Aaron Artessa, art director for the Boston interactive studio Infrared5, works at the intersection of technology and design, devising the so-called user interface that controls how friendly a gadget or its applications are to operate.
A former book and magazine illustrator, Artessa, 32, first learned to program while working on video games. He helped create the games “Rock Band Blitz,” “Go Home Dinosaurs,” and “The Game of Life: Zapped Edition.”
User interface, or UI, is a term that’s thrown around a lot lately. What does it mean to you?
User interface is something that no one cares about — unless it’s really bad, then everyone complains. UI designers think about form and function — how to make information accessible no matter who the user is.
Touchscreen or mouse? What’s your preferred method of input?
If I were working on a site or application aimed at younger folks under 18, I’d make sure the interface was fully touch-enabled. This generation has grown up exposed to smartphones and now touch-enabled laptops. But older generations, like my own, grew up with a mouse and keyboard. While I am comfortable using tablets and such, I don’t default to that kind of input.
The Affordable Care Act launch has been stymied by much-publicized website glitches. What is your reaction to the troubled website?
My gut tells me the site is hard to navigate and could be simplified. I spent 20 minutes reading about stuff only to find out in the end, “Sorry but you need to go here for Massachusetts.” Immediately I’m frustrated. The best tutorials casually guide you along the way, not bombard you with a bunch of steps.
What are some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on?
“Rock Band Blitz” was definitely my baby. I looked at all the previous “Rock Band” games. I didn’t want to stray too far from the originals, but still [wanted to] make it easier and faster to access songs and other content. It was one of the rare instances where a reviewer wrote, “The interface was really good.” That little blurb made my day.
Is there a certain style that you’re known for?
I love doing neon — it’s becoming my hallmark. It’s fun to do apps with neon lights all over the place. I don’t want to go to Vegas, but I want the lights of Vegas.
When you’re pushing pixels, what’s your choice of music?
When I was going to college, I’d work 14 hours at a time. While everyone else had Spotify or Pandora on, I started putting on movies as background noise while I worked. I’ve listened to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy 13 times and the “Firefly” series 32 times.