Freshly Laundered 012 / Jamey Erickson


Our latest interview is with designer Jamey Erickson, from Minneapolis. We got the low down on his background and hobbies, from working with bands, to running his own agency, then folding that agency, to taking pictures of the moon from his backyard and teaching little kids to love science. Read on to get the scoop.

CB: Give us a little background: How’d you get into graphic design? What was your first gig?

JE: How did I get into design? Good question. I think it started when I was a youngster. I used to draw baseball cards of my friends and I, then cover them in packing tape so they were glossy like all the other one’s I had. I was always super excited about creating the logos for the fictional teams we played for. Then I got into flags for awhile in middle school. I would draw flags for fictional places in the world. I even won a flag design contest for our middle school and my “design” hung in the gymnasium for 10 some odd years.

It was around that time I was running giant 10 page long, dot-matrix printed banners for any occasion around our house.

[Football Helmet Icon] Go Minnesota Vikings!! [Football Player Icon]
[Birthday Cake Icon]Happy Birthday Megan!![Birthday Present Icon]

Anything that was happening I was designing a banner for it and printing it on as long a string of perforated paper as I could.

When I was a teenager I started re-creating super hero logos on our new fancy PC running Windows 3.5. I learned HTML in my free time and started creating websites for local bands in Rochester, MN area. Spent a few years doing that before heading off to college in St Paul, MN.

During college was when it really came together. Was touring with bands, doing posters, websites, merch, basically whatever they needed. Bands would get big and I’d work for their labels, or they’d get deals with clothing companies, so I’d do a new website for the clothing company, or they’d break up and get “real jobs” so I’d wind up helping build a website for the company they worked for. I was pretty much self employed for a good part of college before getting a “day job” at my last year in school.

Worked at Target for a few years, then bounced around a few agencies, ran my own 8 person digital creative studio, Sevnthsin, for almost a decade and now design complex software systems for companies aiming to make the world a better place over at Software for Good.


CB: That’s quite the varied experience you’ve had. Do you still do any work with bands outside of your full-time job? If not, what kind of side-projects are you drawn to now?

JE: Yeah, I still do some work with bands. I do some art/tech brainstorming with the guys from Rhymesayers Records on an occasional basis. My little agency did the most recent Bon Iver website, so I keep in touch with those guys about future projects. I do a bit here and there with Doomtree as I’m still running their site for them.

As for side projects, I’ve got a strong passion in using technology to empower more meaningful interpersonal human interactions. So I’m working on my own socially curated bicycle routing/guidance app to roll out with our local bike share program NiceRide. I’m also working with a local group called Dishcourse which is a sharing economy model aimed at connecting people, neighbors, strangers for lively discussion over home cooked meals. Both projects are VERY early in their lifecycle, but they’re my current passion projects.

I’m ALSO huge into backyard astrophotography. So I’ve been working on building a community around that here in town. Starting a space-club-for-regular-folks sort of thing, getting folks together to talk about the things beyond our own skies in a down to Earth sort of manner, as well as working with a Portland based developer to expand the capability set of his otherwise amazing backyard astrophotography planning app.

I also, also worked on a pretty great project recently, releasing an album for a local jazz trio’s side project doing tribute music from the old 90’s cult classic TV show Twin Peaks. Helped them record, get a double vinyl produced and then threw a costume party release show at a local theater. Great night for sure!

So I definitely have side projects I’m jamming on.


CB: You are one busy dude! Dishcourse sounds like something I’d be totally into - what fun projects you have in the works! Between the tees you’ve done for us (and your tumblr full of space/Twin Peaks reblogs) we’re not surprised to hear you’re working on projects involving your passions. How did you get into backyard astrophotography?

