Episode 26

Aaron Collier of Orbit on Writing Docs and Building Design Systems


April 19th, 2022

41 mins 28 secs

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About this Episode


Aaron Collier


Richard Littauer | Django Skorupa

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain Open Source Design! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source with design. Learn how we, as designers, interface with open source in a sustainable way, how we integrate into different communities, and how we as coders, work with other designers. Today, we are very excited to have as our guest, Aaron Collier, who is a Technical Writer at Orbit, which is the design system for Kiwi.com. Aaron fills us in on what he does at Orbit, we’ll learn all about the process of writing documentation and designs systems, and how they get their contributors. He also explains why he doesn’t identify as a designer and he shares some struggles he’s had with the work that he does and the importance of having empathy. Go ahead and download this episode now to learn more!

[00:01:46] Aaron tells us what he does at Orbit and how it started.

[00:05:05] How does Aaron decide what the upper limits of abstraction are for a design system and how does he decide what’s included and what’s not included?

[00:06:35] We learn more about how the process of writing documentation and helping other people know how decisions were made works on a design system.

[00:09:00] Find out what koumpounophobia is and how Aaron makes it simpler and less scary for people to learn.

[00:11:19] In regard to logic trees and technical writing and documentation, Django wonders how Aaron decides how much justification is needed.

[00:13:47] Aaron tells us what’s hard for him about his work and what he struggles with.

[00:17:41] How does Orbit get all their contributors?

[00:20:08] Richard wonders if why Orbit doesn’t have a community manager.

[00:22:33] We learn how Aaron goes about deciding who to attract to their project.

[00:25:46] Aaron explains why he doesn’t identify as a designer.

[00:30:04] How does Aaron interface with a larger ecosystem given what he’s doing to make sure the doc writing is more sustainable?

[00:33:27] Aaron tells us about contributing back to open source tools which have been used in building up his template and if he thinks about design contributions as being a unit of currency within the larger open source design system.

[00:37:17] Find out where you can follow Aaron online.


[00:14:51] “It’s about having empathy for the situation that the other person is in when they’re reading your documentation.”


  • [00:37:58] Django’s spotlight is twin brothers, Martin and Carl Bridge, who were heads of the art department at his high school.
  • [00:38:49] Richard’s spotlights are Ms. Hojnicki, Orbit.love, and OrbitDB.
  • [00:39:33] Aaron’s spotlights are a previous high school Latin teacher, and a tool called Vale.