User Interview 01

450 minutes a week. Save about half the time spent on creating materials.

Mamoru Kano

(Professor at Miyagi University/advisor/consultant to WOW/developer of the presentation tool Breakfast)

User Interview talks to people who use the presentation tool Breakfast and gives a summarized presentation of points that people wish to have improved about the tool’s usability. For the first interview, we visited Mamoru Kano, who is the developer of the presentation tool Breakfast and acts as an advisor/consultant to WOW, which worked on Breakfast’s early development. The visit took us to Miyagi University. Kano is a professor teaching design here. Why does he feel the need for new presentation tools and how is he using them right now? We interviewed him about the history of the development, interweaving this with scenes of Breakfast being used during Kano’s lectures.

Photographs: Maki Onodera, Edit/Writing: Junya Hirokawa

We visited Yamato Campus, one of Miyagi University’s two campuses. A long staircase extends up into a large atrium.

The Kano Lab focuses on design research that can help solve social issues. The lecture on this day started with an explanation about metaphors.

Mamoru Kano, professor in Design Information Science, Department of Project Design, Miyagi University and advisor/consultant to WOW. Kano developed Breakfast in order to use it in his university lectures.

Transferring to the subway line at Sendai Station, we arrived at Miyagi University, which is located in the suburbs away from the city center. Founded in 1997, this public university has a Department of Project Design that trains students who are planning to run businesses. The first topic of discussion in the lecture in Kano’s studio today is metaphors.

Kano: “A metaphor refers to one thing by mentioning another. Even if you can’t actually take something in your hand, its like saying that you “get the sense of it as if you have it in your hand” or “that you are explaining in a shortcut way. Other words for metaphor in Japanese are “inyu” and “anyu.” The things you call “windows” and “trash” on your computer screen use words that come from the world of stationery. There are thousands of metaphors we use in everyday life, so many that I feel that thought would not be possible without them.

Explaining about an icon—the arrow—that is generally used in a way that we take for granted. “Arrows do not only represent physical directions. They are also able to express abstract relationships as well.”

Research at the Kano Lab at Miyagi University deals with the kinds of design that can be useful to solve social issues, focusing on areas like applications, web, and video. On the day we visited, 10 students from second to fourth years were studying design— also including background areas such as the theory and history of design—in the lab. A wide variety of design fields are used as subject matter.

Why did Kano develop Breakfast?

Moving over to a large room after completing the lecture in the lab. Start of the lecture “Color and Form,” with about 100 second-year students.

Materials Kano uses for the lectures are made using Breakfast.

Finishing the lecture in the lab, Kano moved over to a large room. After a 10-minute break, the lecture “Color and Form” starts, with about 100 second-year students. In the first half of the lecture, Kano discusses patterns as the world’s oldest form of graphic design while presenting examples from places like ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Europe. He also presents auspicious patterns that are very well-known in Japan.

The second half of the lecture concerns rough sketching techniques. After explaining the distinctive features—the emphasis of the object using one-point perspective, the amplification of dimensionality through two-point perspective, and three-point perspective that incorporates a sense of perspective and is used in architecture—Kano hands out sheets of paper for the students to draw three-dimensional forms using two-point perspective.

Kano talking about the history of the development of Breakfast after the end of the lecture. “With vertical scrolling, you don’t have to put information on a single page.”

Kano uses a presentations created with Breakfast in his lectures. Just after the lecture ended, we asked Kano about the content of his lectures.

Kano: “I aim for content that constitutes the first step of design, without having a bias for video, which is my area of specialization. I give careful consideration to the content of my lectures each day so that my students can get an understanding of design through multiple perspectives.”

At Miyagi University, students start to take specialized lectures from second year. The students attending the lecture on color and form only started studying design a few months ago.
As a rule, Kano spends about 450 minutes on lectures each week, including regular lectures and those delivered in the lab. In addition to this, he also delivers special lectures and lectures at other universities. He prepares material for each lecture. About 60 pages of material is required for a 90-minute lecture. It was this large amount of material that he was producing each week that led to the development of the new presentation tool called Breakfast.

Kano: “I was feeling that I was spending unnecessary time and effort on the layout and the sheer volume of ideas that are contained in a single slide. This made me think of a vertical scrolling presentation tool. Slides are usually completed as individual pages. But if they are turned into a picture-story show with demarcated relationships with the pages before and after, and if this is scrolled vertically, the content can be put together on a single long rectangular sheet. There is no longer any need to put all the information on a single page.”

In the past, Kano used to use Keynote and PowerPoint, but he noticed that the distinctive feature of these programs, which is that they are formatted page by page, would increase the amount of time he spent creating materials.

Kano developed the interface thinking about clarity for the user. Image layout and cropping are done automatically, and there are three choices for text and text size.

With a vertical scrolling presentation tool that has no concept of a page, all you need to do is add text, diagrams, and videos to create your materials. With this in mind, Kano made a prototype for Breakfast in 2016 to use in lectures. He looked out for issues as he was using it, and has created several new versions since then. Development of the tool is now happening at WOW, where Kano works as an advisor/consultant.

Kano: “I feel that these days, the time I spend on preparing materials is half of what it was in the past. For text and font sizes, I just need to choose from three different options. This avoids getting lost in decision making. For creating materials that are video only, things have become pretty easy compared to in the past. With PowerPoint, for example, I used to have a hard time just arranging 20 images in a grid, but with Breakfast, all I have to do is drag the video file, and the program does the layout and cropping automatically.”

When creating materials, vertical scrolling offers the advantage of easily being able to substitute different tests and images. When doing a presentation, being able to quickly see the connection with information that comes before and after is also an advantage. The students are also really happy with lectures delivered using Breakfast.

Kano: “I’ve received feedback that the content is easier to view and easier to understand. Breakfast has been designed so that the materials can be exported as HTML, which means that they can be conveniently shared by just stating the URL.”

Kano says that he creates and manages almost all of his materials using Breakfast. The idea of vertical scrolling has freed presentations from the slide format. The time saved on creating materials can be used for things like chatting with students, which makes Breakfast a tool that allows users to make effective use of their time.

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