unemployment-rate-hits-historic-low,-but-manufacturing-has-sluggish-year

The latest reports on the economy show mixed results. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 266,000 non-farm payrolls were created in November, pushing the unemployment rate to a historically low 3.5%. Government data released today showed the United States added far more jobs than expected in November, “relieving concerns that one of the brightest spots in the economy may have started to run out of steam,” said Business Insider in its Markets report.

Profit and loss graphic

Manufacturing employment also increased in November, noted the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM). The sector gained 54,000 jobs, according to the BLS, with the bulk of growth coming from automotive jobs. AAM’s President Scott Paul commented: “With only one month left in 2019, Trump’s promise that manufacturing jobs will boom has sputtered. November’s jobs number was aided by UAW workers securing a new contract and returning to the factory floor.

“Overall, 2019 factory job growth has been incredibly weak, lagging well behind 2018 and underperforming [compared with] the rest of the economy. While there has been periodic bluster about policies to boost infrastructure and stop China’s cheating, no real progress has been made to date. American workers deserve better from the administration and Congress,” said Paul.

Nick Bunker, Research Director at Indeed Hiring Lab, commented to Business Insider, that the high number of jobs added in November doesn’t tell the whole story. “You might forget that the story for most of this year was that the economy was slowing down,” he said. “The slowdown did happen, but we can move into 2020 with a bit more optimism.”

Business Insider reported that while wage growth continued to outpace inflation last month, it “remained stubbornly below what would be expected with an unemployment rate at its lowest level in half a century. Average hourly earnings rose 3.1% year-over-year in November, a slight uptick from a month earlier but short of the peak growth levels seen in early 2019.”

November’s Purchasing Managers Index from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), released on Dec. 2, showed yet another contraction to 48.1 from October’s 48.3. In fact, most of the index measurements were in the “contracting” mode even though the index showed the overall economy “growing.”

New orders for November fell to 47.2 from October’s 49.1. New export orders also fell from 50.4 (growing) in October to 47.9 (contraction) in November. Production’s contraction slowed from October’s 46.2 to 49.1 in November. Inventories contracted faster, from 48.9 in October to 45.5 in November, and customer inventories fell to levels considered “too low,” from 47.8 in October to 45.0 in November. Order backlogs also dropped 1.1% in November to 43.0.

Comments from respondents to ISM’s November survey included this one from a machinery supplier: “Demand has stabilized for the last half of [the fourth quarter], and production will be stable for the rest of this year.”

A respondent from the plastics and rubber products sector commented, “Heading into the holiday season, we are seeing the backlog decrease, as new orders for 2020 seem lighter than in past years.”

A new report from ResearchAndMarkets (Global Plastic Processing Machinery Markets Report 2019: 2017-2018 Data & CAGR Projections 2019-2023), noted that “increasing demand for processed food and beverages, followed by increasing requirements for packaging, is fueling the overall growth in the plastics processing machinery market. The increasing demand for plastics in a variety of applications is expected to fuel growth of the plastics processing machinery global market. Accuracy, reliability, and energy efficiency play an important role in the growth of plastic processing machinery global market.”

Image: Hywards/Adobe Stock

how-to-think-about-plastics-in-2020

Since 1950, approximately 8.3 billion metric tons of virgin plastics have been produced worldwide, the equivalent of 176 million big rigs.

Less than 20% of that plastic has been recycled or incinerated, leaving nearly 80% to accumulate in landfills or as litter in our natural environment. Despite its significant contributions to innovation, the plastics industry has garnered increasing criticism over the years for its environmental impact. In a poll conducted by market research firm Morning Consult in 2018, a majority of people (55%) reported that they did not believe corporations were doing enough to reduce waste that could make it into the environment, and two-thirds of individuals (66%) reported that they would view companies more favorably if they implemented policies to reduce plastic waste.

So, why do we continue to use plastics in the first place?

Alex Hoffer, VP, Hoffer Plastics Corp.
The argument to remove plastics from our way of life entirely is not a feasible option for Alex Hoffer, Vice President of Sales and Operations at Hoffer Plastics Corp.

The technical answer is that plastic has a high strength-to-weight ratio and can be easily shaped into a wide variety of forms that are impermeable to liquids and are highly resistant to physical and chemical degradation. These materials can be produced at a relatively low cost, making it easier for companies to sell, scale, save and so forth. The primary challenge is that the proliferation of plastics in everyday use in combination with poor end-of-life waste management has resulted in widespread and persistent plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is present in all of the world’s major ocean basins, including remote islands, the poles and the deep seas. An additional 5 to 13 million metric tons are introduced every year.

However, consider for a moment the possibility that the plastics industry is doing more good than harm, and that the environmental issues the industry faces have more to do with recycling than production.

Here is how we should be thinking about plastics in 2020.

Plastics and the environment

Austrian environmental consultancy Denkstatt recently conducted a study to determine the impact of farmers, retailers and consumers using recyclable products (wood, tins, glass bottles and jars, and cardboard) to package their goods rather than plastic. What they found was that the mass of packaging would increase by a whopping 3.6 times, and would take more than double the energy to make, thereby increasing greenhouse gases by an astounding 2.7 times.

One common proposal for replacing plastics with different materials is to replace plastic bags with paper ones in grocery stores. While this may sound like a more sustainable solution, the data does not support it. By volume, paper takes up more room in landfills and does not disintegrate as rapidly as plastic. Because of this, plastic bags leave half the carbon footprint of cotton and paper bags.

Plastics and hunger

In my visits to the Northern Illinois Food Bank, I’ve had the honor to serve those in need of access to nutritious food. While helping stock the pantry or pass out holiday baskets, I couldn’t help but notice how food packaging alone impacts visitors’ perceptions. Most of the food at the food bank is canned or jarred, yet it is the plastic-wrapped food that always looks fresher and a little less dangerous.

