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I am creating a visual programming language. In this language objects are represented as rectangles, like this:

enter image description here

I thought that the best way to represent that an object is actually a collection of elements (a list, set, etc) would be to use "depth", like this:

enter image description here

Is there any UX research to support choosing this kind of representation?

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That could be confused as a shadow. I'd recommend making the stack 3 rectangles. Just to be clear. –  Mathew Foscarini Sep 26 '12 at 20:52

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I would go with the approach you have as it does show depth by the superimposition of two images on top of each other. Apple iPad image galleries also use a similar layout as demonstrated below: enter image description here

You could also enhance on your proposed design by looking at a stack approach like this : enter image description here

enter image description here

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Is the a "common" direction to use? your examples show three different directions. Which one is the best? and also, is there any research backing this usage? –  vainolo Sep 26 '12 at 21:02
    
@vainolo I don't think there's a significant difference, they all indicate a "stack" though the middle one is fairly abstract –  Ben Brocka Sep 26 '12 at 21:29

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