I am trying to conceive an application that has the concept of "album" or "song" (from an album or single) mixed in. I want to create some sort of visual cue to distinguish between those 3 concepts. Although an album is easy to represent (with the artwork) I am having troubles representing the concept of a song (and the concept of a single is harder, but I will forget about that for now).

Is there any "standard" way to distinguish between these two concepts? From what I have seen the applications of music (such iTunes) don't distinguish these two concepts visually. The artwork of a song is the same as an album and a single has its own artwork.

  • 1
    That seems a difficult question, because the album concept is at some extent an artistic concept, but at some other a business concept.
    – 32746
    Jun 27, 2013 at 14:25
  • 2
    What would help us is to know if there is any understandings from the end-users as to why they feel it's important to visually distinguish between a single and an album.
    – DA01
    Jun 27, 2013 at 15:34

5 Answers 5


Distinguishing between a single and an album that has the same album cover: I would do it with a single icon illustrated as an individual and group

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here's a mock up

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  • I wouldn't use the musical note superimposed on the album cover. The musical note should just represent the actual track.
    – PhillipW
    Jun 28, 2013 at 18:16
  • Google music player actually uses a set of horizontal dashes aligned vertically along with the music note to represent a playlist or play queue. I totally got the idea from there.
    – Rayraegah
    Jun 29, 2013 at 7:18

The artwork for a song from an album makes sense to be the same--as it's a song from the album. The application won't necessarily know (And the user not necessarily care) that the rest of the songs exist or not.

As for singles, historically, they always got their own artwork. I'm not sure if they still do. I know some music services do release separate 'singles' releases and do have their own artwork, but a lot of 'singles' that get airplay are often not released as individual digital singles.

The other catch is that even though a song may be released as a single, it often would be the exact same song also found on the album. So, from a digital management standpoint, it's still the same thing.

So some things to consider.

Ultimately, in a digital world, the only differentiation between a single and a song from an album would be a bit of meta data. The obvious one would be artwork. Ideally, there'd be a meta field to signify a 'single' version of a song, but that would still be tricky when the single is the same version as from the album.

I think it may come down to two things:

  • how do you separate the concept between a single and a song-from-and-album? To figure that out, you may need to do some use-case experimenting. How and why would a user differentiate between the two?
  • Once that's figured out, I believe you want to come up with an icon based solution. If it's a song-from-an-album, show the album artwork. If it's a song-from-an-album released as a single, show the album artwork with a 'this is a single' icon identifier overlaying it.
  • I thought in the icon-solution. I really need to create this difference because the app requires it. There are two modes of visualization. One that only shows albuns and other that only shows songs (I don't know if there will be a mixed view aswell).
    – Tiago
    Jun 27, 2013 at 15:31

A good way that I've seen it symbolized (on the TV interfaces at my gym) is using a "Play" arrow for the song and a "CD" icon for the album. (Also, a silhouette character for the Artist.)

  • This converges to the second solution pointed out by @Da01. I thought in that solution but it seems so... meh :/
    – Tiago
    Jun 27, 2013 at 15:32

You could distinguish between songs and albums by using the file/folder-metaphor. Both could share the same album artwork, but albums look like folders and songs like files.


I thought of using the artwork to represent the album, and the same arwork with a bold superimposed number to represent a track of that album, being the number obviously the track number within said album.
As of the singles, I'd depict them simply as the image of a vintage 33rpm disc. But, as DA01 said, there might be no difference between a single and a track.

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