Now, consider the properties of plastic that make it so attractive: It is durable, flexible, does not shatter, can breathe (or not) and is extremely lightweight. As a result, food and drink are protected from damage and preserved for previously unimaginable lengths of time.

six-facts-about-the-global-injection-molding-market-and-the-automotive-industry

Despite some speed bumps in the automotive sector, the global plastic injection molding market is poised for sustained growth, according to Saipriya Iyer, Research Content Developer at Global Market Insights (Selbyville, DE). The market research and management consulting company has published a report on the global injection molded plastic market, which can be purchased on its website. Iyer shared some key insights from her research with PlasticsToday.

  • The global plastic injection molding market is expected to reach a value of $345 billion by 2024. Key sectors contributing to this growth are automotive, driven by lightweighting to improve fuel efficiency and electric vehicle range; packaging, including thin-wall and rigid bulk products; and electronics, where plastic injection molding results in consumer-friendly designs and lower production costs.
  • China’s market for plastic injection molding is expected to grow at 6% through 2024. The continued building spree and norms supporting sustainable construction contribute to this growth.
  • The German market, which was valued at $11 billion in 2018, is expected to reach $14.5 billion by 2024. The automotive sector historically has been a big customer of injection molding services, but it is currently in a down cycle.
  • The automotive sector typically is one of the prime, revenue-generating end markets for injection molders in Germany and elsewhere, but economic factors and technological change are affecting that dynamic. Slumping demand in China, emissions-related issues in Europe and a shifting trend toward electric cars are conspiring to drive down global demand. Germany saw an approximate 12% decline in car production in the first half of 2019. Although new car sales have declined from historic highs in the United States, the country remains a bit of an economic oasis in the world, and that has propped up vehicle sales in 2018, which grew 0.3% over the previous year.
  • Stringent regulations regarding CO2 emissions in Europe will saddle carmakers with an additional expense of approximately €1000 per vehicle to comply with the new standards. But demand for injection molded plastic parts will continue to grow, as automotive OEMs seek to improve fuel efficiency through lightweighting. Molded plastic parts are widely used throughout automobiles, from wiring harnesses and light covers to dashboards and door handles.
  • The adoption of electrical vehicles is likely to increase at a rapid rate by the year 2030. Companies such as Tesla are witnessing double-digit growth in terms of revenue. The company’s Model 3 was ranked the best-selling electric car in 2018, followed by Model X (ranked fourth) and Model S (fifth). The company reported revenue growth of 82.5% in 2018 as compared to 2017. Electric vehicle sales volumes are creating significant profit pools for upstream players and distributors: Sales of electric vehicles grew to more than two million units globally, 63% year-on-year growth but a market penetration rate of only 2.2%.

a-new-look-at-engineering-salaries-by-discipline

The University of Michigan offers a report on engineering salaries for bachelor’s and master’s degrees by engineering degree.

  • salary survey, engineering, Design News, job satisfaction, careers, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering

     US engineering salaries remain strong, which isn’t surprising given the strong economy. Here’s a look into engineering salaries by discipline. This salary report comes from the Engineering Career Resource Center at the University of Michigan.

    The results for many of these disciplines includes salaries for master’s degrees graduates as well as those with bachelor’s degrees. We also show median salaries as well as the salary range for the discipline.

  • salary survey, engineering, Design News, job satisfaction, careers, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering

    Aerospace Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $70,000

    Range: $59,000 – $87,500

                Master’s Degree:

    Median: $82,500

    Range: $75,500 – $102,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Automotive Engineering

    Master’s Degree:

    Median: $80,000

    Range: $70,000 – $100,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Biomedical Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $70,000

    Range: $60,000 – $82,625

    Master’s Degree:

    Median: 75,250

    Range: $60,000 – $108,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Chemical Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $70,656

    Range: $31,200 – $102,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Civil Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $64,758

    Range: $54,000 – $75,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Computer Hardware Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $77,200

    Range: $60,000 – $120,000

    Master’s Degree:

    Median: $110,500

    Range: $64,000 – $140,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Computer Software Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $100,000

    Range: $48,000 – $162,000

    Master’s Degree:

    Median: $108,500

    Range: $55,000 – $170,000   

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Data Science

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median:$95,000

    Range: $70,000 – $121,500

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Electrical Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $71,000

    Range: $31,200 – $95,000

    Master’s degree:

    Median: $85,000

    Range: $63,000 – $110,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Environmental Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $60,000

    Range: $57,000 – $70,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Industrial & Operations Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $71,656

    Range: $53,000 – $120,000

    Master’s Degree:

    Median: $85,000

    Range: $54,000 – $140,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Manufacturing Engineering

    Master’s Degree:

    Median: $76,250

    Range: $63,000 – $90,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Materials Science & Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $66,750

    Range: $45,000 – $82,000

    Master’s Degree:

    Median: $82,900

    Range: $72,500 – $110,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Mechanical Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $70,000

    Range: $52,500 – $110,000

    Master’s Degree:

    Median: $82,000

    Range: $60,000 – $120,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering

    Bachelor’s Degree:

    Median: $60,000

    Range: $55,000 – $90,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Robotics Engineering

    Master’s Degree:

    Median: $111,000

    Range: $80,000 – $160,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    tructural Engineering

    Master’s Degree:

    Median: $65,000

    Range: $61,000 – $76,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • engineering, engineers, engineering jobs, engineering salaries

    Space Engineering

    Master’s Degree:

    Median: $79,000

    Range: $38,400 – $95,000

    (Image source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News . Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

DesignCon 2020 25th anniversary Logo

January 28-30: North America’s largest chip, board, and systems event,  DesignCon, returns to Silicon Valley for its 25th year! The premier educational conference and technology exhibition, this three-day event brings together the brightest minds across the high-speed communications and semiconductor industries, who are looking to engineer the technology of tomorrow. DesignCon is your rocket to the future. Ready to come aboard?  Register to attend !

invention:-coming-up-with-an-idea-and-making-it-work

At the core of every patent application are its inventors. For both large and small companies, differing opinions on input into the invention and internal politics frequently lead to questions about inventorship. The key point that companies must remember is that invention is based on two elements: coming up with the idea and envisioning how that idea will be made to work.

inventions, engineering, concepts, US Patent Office
The mere possibility of an invention as an idea is not enough.  Conception is established when the invention is sufficiently clear in the mind of the inventor to enable one skilled in the art to put it into practice. (Image source: Wolf Greenfield)

While many people may contribute to an invention, only those who originate the idea itself are the true inventors. This notion is referred to as conception, and any inventor listed on the patent application must have contributed to some aspect of the idea itself to be considered an inventor. However, an inventor need not actually build or make the invention operable so long as the idea can be made by someone with the relevant knowledge in the field.

