I was reading this recent post from Elliot Ross on the story behind the recent Email Design Review newsletter update. Naturally, the logic behind the redesign and techniques used were great. But, I was more struck by this sentence from the first paragraph:

Now, being a blog about email design, we were never really happy with how the old emails looked, but at the time it did a job and we had more pressing things to do.

It got me to wondering, when is an OK, functional email good enough? Obviously, we all care a lot about email design. While that covers things like the coding techniques we use to craft our emails, a lot of that is also the aesthetic choices we make, too. At what point does spending time on crafting beautiful visuals outweigh the need to actually ship something and get on with your work?

I've been in the same position as Elliot for smaller projects and have relied on an ESP's built in templates for getting things working, and I'm sure we're not the only ones to have done something similar. How do you decide when this is OK to do, and when you need to invest more time and energy into building bespoke templates? Especially for side projects?