If you own an iPod, you have probably noticed that album covers are a little extra part of your media consumption experience: They not only show what you’re listening to, but also serve as a way to browse and select from different recordings.Over the past couple of years, we’ve developed a range of different styles for these album covers, and the inconsistency was beginning to bug us. For instance, you might easily browse into the iTunes podcast area and find a range of completely different cover styles for Cisco podcasts:Recently, we decided it was time to standardize the look, and now you see more icons (“album covers”) like these:There are a few advantages to having a real strategy around your album covers. First, a consistent approach to album art extends your brand into iTunes and to the iPod and other players. This means someone who is listening to a 20-minute podcast during a train commute (as some customers tell me they do regularly) can glance down to see the topic, title, and originating company (you). Second, if you chose colors or some other kind of theming, customers can identify different types of podcasts quickly through color and labeling.Some tips if you decide to do this for your company:
- Think about categories for the various types of podcasts you usually do. Do you want customers to be able to differentiate them in some way? In our case, we chose different colors for different topical types.
- PNGs work great, JPEGs are good, and GIFs don’t work too well. We found that when the image is a index color GIF, it comes in very dithered — it actually looks like 16 colors! When we changed it to a regular RGB image and saved it as a JPEG, it came in nice and smooth.
- Take extra time to follow common size conventions to make sure the icons look great in different expressions and sizes. We adopted a 600×600 size and PNG as the format. This assured that the album covers still look good in iTunes and other venues even in full-screen mode. (Some developers have blogged about going to 900×900, which probably makes sense for detailed album art)