Design by Day, Dance by Night

May 01, 2018

Tell us a little about yourself! Who is Jonathan?

Hi! My name is Jonathan Bongato. To quickly sum me up: I design by day, and dance by night.

Currently, I am an Experience Designer at Electronic Arts as part of their in-house web team, designing the experiences for For the past 6 years, I’ve had the pleasure of co-directing TwoFourSeven Company, an award-winning urban choreography dance team that has competed both locally and internationally.

Recently, I’ve moved on from the team to pursue endeavours that bridge the tech and dance worlds through design - one being my latest creation, FiveSix.

I want to find other ways to improve and augment dancers’ day-to-day with carefully thought-out design . . . [and] continue to connect with dancers and innovate within this space.

What drew you to SIAT?

Growing up, I always needed to create something. Whether it be digital or physical, I aspired to make things for other people which added value to their lives.

What drew me in particular to SIAT was how multidisciplinary the program is. There were many paths I could take in this program, established by both the types of bachelor degrees you can get (BA or BSc), to the actual concentrations (Design, Interactive Systems, and Media Arts). I kept an open mind in my first couple years to learn more about each of these areas and build my skillset. The more I progressed in the program, the more it became clear to me what I wanted to pursue. Having aptitudes for creating and implementing, I chose the BSc route with a concentration in Design (I was really close to getting the double concentration in Interactive Systems because I loved getting hands on in building the things I designed).

We’ve learned that you’ve produced a functional application of one of your undergraduate projects. Could you tell us a little bit about it?

Yes! The undergraduate project I produced into a full functional application is called FiveSix. It is a music playback app designed for dance choreographers that allows them to create cues for the tracks they dance to, when creating choreography, running classes, and rehearsals with their teams.

In the contexts of creating choreography, running classes, and directing rehearsals, choreographers consistently rewind and play from specific points in the track. They would have to scrub against the timeline of a track to play their intended timestamp, sometimes resulting in their dancers missing the cue to begin choreography. FiveSix makes the music playback flow more efficient by providing choreographers the ability to establish cues for a track. To supplement the cues, offset and repeat features enhance the playback depending on the task a choreographer has with their dancers. For teams, choreographers can share their cues, so that each individual can use the app to rehearse on their own.

The app is available for both iOS and Android on the App Store and Google Play Store, respectively. For more information about the app, visit

How was your experience with developing your application? How did your time at SIAT help you during the process?

Developing the application stemmed from an undergraduate project I created in IAT 381: Mobile Computing (now IAT 359), formerly named Cuer. Prior to this course, having knowledge from Interaction Design Methodology, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), and Object Oriented Programming courses were essential for succeeding in the course as one would need to incorporate the lenses from each discipline into creating an end product.

This course in particular opened my eyes to the world of mobile design and development. As the course progressed, it fuelled my curiosity to bridge the worlds of technology and dance. With the Android SDK, I learned how to connect various sensors and APIs to create functional apps. Simply put, combining Data Storage and MediaPlayer APIs resulted in the creation of Cuer/FiveSix. While the end product was complete for demo purposes, it was not ready for production and never saw the light of day in the Google Play Store.

It was not until earlier this year that I came across a hybrid mobile development framework called Ionic. This rekindled my passion to bring something to life, as it supported development for both iOS and Android from one codebase. As a result, I decided to take this up as a side project to learn how to develop with a modern front-end development framework, and redesign the application to be more efficient and usable for dance choreographers.

Did you have a faculty member you enjoyed working with? If so, who and why?

I’d like to give a shout out to Helmine Serban who was not only the instructor for the IAT 381 course that introduced me to mobile development, but she was also my instructor for IAT 267: Introduction to Technological Systems, IAT 351: Advanced HCI, and also an advisor for my Capstone project. Learning from her in these courses heavily influenced my proficiencies in building interfaces, which ultimately led me to pursue my BSc.

Aside from the application, post-graduation, what have you been up to?

I’ve been working full-time at Electronic Arts as an Experience Designer for EASPORTS, designing marketing and game-to-web experiences for FIFA, NHL, UFC, and recently for FIFA’s Competitive Gaming Division.

Since moving on from co-directing TwoFourSeven, I hope to further pursue endeavours that bridge technology and the dance domain. I want to find other ways to improve and augment dancers’ day-to-day with carefully thought-out design. As an active member of the dance community, I want to continue to connect with dancers and innovate within this space.

If you can recall, what is your favourite SIAT memory and why?

There are so many things about SIAT that I loved, but if I were to choose specifically, it would be working with the teams I had in both my IAT 338: Interactive Objects and Environments (now IAT 438) final and Capstone projects. These individuals I got to collaborate with were people I knew I could trust throughout my undergraduate years, as group dynamic and synergy is important to the success of a project. From taking on new briefs, to late nights on campus, to nailing presentations and critique - all worth it when you’re having fun with good company.

Do you have any tips and tricks for undergraduates?

Take advantage of the co-op program that SFU offers. I did it in conjunction with my degree for the duration of 5 terms at 3 placements. At every placement, I learned valuable skills that only the workplace can teach you, such as collaborating with various stakeholders and disciplines in delivering products that create impact in the real world. Doing co-op has made the transition for me upon graduation easier as I already gained experience in the industry as well as connected with other professionals in the field.