Talk Session 01

Breakfast’s developer Mamoru Kano held a public talk session at WeWork in Shibuya.

Mamoru Kano

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

How was the new presentation tool Breakfast created? In September 2019, the developer Mamoru Kano gave a 90 minute public talk session at WeWork’s Iceberg in Shibuya, Tokyo. Here is a summary of a portion of the presentation he gave while using slides actually created with Breakfast as he told the story of what led to its development and its process of development over five years.

Photographs: Nanako Ono, Edit/Writing: Junya Hirokawa

Mamoru Kano, professor at Miyagi University and Breakfast’s developer.

Hello, I’m Kano from WOW. I would like to talk to you today about the presentation tool Breakfast I developed. Currently, I believe a lot of people use things like PowerPoint and Keynote for presentations. Today, I am going to be talking about offering Breakfast along with those as another option.

A presentation tool that specializes in telling a story

If you’re wondering if Breakfast is suitable for all presentations, then that is not the case. It’s suited for things like university lectures and project presentations that accompany a story. Instead of thinking about it with separate pages one at a time as with presentation tools that have used slides up to now, one vertical page is used, which allows a presentation to be conducted while showing how the information is related.

I started making this tool five years ago. What started it was thinking there should be more choices with slides and presentation tools. The other thing I thought about at that time was if I could remove the difficulty of making slides. If I could naturally make slides that were similar to someone making a speech, then I also thought that the content would be easier to convey.

At the start of the public talk session, one of WOW’s founders and its representative Hiroshi Takahashi also stood up to talk. Takahashi said, “We wanted to gradually change a world where only Keynote and PowerPoint are used in presentations.”

“Aikuchi” that was a collaboration between the designer Marc Newson and a swordsmith is also one of WOW’s works.

What is the visual design studio WOW?

WOW is a visual design studio founded in Sendai in 1997. Now after having been established for over 20 years, we have received requests from various companies, and have dealt with design from an extensive creative field including videos and animation, installations that make use of a space, UX designs, product designs, and more.

We established locations in Tokyo in 2000 and in London in 2008. Currently, among the 50 staff members, about 30 are designers, and I work as a designer as one of the founding members.

For an unusual project, WOW directed a project that was a collaboration between the designer Marc Newson and a swordsmith. It could also be said that Breakfast is a presentation tool developed from the perspective of visual design.

Iceberg at WeWork in Shibuya was the venue for the public talk session.

The importance of presentations and dissatisfaction towards tools

Among the various designs we have done at WOW, what we have done more of since 2000, in addition to completed works like videos, have been chances for us to explain our concept or the process that led up to it. There was now a higher importance put on the presentations to show the content of the completed videos. Personally, as these presentations were in demand, it felt like it made the work easier.

As the importance for the presentations grew, my dissatisfaction with existing presentation tools also started to rise. The advantages of using existing slide-based presentation tools like Keynote and PowerPoint are when you are trying to explain a single bit of information, and it is easy to use when there are separate topics. There is also the fact that everyone uses them, so sharing between them is easy, and making them easy to distribute even as a PDF or on paper is also advantageous. On the other hand, its disadvantages are that it is hard to grasp how the pages relate to each other, and there is a tendency to cram a lot of information into a single page.

In 2011, there was an opportunity to do a presentation at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. At that time, we used an original and unique presentation tool that uses 3D CG, so we needed to install the application onto computers at the venue, causing us a lot of trouble. However, at the same time, it was also an event where I felt there were new possibilities from the highly expressive presentation.

Why did I think to develop it myself?

Here is the real issue. Even if I am dissatisfied with presentation tools, I could have just put up with the parts I found difficult to use. However, as to how I arrived at developing a presentation tool myself, starting to teach design classes at the university was a large part of it.

I started teaching design classes at the university in 2013. In addition to my work, I also had to do presentations for the university lectures, so the time wasted to make the slides increased all at once. Every week at the university, I needed to make four slides to use for a 90 minute lecture. Eventually, making the slides started to put pressure on my work. Days where all I did was make slides with Keynote continued happening.

As I kept making slides, it made me think that the way slide-based presentation tools separated the ideas and context by changing pages felt unnatural. Also, instead of talking one-sidedly, I wanted to create slides that would support interaction during a presentation. Additionally, I started to wonder if I could make something that was quicker, neater, and that organized the information better.

Even after researching various tools, there wasn’t anything that felt right. If a tool didn’t exist that satisfied my needs, I thought that I had no choice but to make it, so that is when I started to develop it.