Coming Up With the Idea – the “Conception”

Conception has been defined as “the complete performance of the mental part of the inventive act” and it is “the formation in the mind of the inventor of a definite and permanent idea of the complete and operative invention as it is thereafter to be applied in practice….” Townsend v. Smith, 36 F.2d 292, 295, 4 USPQ 269, 271 (CCPA 1930). The mere possibility of an invention as an idea is not enough.  Conception is established when the invention is sufficiently clear in the mind of the inventor to enable one skilled in the art to put it into practice—or, in the language of patents, “reduce it to practice”—without the exercise of extensive experimentation or inventive skill. A classic example of this is the time machine. Many people have desired time travel, but there has yet to be an invented time travel machine. No one has had a “definite and permanent understanding” as to whether or how, or a reasonable expectation that, a time machine would result in time travel.

The vast majority of inventions patented today are incremental improvements on existing technologies. In a single groundbreaking product, there may be tens of these incremental inventions which are worthy of patent protection. Here, the question of conception becomes more nuanced, because there are frequently overlapping incremental inventions produced by a team of designers. Each designer may be an inventor of the improvement or component they helped to conceive. If the design team conceived of each invention together, they are all joint inventors. If different members of the design team conceived different improvements or components of a product, careful attention should be paid to which designers should be included on the patent application. A person is an inventor if they helped to conceive of any invention and is not an inventor if they did not participate in the conception of the invention. Failure to recognize this last point, in particular, is what usually results in incorrect inventorship.

Bringing the Invention to Life – “Reduction to Practice”

A common misconception is that inventorship is based on constructing or developing an operable product based on the conceived invention, also known as reduction to practice. While it is true that the invention is completed on reduction to practice, inventorship only requires conception. An invention may be reduced to practice in one of two ways: the invention can be actually reduced to practice by building a working invention, or the invention can be constructively reduced to practice by describing it well enough in a patent application such that a person of skill in that field can make it. Many people may be involved in the reduction to practice phase, as prototyping, testing, and manufacturing all fall within this phase of invention.

Where companies are often tripped up is determining inventorship through contributions at this stage. An engineer who builds a part to specification, follows the direction of a superior, or otherwise merely takes another’s conceived invention and puts it into real-life practice is not an inventor. Core to inventorship is the original idea; the manufacture of the invention is a secondary component. This means that the engineer who may have spent countless hours building and testing a product is not actually an inventor if they did not conceive of the invention to begin with.

As an example of the differences between the elements of conception and reduction to practice, take a company executive, an engineer, and a manufacturer. The executive approaches the engineer and says, “I want something that will quadruple the battery life of my phone.” The engineer goes to work and determines a solution to the problem laid out by the executive, finally producing a new battery capable of meeting the executive’s goal after a long development process. The engineer then sends the specification for the new battery to the manufacturer, who builds the first operable batteries.

Where does inventorship lie? The executive had the original desire for increased battery life, but his contribution goes no further than expressing a wished-for result. The manufacturer actually built the invention, but they were merely following the specification from the engineer. In this case, the engineer is the inventor. While the engineer did not think of the goal first, they (1) came up with the definite idea of the operable battery and (2) demonstrated knowledge of the invention sufficient to enable the manufacturer to build it without undue experimentation. In effect, the reduction to practice by the person who conceived of the invention is non-essential to inventorship; it may demonstrate knowledge of the means of making the invention, but it is conception that ultimately defines inventorship.

Doing the Inventorship Analysis

Practically speaking, each prospective inventor should be asked about their contribution to the conception of the invention. If they came up with an idea of at least one claim of the patent application alone or with others, and their idea was definite enough to enable someone with the relevant knowledge in the field to make the idea, they are an inventor. Those who merely expressed a wished-for result or those that reduced the idea to practice are not inventors unless they also contributed to conception of the invention.

Determining inventorship can be complex and stressful, especially because the consequences of a mistake are at minimum expensive and time consuming, and at worst can invalidate a patent. With the considerations of conception and reduction to practice in mind, it is essential to perform an educated analysis of inventorship when preparing and filing patent applications in order to get it right the first time.

Trevor Day is a technology specialist and Neil Ferraro is a shareholder at intellectual property law firm Wolf Greenfield.

DesignCon 2020 25th anniversary Logo

January 28-30: North America’s largest chip, board, and systems event, DesignCon, returns to Silicon Valley for its 25th year! The premier educational conference and technology exhibition, this three-day event brings together the brightest minds across the high-speed communications and semiconductor industries, who are looking to engineer the technology of tomorrow. DesignCon is your rocket to the future. Ready to come aboard? Register to attend!

the-paradox-of-an-embedded-product-launch

Designing and launching a product is one of the most exciting things that a person can do. There’s something about taking a vague idea or concept and turning it into something that is real, that can be held, and that has a positive impact on society.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve helped several dozen companies ranging from freshly coined startups through large global businesses design, launch, and market their products. I’ve seen amazing successes and a few dismal failures, but during that time I’ve also noticed that there needs to be a careful balance between product development and product marketing.

When the decision is made that a new product is going to launched, the company is faced with what I call the product / marketing paradox. It’s is equivalent to the chicken and egg paradox. What comes first, the marketing or the product? If the product comes first, you’ll complete the product and have no one to sell it to. If you market the product first, you’ll build up buzz but could lose potential customer interest as they wait indefinitely for a product that may or may not ever be completed. This results in the need for a careful balance between product development and when product marketing starts. But this balance can often be upset by The Company Success Bias.

