Introduction: Vinyl Sperm for Your Macintosh

About: Scott Kildall is an new media artist and researcher. He works at Autodesk, Pier 9 and is an artist-in-residence with the SETI Institute

Like a lot people, I both have a Mac laptop and I want to modify its solitary Apple logo. So I created this design, which depicts sperm cells swarming the apple.

It's a sly comment on our tendency to aestheticize Apple's branding. Like sperm, we are heading to the Egg in Cupertino. More importantly, it makes people laugh and often sparks conversations.

The other thing that I like about having a custom design is that you can quickly recognize your computer at work, in a cafe or in the TSA line.

There are a lot of other fun designs on many sites like these. You can create your own, very easily. This is how I did the "Spermintosh"

Step 1: Come Up With Your Design

Spend time with the design step and come up with something unique.

I decided upon the sperm-as-symbol after talking with some friends who were having difficulty getting pregnant. It struck me as a compelling one — biological in nature and yet universally-recognized. More importantly, it is under-used and only works in multiples. One sperm cell looks like a tadpole. The more you add, the better the design becomes.

I scoured the web for microscope images of sperm,  but found that their tails were too long for a legible graphic. So, I shortened the tail enough to make them look better but still recognizable as sperm cells.

I ended up making about 10 different variations in Adobe Illustrator. Enough, that in a large mass, upon surface inspection, it feels like each one is unique.

I've included the Illustrator file for you to use, as a Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA

Step 2: Do Test Cuts

I used the vinyl-cutter at TechShop in San Francisco and played around with different variations on the design. Some that looked good in Illustrator didn't translate so well to vinyl.

I experimented with different sizes, until I found one that felt "right".

With these test cuts, I also had plenty of chances to learn how to apply vinyl. There are many techniques to do this, but it's always good to practice.

Step 3: Layout in Illustrator

This is the twitchy part where you have to spend a lot of time pixel-pushing.

I measured by laptop dimensions, created an Illustrator file that matched the size of my laptop and gave it about a 1/2" margin on each side.

On the web, I found an EPS file of the Macintosh apple and used this as a reference (we don't actually apply the Apple logo to the computer).

Now, it was time for sperm placement. I used lots of rotation and nudges with the arrow keys to get it looking good, focusing on the competitive swarm at the center.

I'm also including the Illustrator file for you to use, as a Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA

Step 4: Weed the Vinyl

Weeding is the process for vinyl-cutting where you create cut lines so that you can remove the vinyl for the portions of the cut that you are not going to use — the negative space.

This is just as tedious, and necessary as the layout of the design. After a couple tests, I found out that I had to pretty much surround each sperm cell with it's own bounding box.

And the weeded version of the Illustrator file is one you can use, as a Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA

Step 5: Print the Vinyl Itself

Unfortunately, I don't have a good image of the cut vinyl section of the design, so I've included one of a vinyl-cutter*.

There are a couple ways to get this job done.

1. Print it yourself at a place such as Techshop:
This Instructable is an excellent one, which shows how to make custom decals and includes detailed information on using the cutter and weeding the decals. The same techniques apply to this project.

2. Send it a service with a vinyl-cutter, especially since of us don't have direct access to a vinyl-cutter. They will often do the weeding for you. If you're in San Francisco, I'd recommend a place such as Logos Graphicsa locally-run business where you go there in person and talk to the production folks and have an experience that is more hands-on.

* CC attribution: Jon 'ShakataGaNai' Davis, 2008

Step 6: Final Application

Put your Macintosh with the lid down and apply the vinyl. Since the sperm cells don't need to have precise placement, you can arrange these as you like on your laptop.