As to why I thought to make it, I still place an importance on consideration when making a tool. Consideration when making a tool is a way of thinking that involves deepening one’s understanding and consideration towards a physical object when designing a tool. For example, I once created a text writing tool so as to write text to be published in a book. Through my experience making a tool that writes text, I was able to deeply understand the structure of a book.

Furthermore, I wanted the layout to be automated for a new presentation tool. When I would start to focus on the layout, it would take me a long time to do it without me realizing it. I also wanted a function that would be able to consolidate a large number of slides on a computer so I could search for them by cutting across them. For example, one of the things I wanted to achieve was to use it to list the slides I used for all 15 lectures so I could search through them and switch between them.

For that reason, I needed to widen the hierarchy and prevent a superficial structure. This way of thinking is why Breakfast has three levels of hierarchy. With more than three, it would be difficult for people to follow, and three is an important number. I made Breakfast to basically have three types to choose from for things like the layout and the size of the text.

Made from a visual perspective instead of from a business perspective

At first, I made a simple tool using JavaScript. Using that as its base, Breakfast’s predecessor was completed in March 2016. Actually using this during lectures made me realize various issues and places needing improvement, so in March 2017, I began the actual development of Breakfast at WOW.

Instead of content, WOW makes tools that make content. I wondered if I could take a presentation tool that tends to be seen as a tool for business and make it into a visual communication tool. While displaying how consideration when making a tool should be done as a part of WOW, I also thought about wanting to explore the possibility of developing a creative service.

A layout where you can concentrate on the order of a presentation or making content for it

This is Breakfast’s main screen. In a notebook, there’s a page, and inside the page goes text, images, and videos. The vertical design similar to webpages continuously stretches vertically, so there is no need to worry yourself over how much information to dedicate for a single page as when using slide-based presentation tools. Including the sequential order, when I thought about how to simply display information, I naturally arrived at a vertical scroll design.

For the layout, you can only choose either a grid or a frame from the menu. The text and images are automatically and neatly lined up. By no longer thinking about cramming information onto a single page with horizontal slides, it cuts down on the effort and time needed to fine tune the layout, and with this design, users can focus on scrutinizing the sequential order and content of the information being presented.

Breakfast’s “universe” function that can randomly display text set up beforehand on the screen.

Four widgets to promote conversation

I also wanted to incorporate features that would revitalize lectures and workshops. And so, instead of Breakfast being a one-sided presentation, there are also widgets prepared to make the presentations more interactive.

This is the “universe” function that randomly displays text spread around on the screen. It can be used to put up words on the screen that could be hints during brainstorming sessions or workshops, or used to display the totaled figures for a survey.

The “dice function” is a widget that will spark conversation. In the middle of a lecture, if the names of students are inputted beforehand, it can be used to call on the student whose name is displayed. Due to the nervousness produced from the possibility that your name may be displayed, it will make students take lectures more seriously.

Although I think it is common for the iPhone’s timer to be used to measure the time during a brainstorming session or a workshop, with Breakfast’s “timer function” that can largely be displayed on the screen, everyone attending will know how much time has elapsed, and this could raise the sense of unity among them.

The unlikely one is the “camera function.” Up to now, paper documents have been shared by taking pictures of them with smartphones and then using them by displaying them on the screen, but if this is used, it is simple to share documents that are in front of you or on hand.

A 3D emotional presentation function

Furthermore, there is a survey totalization function to allow participants to vote for either A or B on the screen, and I’m also thinking about a function that allows you to create infographics such as beautiful graphs and charts. I want to eventually add other functions that could visualize information just by inputting it, and create a strong production for a presentation.

Instead of just having 2D layouts, if the presentation starts to move via 3D graphics, I think it will create a more emotional presentation. I have wondered if I could implement a rich presentation that is like an art piece and more interactive, which has never been seen in presentations up to now. I am currently trying to find a way to incorporate those functions.

Feel free to try a new presentation tool

Lastly, I will once again point out that Breakfast is a story-based presentation tool.

After five years of prototyping, it is currently 70% complete. From now on, I want to further raise its level of completion by improving its UI and other things. To begin with, I would just like you to know that there is a presentation tool with this sort of approach.

It is currently available for free, so go ahead and download it to try it out yourself. Other than using it for presentations, by experiencing the consideration that goes into making a tool, I believe it could lead to new business opportunities and chances to make progress in research.

I was able to introduce Breakfast to a lot of people today for the first time. Please look forward to its future developments. Thank you very much.

A last look at the camera.

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