Learning The Company Success Bias

The Company Success Bias is a business’ core competency, which can be either market focused or technically focused. The core competency often reflects the backgrounds and competencies of the company’s management team. For example, I’ve seen time and time again where a startup that was created by technically oriented engineers focuses first on developing the product with little to no thought going into the marketing until the product is nearly completed. On the other hand, I often see companies that were created by marketing-oriented folks that put most of their attention on the marketing of the product before the product is ever even proved to be viable. There is this trade-off between “build it and they will come” versus “if we don’t tell them they won’t come”.

Just like most things in life, when designing and launching an embedded product, there needs to be a balance between being marketing or technically focused. To understand the consequences, we can plot technical versus marketing on a two-axis chart and see what happens to companies in the different regions as shown below:

product launch, product marketing, Balanced for Success Quadrant, Company Success Bias  

If the company doesn’t have a marketing focus and doesn’t have the technical skills to develop their product that they are dead on arrival. (Image source: Jacob Beningo)

 

Let’s examine this chart starting with a low technical focus. It’s obvious that if the company doesn’t have a marketing focus and doesn’t have the technical skills to develop their product that they are dead on arrival. In fact, these products never leave the drawing board. A product that has a low technical focus, but a strong marketing focus are blowing smoke.

I see these companies all the time and even worked for one early in my career. These are the companies that often show off fantastic demonstrations of their product and provide launch dates that slip, then slip again, then again, and then no one ever hears about that product again. It’s also possible that we hear about the product and then three to four years later it shows up to market, by which time all the marketing has burned out potential customers. The marketing was important, but the product was secondary.

We can get the exact opposite of blowing smoke when we have a strong focus on the technology development and a low marketing focus. In these cases, we may end up with a strong product, but the marketing wasn’t strong enough to really drive sales. I often consider these products or companies to be “treading water.” You might even consider them to be best kept secrets. In this situation, there can often be a limited timeframe to generate sales before the company fails if it is a startup. For a larger, established company, efforts usually transition to the marketing focused stage and the sales will start to ramp up.

Mastering the Balanced for Success Quadrant

The real trick when designing and launching an embedded product is to end up in the upper right-hand corner, in the “balanced for success” quadrant. I’ve found that these product launches are usually the most successful. There is a careful balance and plan for both the technical development and the marketing of the product. The right team is in place to champion both causes so that as the technical product is completed, there is a customer base eager for the product.

There is so much that goes into designing and launching a product that it is impossible to cover in a blog. Teams need to consider the business side of the product and overcome the challenges that technical teams face when developing a modern embedded product. Balancing the technical and marketing aspects is just one challenge of many. In order to go into more detail on this topic and share my own experiences, I will be speaking in November at the free DesignNews Digikey Continuing Education Center on “Designing and Launching an Embedded Product.”

There will be five sessions that cover:

  • The Business of Product Development
  • Success through Design and Development Processes
  • Scalability, Architectures and Minimally Viable Products
  • Achieving Quality and Reasonable Time-To-Market
  • Techniques for Accelerating Time-To-Market

We will mainly be focusing on the technical aspects but will go into more details on the business side for developers who may be considering starting their own companies or launching their own products. If you are currently developing a product or thinking about launching one in the future, I hope to see you there!

Click here for more information about the CEC Course and to register!

Jacob Beningo is an embedded software consultant who currently works with clients in more than a dozen countries to dramatically transform their businesses by improving product quality, cost and time to market. He has published more than 200 articles on embedded software development techniques, is a sought-after speaker and technical trainer, and holds three degrees which include a Masters of Engineering from the University of Michigan. Feel free to contact him at [email protected], at his website, and sign-up for his monthly Embedded Bytes Newsletter.

manufacturers-are-taking-a-hit-from-tariffs

Almost 90% of US electronics manufacturers are troubled by the higher tariffs imposed by the United States and China on each other’s imports. Consequently, some inventors are backing off US manufacturing, which is resulting in a pullback in investments and hiring. These are some of the results of a survey conducted by IPC, an analyst firm that studies the electronics manufacturing industry. The company queried its US members in late September and early October.

IPC, manufacturers, electronics, tariffs, China, trade disputes, investments, jobs

Since August, the manufacturing index has been taking a hit. We’re now two months into a slump. (Image source: Institute for Supply Management)

One result is that, on average, companies report they have seen tariff increases on 31% of the total dollar value of the products they import. Twenty-five percent of companies report over half of the dollar value of the products they import are facing higher tariffs.

These changes are putting US manufacturers back on their heels, and the damage is showing up in the statistics. According to the Institute for Supply Management, manufacturing in the US has been contracting for two months. That’s the first time since 2009. An ISM number below 50% constitutes a contraction in manufacturing. In August we saw 49.5%, in September, 47.8%. The reports are fanning fears of recession, and most analysts point to tariffs as the problem.

Lower Profits from Higher Tarrifs

The IPC survey results are bearing this out. Some 69% of companies report lower profit margins as a result of increased tariffs, with a ripple effect of negative consequences: 21% report they are reducing investment in the United States, and 13% say they are cutting back on hiring and/or reducing headcount. “Rising tariffs are putting a painful squeeze on many US electronics manufacturers,” said IPC chief economist Shawn DuBravac in a statement. “Many are facing supply-chain disruptions and steeper costs from the tariffs that have been imposed to date, and the impacts will grow as the trade war drags on.”

IPC found that more than a third of companies report they cannot increase their prices to cover the cost of higher import tariffs. “Our industry has longstanding concerns about some of China’s industrial policies, including government subsidies and intellectual property violations,” said IPC president and CEO John Mitchell in a statement. “But addressing unfair trade practices by ratcheting up tariffs is like using a sledgehammer to make orange juice. In both cases, it’s the wrong tool and makes a mess of the job.”

The study found that 51% of companies report they are now sourcing from countries other than China as a result of increased tariffs on Chinese imports. “We call on the governments of the United States and China to de-escalate the tariffs, focus on results at the negotiating table, and conclude agreements that address long-standing issues of concern to both sides,” said Mitchell. “We also call on all members of the World Trade Organization to restore that body’s ability to play its role as arbiter of international trade disputes, so that nations won’t feel a need to resort to tariffs to resolve trade disputes.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

a-business-case-for-dropping-internet-explorer

The distance between Internet Explorer (IE) 11 and every other major browser is an increasingly gaping chasm. Adding support for a technologically obsolete browser adds an inordinate amount of time and frustration to development. Testing becomes onerous. Bug-fixing looms large. Developers have wanted to abandon IE for years, but is it now financially prudent to do so?

