Taco Bell email, Mark Robbins Parcel Unpacked registration email is a close runner-up for my favorite. Really appreciate the combination of strong design with innovative code to create something so unique and fun for the inbox.

How do you manage work/life balance?

By remembering that the more burnt out I am the less effective I will ultimately be, accepting that there is always more to do and that the work will always be there, and reminding myself that we all do our best work when we are well rested.

Much love,

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @emaillove


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