Monthly Archives: November 2009

Data Powers of Ten

I found this old web page on my website freedom on the wayback machine.*/

it really must have been a while ago!

I havent checked any of the links but I always thought this was a great explaination….anto

The following list is a collection of estimates of the quantities of data contained by the various media. Each is rounded to be a power of 10 times 1, 2 or 5. Most of the links are to small images. Suggestions and contributions are welcomed, especially picture files or pointers to pictures, and disagreements are accepted at The numbers quoted are approximate. In fact a kilobyte is 1024 bytes not 1000 bytes but this fact does not keep me awake at night.

The etymology of these words used for very large numbers is explained here.

Warning: This page was created in 1995. Many of the numbers are out of date.

a well known search engine uses the same idea:

Googlebyte (10 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 bytes)

People often get KB and Kb or MB and Mb mixed up

A B is a byte

a b is a bit

there are 8 bits in a byte

therefore there are 8Kb in a KB

Four Layers of Design

The design of most objects and systems can be examined in terms of four layers of design.
Visual, Interface, Interaction, Motivation.Visual layer
Visual elements of an objects and systems are typically their form, colour, texture, font, layout, styling. The design of vogue magazine is an example of visual design. The re-styling of the Ford Mondeo is visual design.Interface layer
Interface elements of objects and systems are typically the parts that you touch. In the case of a kettle the handle is part of the interface. In the case of a software system the system of navigation, menu’s, drop downs, data entry areas, buttons, cursor hotspots are parts of the interface. Apple made a significant improvement to the interface design of mobile phones when they released the iPhone.

Interaction layer
Interaction elements of objects and systems refer to what occurs when the object is in use. A chair is sat on. A chair is also moved, purchased, knocked over, stood on, fallen of, restored. A website is read. A website is also built, maintained, skimmed over, found, contributed to, etc. The development of Web 2.0 technologies made a significant contribution to the development of the interaction design of social media.

Motivation layer
Motivation drives users to do things, to interact. A user who is motivated by the need for a cup of tea will interact with a kettle, a tap, teabags and a teapot. Alternatively the thirst for tea may motivate the user to visit a cafe and order tea and scones. Understanding the subtleties of motivation depends on the actors, the play and the context. The choice of a type of glass to drink from is a motivation layer problem. It is unlikely that a crystal wine glass will be used for milk shake in McDonalds. In software systems it is unlikely that a sales manager will use the CAD software although maybe he should.

Getting the layers mixed up
Sometimes the layers get mixed up. In system design huge effort can be spent fixing up the visual layer when the problem is really a motivation layer problem. In other contexts a huge process of self analysis in the motivation layer muddles and delays innovation in the interaction layer. Sometimes a visual freshen up is all that a product needs to give it a new lease of sales. Making a specific effort to understand the layer(s) that the design problem exists on is a good first step in exploring a new design challenge.

The future of music project

The future of music: concept posters 


Stacey Nash: Smarter flicking


Declan Doherty: Integration of pace keeping, music and gps training


Sinead Moore: selection of music using mood


Bernard Ward: a new rich file format for music


Aidan Quigley: An touch based UI for a TV home entertainment centre


Phillip Rabbett – Media Frame


Laura Devine


Kevin Gallagher: A streaming system for DJ’s


Stephen Campbell. Swimming training audio aid


Grace McCoy: A system for learning to dance


Patrick Duffy: Footpedal device for ipod and learning music


Cairan McNally: a way to arrange the sharing of music

VIIA – Visual, Interface and Interaction Analysis

Most things and all systems can be examined in terms of these three entities:




If you are engaged in a design project or inventing something then understanding what part of the overall problem you are working on is useful because it helps you to prioritise your workflow!

So what is what? Here are some examples:

In showing these 7 examples I am also going to add in some ideas about MOTIVATION, ACTORS, PLAY, CONTEXT and ask some questions about MOBILITY.


1. A phone:

Visual: style and colour.

Interface: the bits you touch.

Interaction: The things you do.

I guess you could add another layer above interaction called MOTIVATION! The MOTIVATION to use a phone would be to make contact with another person!?


2. A kettle: A MOTIVATION to use a kettle would be to make a cup of tea. The ACTION around a kettle might be the ritual of making tea. The ACTORS in this case are the people who are making the tea and the people who want tea. The PLAY is how people behave when the make tea for eachother. The design of the PLAY can sometimes be influenced by the VISUAL design of the Kettle. When? How?


3. A software programme: The iPhone represents a huge change at the INTERFACE level. It also makes the entire system mobile. Where does the addition of MOBILITY fit into VIIA?


4. Person to Person interaction. A simple “hmmpf” can mean everything to someone, depending entirely on the CONTEXT.


5. Buildings. A church and a house and a shop are all buildings. The churchness of a church and the houseness of a house can be described by examining the ACTION that takes place in them.


6. A university. The MOTIVATION in a University is Teaching and Learning. There are lots of other places/systems where Teaching and Learning may take place. Those places/systems will have different Interaction, Interface and Visual layers.


7. Man Machine Interaction: In this picture a happy and an unhappy man machine interaction is shown. What are the essential MOTIVATION, INTERACTION, INTERFACE and VISUAL layers that make up happy and unhappy experiences?

MDes projects

These are project title posters for MDes


Breege Molloy: An Irish Craft Website


David Gregg: A study and proposal for reducing the number of single occupancy vehicles on our roads


Eileen Marie Emerson:  A book of illustrated legends and Myths from Co Antrim


Hoi-In Leung: A guide book or plane magazine feature of 8 traditional chinese festivals


Maria McCabe: Experience Design, gender issues in the retail sector


Patricia Quigley: Book or website or place? Its an advertising campaign!


Paul McGinty: A photo essay book about the Irish Army

Noel Heaney: Magazine that will look to illuminate local creatives.
Could be any field, but design, photography, art + writing.


Conor Dooley: A film about sucide?