First off, we’re talking about a dead browser

Development of IE came to an end in 2015. Microsoft Edge was released as its replacement, with Microsoft announcing that “the latest features and platform updates will only be available in Microsoft Edge”.

Edge was a massive improvement over IE in every respect. Even so, Edge was itself so far behind in implementing web standards that Microsoft recently revealed that they were rebuilding Edge from the ground up using the same technology that powers Google Chrome.

Yet here we are, discussing whether to support Edge’s obsolete ancient relative. Internet Explorer is so bad that a Principal Program Manager at the company published a piece entitled The perils of using Internet Explorer as your default browser on the official Microsoft blog. It’s a browser frozen in time; the web has moved on.

Newspaper headlines from 2015
Publications have spelled the fall of IE since 2015.

Browsers are moving faster than ever before. Consider everything that has happened since 2015. CSS Grid. Custom properties. IE11 will never implement any new features. It’s a browser frozen in time; the web has moved on.

It blocks opportunities and encourages inefficiency

The landscape of browsers has also changed dramatically since Microsoft deprecated IE in 2015. Google developer advocate Sam Thorogood has compiled a list of all the features that are supported by every browser other than IE. Once the new Chromium version of Edge is released, this list will further increase. Taken together, it’s a gargantuan feature set, comprising new HTML elements, new CSS properties and new JavaScript features. Many modern JavaScript features can be made compatible with legacy browsers through the use of polyfills and transpilation. Any CSS feature added to the web over the last four years, however, will fail to work in IE altogether.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the features we have today and how they are affected by IE11. Perhaps most notable of all, after decades of hacking layouts on the web, we finally have CSS grid, which massively simplifies responsive layout. Together with CSS custom properties, object-fit, display: contents and intrinsic sizing, they’re all examples of useful CSS features that are likely to leave a website looking broken if they’re not supported. We’ve had some major additions to CSS over the last five years. It’s the cumulative weight of so many things that undermines IE as much as one killer feature.

While many additions to the web over the last five years have been related to layout and styling, we’ve also had huge steps forwards in functionality, such as Progressive Web Apps. Not every modern API is unusable for websites that need to stay backwards compatible. Most can be wrapped in an if statement.

if ('serviceWorker' in navigator) {
// do some stuff with a service worker
} else {
  // ???
}

You will, however, be delivering a very different experience to IE users. Increasingly, support for IE will limit the choice of tools that are available as library and frameworks utilize modern features.

Take this announcement from Evan You about the release of Vue 3, for example:

The new codebase currently targets evergreen browsers only and assumes baseline native ES2015 support.

The Vue 3 codebase makes use of proxies — a JavaScript feature that cannot be transpiled. MobX is another popular framework that also relies on proxies. Both projects will continue to maintain backwards-compatible versions, but they’ll lack the performance improvements and API niceties gained from dropping IE. Pika, a great new approach to package management, requires support for JavaScript modules, which are not supported in IE. Then there is shadow DOM — a standardized part of the modern web platform that is unlikely to degrade gracefully.

Supporting it takes tremendous effort

When assessing how much extra work is required to provide backwards compatibility for a deprecated browser like IE11, the long list of unimplemented features is only part of the problem. Browsers are incredibly complex pieces of software and, despite web standards, browsers are inconsistent. IE has long been the most bug-ridden browser that is most at odds with web standards. Flexbox (a technology that developers have been using since 2013), for example, is listed on caniuse.com as having partial support on IE due to the “large amount of bugs present.”

IE also offers by far the worst debugging experience — with only a primitive version of DevTools. This makes fixing bugs in IE undoubtedly the most frustrating part of being a developer, and it can be massively time-consuming — taking time away from organizations trying to ship features.

There’s a difference between support — making sure something is functional and looks good enough — versus optimization, where you aim to provide the best experience possible. This does, however, create a potentially confusing grey area. There could be differences of opinion on what constitutes good enough for IE. This comment about IE9 from Dave Rupert is still relevant:

The line for what is considered “broken” is fuzzy. How visually broken does it have to be in order to be functionally broken? I look for cheap fixes, but this is compounded by the fact the offshore QA team doesn’t abide in that nuance, a defect is a defect, which gets logged and assigned to my inbox and pollutes the backlog…Whether it’s polyfills, rogue if-statements, phantom styles, or QA kickbacks; there are costs and technical debt associated with rendering this site on an ever-dwindling sliver of browsers.

If you’re going to take the approach of supporting IE functionally, even if it’s not to the nth degree, still confines you to polyfill, transpile, prefix and test on top of everything else.

It’s already been abandoned by many top websites

Website logos

Popular websites to officially drop support for IE include Youtube, GitHub, Meetup, Slack, Zendesk, Trello, Atlassian, Discord, Spotify, Behance, Wix, Huddle, WhatsApp, Google Earth and Yahoo. Even some of Microsoft’s own product’s, like Teams, have severely reduced support for IE.

Whats App unsupported browser screen

Twitter displays a banner informing IE users that they will not receive the best experience and redirects users to a much older version of the Twitter website. When we think of disruptive companies that are pushing the best in web design, Monzo, Apple Music and Stripe break horribly in IE, while foregoing a warning banner.

Stripe website viewed in Internet Explorer
Stripe offers no support or warning.

Why the new Chromium-powered Edge browser matters

IE usage has been on a slower downward trend following an initial dramatic fall. There’s one primary reason the browser continues to hang on: ancient business applications that don’t work in anything else. Plenty of large companies still use applications that rely on APIs that were never standardized and are now obsolete. Thankfully, the new Edge looks set to solve this issue. In a recent post, the Microsoft Edge Team explained how these companies will finally be able to abandon IE:

The team designed Internet Explorer mode with a goal of 100% compatibility with sites that work today in IE11. Internet Explorer mode appears visually like it’s just a part of the next Microsoft Edge…By leveraging the Enterprise mode site list, IT professionals can enable users of the next Microsoft Edge to simply navigate to IE11-dependent sites and they will just work.