JE: Well, that’s another long story. I grew up out in the country in southern Minnesota, so looking up at the stars at night was something we always did. Used to love just staring up and finding patterns in the sky, even before I knew what the constellations were. Then as I got older, moved off to college in the city and lost sight of the skies (thanks, light pollution), I just kinda fell out of it. It was sometime around 2009 that I realized I was working like a maniac and missed the things that used to inspire me when I was younger. A friend of mine and I had recently seen an article on Wired about a group of students who’d launched a weather balloon up in the air to take photos of the edge of the Earth against the blackness of space. After looking into it, we realized we could easily do that, and do it all with cell phones. So we started a project called YAVIN IV (cough, nerdy star wars reference, cough). Did that for a few months before realizing how amazing it could be when we did it with kids and used it as a platform to inspire a younger generation. So I ran a kickstarter campaign to raise money to fund the follow up project BESPIN. Got my HAM license and did a bunch of launches to then ultimately launch with a group of kids in Chicago in the early summer of 2012. During a launch in September of 2011, I inadvertently got photos of the Moon rising over southern MN and something sparked in my brain. I figured if I could get cool photos like that from my little point-n-shoot on the weather balloon, I could probably do something pretty awesome if I put a little more effort into it. I tried renting some massive telephoto lenses for my DSLR and had some fun shooting the Moon, but knew the real deal would be with a telescope. Since I’d gotten my HAM license, I’d been up to a local radio shop near my house and knew they had a consignment telescope section in the back. So I went up there and scored a pretty sweet setup for an unbelievably reasonable price. Started tinkering, reading, trying (and failing) until I started getting the hang of it. Met a bunch of folks on Twitter from all over the world who were backyard astrophotographers and we all just started chatting and learning from each other. Over time I really started to get the hang of it and now I’m looking into getting out of my backyard and shooting from darker skies on a more regular basis.

All in all, it’s been an amazingly wild adventure and I’ve really enjoyed the uphill battle that is learning to shoot deep space photos.


CB: Wait, you’re shooting pictures of the Andromeda Galaxy with a telescope in your backyard?! That’s amazing. How did the kids like the BESPIN project? Is that ongoing?

JE: Yep. I absolutely shoot in my backyard. I live up in Northeast Minneapolis, so it’s pretty light polluted, but I make it work. I keep it all on my back patio and just drag it out when I get the itch to shoot. There are certain objects I’ll never be able to shoot in the city because even with a high band light pollution filter, I’ll still get too much city light before I pick up the faintness of the object. It’s also much more difficult to find any object that isn’t a planet or the Moon, as again the light pollution washes out any real object detail to the naked eye. So I have to do a lot of aligning based on what stars I can see, taking long test exposures, then blowing out the histogram to see if I’ve got what I need. I also spend a lot of time comparing my test photos against the star patterns in some software I use to both find objects, and if it stays connected properly, control my scope to slew to the right spot in the sky. So it’s not easy to get set up and start tracking things in the sky, but it’s not bad once you get the hang of it. Then just start letting the computer run long exposures and you go sleep on the patio until you hear the creepy computer voice tell you your series is complete. Then you start another series :)

As for BESPIN, the kids loved it. I started small, just launching with like my little cousins or some of my friends’ kids. Then that’s what led to the idea to do it with a larger group. So I worked with a 3rd grade class in Chicago. A good buddy of mine’s daughter brought some photos I’d sent her into her “show and tell” and the teacher got in touch with me about launching one on their own. I suggested it’s not hard, but not really easy either, and that I’d love to come down and launch with them. So we did that for one of their last days of school in 2012. We attached a Beaker doll from their classroom to the outside and officially called the project the BEAKER-I, so the kids were just losing their minds thinking Beaker was going to space. We lost it in Lake Michigan for a day until, by some strange miracle, one of the electronics turned on long enough for us to get a position and a fishing boat captain happened to have the day off and was willing to take us out there. It was all pretty amazing and we had a big “Welcome Home” ceremony at the school where we were awarded badges of honor by the kids for helping Beaker make it home safe. You can read all about the adventures here. There’s an amazing video at the end made by Dave, my buddy whose daughter’s class it was. We showed that to the kids at the event and there were kids just going nuts over it. Really rewarding experience for sure.


CB: That’s really, really, really cool. Was your Moon tee inspired by any of the backyard photos you’ve taken?

JE: Yeah, actually. The Moon shirt was from one of my first attempts through a telescope. Borrowed a buddy’s Refractor and put it on a camera tripod and snapped this thing.

Thought it’d be fun to make the shirt based on one of my first astrophoto attempts.


CB: Beautiful photo. The tee turned out pretty well too, we think. Moon was CB’s first glow-in-the-dark tee, pretty cool! Thanks for chatting with us, Jamey!

To keep up with all things Jamey, you can follow him on twitter and tumblr. He also has a brand new website showcasing his work which launched this morning. Let him know how much you dig it, cool?