.@MicrosoftEdge: one browser for all web experiences. IE mode will allow you to view and access legacy sites directly in the same window. #MSBuild https://t.co/NXcDjDB5B4 pic.twitter.com/x7BtCtASNs

— Microsoft Edge Dev (@MSEdgeDev) May 6, 2019

After using the beta version for several months, I can say it’s a genuinely great browser. Dare I say, better than Google Chrome? Microsoft are already pushing it hard. Edge is the default browser for Windows 10. Hundreds of millions of devices still run earlier versions of the operating system, on which Edge has not been available. The new Chromium-powered version will bring support to both Windows 7 and 8. For users stuck on old devices with old operating systems, there is no excuse for using IE anymore. Windows 7, still one of the world’s most popular operating systems, is itself due for end-of-life in January 2020, which should also help drive adoption of Edge when individuals and businesses upgrade to Windows 10.

In other words, it’s the perfect time to drop support.

Performance costs

All current browsers support ECMAScript 2015 (the latest version of JavaScript) — and have done so for quite some time. Transpiling JavaScript down to an older (and slower) version is still common across the industry, but at this point in time is needed only for Internet Explorer. This process, allowing developers to write modern syntax that still works in IE negatively impacts performance. Philip Walton, an engineer at Google, had this to say on the subject:

Larger files take longer to download, but they also take longer to parse and evaluate. When comparing the two versions from my site, the parse/eval times were also consistently about twice as long for the legacy version. […] The cost of shipping lots of unneeded JavaScript to low-end mobile browsers can be significant! We (on the Chrome team) have seen numerous occurrences of polyfill bloat adding seconds to the total startup time of websites on low-end mobile devices.

It’s possible to take a differential serving approach to get around this issue, but it does add a small amount of complexity to build tooling. I’m not sure it’s worth bothering when looking at the entire picture of what it already takes to support IE.

Yet another example: IE requires a massive amount of polyfills if you’re going to utilize modern APIs. This normally involves sending additional, unnecessary code to other browsers in the process. An alternative approach, polyfill.io, costs an additional, blocking HTTP request — even for modern browsers that have no need for polyfills. Both of these approaches are bad for performance.

As for CSS, modern features like CSS grid decrease the need for bulky frameworks like Bootstrap. That’s lots of extra bites we’re unable to shave off if we have to support IE. Other modern CSS properties can replace what’s traditionally done with JavaScript in a way that’s less fragile and more performant. It would be a boon for both performance and cost to take advantage of them.

Let’s talk money

One (overly simplistic) calculation would be to compare the cost of developer time spent on fixing IE bugs and the amount lost productivity working around IE issues versus the revenue from IE users. Unless you’re a large company generating significant revenue from IE, it’s an easy decision. For big corporations, the stakes are much higher. Websites at the scale of Amazon, for example, may generate tens of millions of dollars from IE users, even if they represent less than 1% of total traffic.

I’d argue that any site at such scale would benefit more by dropping support, thanks to reducing load times and bounce rates which are both even more important to revenue. For large companies, the question isn’t whether it’s worth spending a bit of extra development time to assure backwards compatibility. The question is whether you risk degrading the experience for the vast majority of users by compromising performance and opportunities offered by modern features. By providing no incentive for developers to care about new browser features, they’re being held back from innovating and building the best product they can.

It’s a massively valuable asset to have developers who are so curious and inquisitive that they explore and keep up with new technology. By supporting IE, you’re effectively disengaging developers from what’s new. It’s dispiriting to attempt to keep up with what’s new only to learn about features we can’t use. But this isn’t about putting developer experience before user experience. When you improve developer experience, developers are enabled to increase their productivity and ship features — features that users want.

Web development is hard

It was reported earlier this year that the car rental company Hertz was suing Accenture for tens of millions of dollars. Accenture is a Fortune Global 500 company worth billions of dollars. Yet Hertz alleged that, despite an eye-watering price tag, they “never delivered a functional site or mobile app.”

According to The Register:

Among the most mind-boggling allegations in Hertz’s filed complaint is that Accenture didn’t incorporate a responsive design… Despite having missed the deadline by five months, with no completed elements and weighed down by buggy code, Accenture told Hertz it would cost an additional $10m – on top of the $32m it had already been paid – to finish the project.

The Accenture/Hertz affair is an example of stunning ineptitude but it was also a glaring reminder of the fact that web development is hard. Yet, most companies are failing to take advantage of things that make it easier. Microsoft, Google, Mozilla and Apple are investing massive amounts of money into developing new browser features for a reason. Improvements and innovations that have come to browsers in recent years have expanded what is possible to deliver on the web platform while making developers’ lives easier.

Move fast and ship things

The development industry loves terms — like agile and disruptive — that imply light-footed innovation. Yet rather than focusing on shipping features and creating a great experience for the vast bulk of users, we’re catering to a single outdated legacy browser. All the companies I’ve worked for have constantly talked about technical debt. The weight of legacy code is accurately perceived as something that slows down developers. By failing to take advantage of what modern browsers have to offer, the code we write today is legacy code the moment it is written. By writing for the modern web, you don’t only increase productivity today but also create code that’s easier to maintain in the future. From a long-term perspective, it’s the right decision.

Recruitment and retainment

Developer happiness won’t be viewed as important to the bottom line by some business stakeholders. However, recruiting good engineers is notoriously difficult. Average tenure is low compared to other industries. Nothing can harm developer morale more than a day of IE debugging. In a survey of 76,118 developers conducted by Mozilla “Having to support specific browsers (e.g. IE11)” was ranked as the most frustrating thing in web development. “Avoiding or removing a feature that doesn’t work across browsers” came third while testing across different browsers reached fourth place. By minimising these frustrations, deciding to end support for IE can help with engineer recruitment and retainment.

IE users can still access your website

We live in a multi-device world. Some users will be lucky enough to have a computer provided by their employer, a personal laptop and a tablet. Smartphones are ubiquitous. If an IE user runs into problems using your site, they can complete the transaction on another device. Or they could open a different browser, as Microsoft Edge comes preinstalled on Windows 10.

The reality of cross-browser testing

If you have a thorough and rigorous cross-browser testing process that always gets followed, congratulations! This is rare in my experience. Plenty of companies only test in Chrome. By making cross-browser testing less onerous, it can be made more likely that developers and stakeholders will actually do it. Eliminating all bugs in browsers that are popular is far more worthwhile monetarily than catering to IE.

When do you plan to drop IE support?

Inevitably, your own analytics will be the determining factor in whether dropping IE support is sensible for you. Browser usage varies massively around the world — from almost 10% in South Korea to well below one percent in many parts of the world. Even if you deem today as being too soon for your particular site, be sure to reassess your analytics after the new Microsoft Edge lands.

5-engineering-lessons-from-playing-league-of-legends

When I first started consulting ten years ago, there was an online, team-oriented video game called League of Legends that I used to play after work or during lunch. The game required some strategy, required implementing that strategy through tactics and also required some well-coordinated button smashing to be effective in team fights.

League of Legends, Riot Games, team building product development, lessons

Engineers need to make sure they don’t give up early, whether it’s due to a deadline, a bug, or some other challenge that blocks their path to success. (Image source: Riot Games)

Over the past summer, I reintegrated playing League of Legends on my lunch break. As I relearned how to play the game, I discovered that there were many lessons in the game that could easily be applied to engineering and business in general. In this post, we will examine the top five lessons that I’ve learned from playing League of Legends. I think these lessons can have a big impact on engineering teams.

Lesson #1 – Don’t Give Up Early

An average game of League of Legends can last between 30 and 50 minutes. While not terribly long, a single game play can be a major time investment, so the game allows a team to vote partway through the game as to whether or not they want to surrender. While this can be a godsend for a game where the matchups are completely out of whack, I noticed that in a tough game there is a tendency for players to want to give up and surrender.

Through-out my career I’ve occasionally noticed that engineering teams can suffer from this same “If I’m not going to win, I want to surrender” attitude. For example, I’ve seen teams that estimate development will take a month and pour everything into that effort, but as soon as that deadline is reached, they collapse in surrender if additional time is still needed. The project is completely winnable if they continue their effort, but the deadline takes the wind out of their sails and they accept defeat even though their goal is still within reach.

What’s interesting is that in the game if everypne continues to play, the tides can turn, and the game can become an incredibly hard fought and well-earned win. Engineers need to make sure that they don’t give up early, whether it’s due to a deadline, a bug, or some other challenge blocking their path to success.

Lesson #2 – Don’t Go it Alone

League of Legends is team game with five members on each team, and in many cases those five members don’t know each other. It’s extremely easy to just ignore the other players and go it alone. The problem with this approach is that in order to win, you really do need a team effort and a single player can’t be in multiple places at once. In fact, going it alone often results in a player getting slaughtered, utterly defeated, and wanting to surrender early!

Believe it or not, this same type of thing happens all the time to engineers. They try to go it alone, to be the hero, to develop the product themselves or solve the problem. I’ve always found that two heads are better than one. For embedded software developers, pair programming and debug sessions always seemed to go faster when I don’t go it alone. Despite Hollywood’s picture of a lone-genius engineer who can solve all the world’s problems, engineering is a team sport.

Lesson #3 – Communication is Critical

A team game cannot be won without good communication. In League of Legends, friends are able to communicate through voice chat, but if a match is being played with complete strangers, all communication is done via text chat. In a game where a match could be played against a well-coordinated team, communication is critical to winning.  

The success for any development project hinges of good communication. The management team needs to provide the engineering team with the correct needs for the product. Engineering needs to accurately provide updates, coordinate their internal development efforts and any challenges that are surfacing. Development teams can leverage many modern communication mediums such as email, Slack, Skype, Jira, and many other tools to efficiently communicate with their colleagues. Many teams have also adopted Agile techniques like daily stand-ups that help ensure the lines for communication are open and that everyone knows what everyone else in the team is working on.

Lesson #4 – Speed is Key

In any game, speed is the key to winning since everyone is in a race to level up their champion as quickly as possible. The higher the level, the easier it is to defeat a lower level champion. For engineering, speed is just as critical. Businesses are often faced with many pressures such as budget and time constraints to launch a product. Working too slowly could blow a development budget and kill the product. Not moving fast enough could mean a competitor beats the company to market, winning the larger market share.

Speed is absolutely a key to success, but it also must be carefully balanced with the right amount of process to ensure that the result is a quality product. Going as fast as possible doesn’t help if you continually make wrong turns and drive in the wrong direction. 

Lesson #5 – You Can Win Short-Handed if You Play Smart

Every now and then, a player might get disconnected from the game by accident, or the player may purposely disconnect, leaving their team shorthanded for the duration of the match. If you are shorthanded five to four, winning can suddenly seem unlikely, but it can be done if the team plays smart.

There are many situations in engineering where teams can be shorthanded compared to the competition. A small start-up may not have the marketing resources needed to compete with Apple. A competitor could team up with another competitor or make an acquisition to make the team stronger. Maybe critical team members decide to seek employment elsewhere. In these circumstances, engineering teams need to identify the critical path items, leverage their strengths, and work smart in order to succeed.

Conclusions

While there are certainly many other lessons that could be taken from this game that apply to engineering and business such as:

  • You have to start right
  • It’s about having fun
  • Stop whining and get to work
  • Follow your processes
  • Adapt to changing conditions

The five lessons that we have looked at in this post are the ones that stand out to me as being the most important for engineers to keep in the forefront. So the next time you are building a product or playing League of Legends, keep these lessons in mind and you might just find that they help you and your team succeed.

Jacob Beningo is an embedded software consultant who currently works with clients in more than a dozen countries to dramatically transform their businesses by improving product quality, cost and time to market. He has published more than 200 articles on embedded software development techniques, is a sought-after speaker and technical trainer, and holds three degrees which include a Masters of Engineering from the University of Michigan. Feel free to contact him at [email protected], at his website, and sign-up for his monthly Embedded Bytes Newsletter.

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why-side-projects-are-great-for-business

Chris Evans

Side projects are a great way for designers and developers to develop their skills, try new technologies and build their personal brand.

Today I hope to set out why businesses should also work on side projects and show the benefits they bring to both your company and their employees. I’ll then suggest a few ways, with examples, in which side projects can become part of your companies workflow.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Utilise spare capacity

There are many situations in an agency where you might find yourself with a few hours spare, this could be while waiting for client feedback or after launching a big project.

Side projects are a great way to utilise this spare time as you can take advantage of these typically unproductive periods to learn new skills that benefit future projects, build revenue-generating products or market your company.

Onboard new hires to your technology stack

As a design and development studio, we have a range of internal tools and technologies that help us get projects off the ground such as Baseline, a framework for starting website builds (Read about our transition from jQuery to ES6) or Blueprint, our UX starter kit.

Naturally, when we hire people, they will need to learn our technical setup and workflow process, therefore, side projects are a great way to acclimatise a new hire, junior designer or developer to your setup without the added pressure of pushing code to production or designs to clients.

Explore new technologies and tools

With what seems like a new JavaScript framework or design tool coming out every month, it can feel like you’re falling behind if you’re not using the latest and greatest.

Side projects are a great way to test new technologies and tools in small doses. From this, you can evaluate the new technology in a risk-free environment to see if it’s worth adopting into your main workflow.

By doing this, you’ll be able to optimize your workflow with the best tools, upskill your team and potentially offer new services to clients.

Marketing

Marketing your agency or startup can be hard, adverts can be a cash-devouring black hole if you don’t know what you’re doing and other methods like networking are not for everyone.

Side projects are a great way to market your company using the skills your team already possess. Your aims could be to generate publicity, find new leads or create additional streams of revenue.

Compared with some other forms of marketing, side project marketing has the ability to produce asymmetric returns as they can be a drain on resources up front, but once finished they will continue to generate returns well into the future for little cost.

Crew: A great example of this method is Crew, a startup that was a marketplace for freelancers. They created an internal side project called Unsplash so their users could upload spare photos from their photoshoots. Unsplash exploded, bringing huge amounts of attention to the Crew platform. It was eventually spun off into its own company.

InVision: Another example is Do by Invision. Do is part of Invision’s free design resources and is a mobile UI kit for sketch and photoshop. To get the kit, you have to enter your email and they’ll send you the download link. From this, they can email you about new products with the aim of eventually converting you into a customer, it is effectively a lead generation tool.

Innovation

Side projects can often be a playground to experiment with ideas, test assumptions and gain valuable insights into areas that are not your primary business. These learnings can then be applied back to your core business which may end up giving you a competitive advantage.

Sometimes a side project can take on a life of its own, history is riddled with cases where the internal project becomes the core business or where companies have sold them for a huge profit.

Glitch: A great example of a company that pivoted from its core business to a side project is Glitch, a multiplayer online game that built an internal chat system. The game eventually failed but the chat system ultimately became Slack. In 2019, Slack went public with a valuation of at least $16 billion.

Hoptoad: Sometimes, a side project may succeed but may not get the love it deserves internally. Thoughtbot, a design and development studio created Hoptoad, a tool to monitor website errors. A few years later they released it as a service under a new name, Airbrake. Airbrake proved successful as its own business but wasn’t the focus of the Thoughtbot team, therefore, they decided to sell Airbrake for an undisclosed amount about four years after launching.

So, you’ve read about the benefits of implementing side projects within your company, how exactly do you go about working it into your process? Here are a few common ways companies manage to do it.

Spare capacity

As mentioned above, the simplest way is to build projects when there is no other work to do. This is easy to work into your schedule and if planned properly, can be a very efficient use of your time and resources.

Hackathons

A more purpose-driven approach to creating side projects is to have a dedicated block of time where attention can be solely devoted. Again, with proper planning and focussed attention on a particular problem, the likeliness of successful projects is greatly increased. Facebook’s ‘like’ feature was famously created in an internally led hackathon.

For more information on how to run a hackathon, check out hackathon.guide.

20% time

A more laissez-faire approach is 20% time, which is a guide to how much time an employee should dedicate to projects outside of their main projects. 20% is a lot of time that may not be available for projects that might not instantly benefit the company, therefore, a popular alternative is to set aside Friday afternoons for this kind of work.

Google is the famed example of 20% time, where they are encouraged to “spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google”. Projects such as Google Maps, Gmail, and Adsense initially started as internal side projects which ultimately grew into large parts of Google’s core business.

Here at Inktrap, we’re always coming up with ideas for projects, whether that’s at lunch or down the pub after work. Here are a few things we’ve made at Inktap:

Pixel Jobs

Pixel Jobs is a project born out of our bad experiences, as a company, using existing job boards in London. We think both the employer and job hunter experiences can be improved through thoughtful UI design and transparency within job listings.

After a soft launch earlier this year we’re now iterating on our ideas based on what we’ve learnt so far.

Coming soon to pixeljobs.co.

Blueprint

Blueprint is a Sketch wireframe kit that we use internally for the early stages of our client projects. We decided we wanted to release the kit (for free), therefore, we productised it by designing and building a landing page. We used the build to onboard a new developer to our development stack and the product is now used to generate publicity for Inktrap.

Check it out at blueprint.inktrap.co.uk.

Planets Set

Another of our side projects was our Planets and Space Illustration Set. We have some very talented illustrators here at Inktrap such as Rachel Brockbank, therefore, after noticing a gap in the market, we decided to create a set of illustrations to plug that gap.

Check it out here.

Thanks for reading, hopefully, I’ve at convinced you to at least look into integrating side projects into your companies workflow.


Also, another of our side projects, if you’d like to keep up-to-date with the latest design, tech and other fun news, sign up to our weekly design newsletter Minimum Viable Publication. What do you think of our newsletter? Have we missed any great news? Let us know, follow us on Twitter and drop us a tweet!