Episode 37

Seth Hillbrand on Designing and Funding at KiCad


March 14th, 2023

34 mins 53 secs

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode


Seth Hillbrand


Richard Littauer

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. Richard is very excited to have a guest with him since he’s solo today. Joining him is Seth Hillbrand, who’s a Lead Developer at KiCad, which is one of the leading electronic design and automation tools, and he’s the Founder of KiCad Services Corporation. Today, Seth explains what KiCad does, the products they make, how the KiCad project works, and how donations, services, and feature implementations help to fund it. We’ll also learn how KiCad has created ways to donate, interact, and be a part of their community. Download this episode now!

[00:01:10] Seth tells us what he does at KiCad, what KiCad does, and what kind of physical products the designers are making, which are some amazing things.

[00:05:59] How many people and how many developers are using KiCad?

[00:07:42] We heard about the contributors, and now we’ll learn about how the funding works for the open source project itself, and it may surprise you to hear that the bulk of their funding comes through donations, but not in the usual way that people do donations.

[00:13:45] Richard brings up the donate banner at the top of the KiCad page and wonders how Seth is designing this button for donations, and if it’s to make users feel different or to stick around.

[00:20:11] Seth explains how KiCad is not immune to the idea of radical transparency when it comes to showing how their funds are being used, he tells us for the KiCad project how they have different ways of distributing funds, and he how they changed their release model.

[00:33:59] Find out where you can follow Seth and KiCad online.


[00:09:59] “Everyone says you can’t build an open source project on donations, and I want to emphasize that is bunk. That is not a true statement unless you do the donation design wrong.”

[00:18:25] “We have two groups within our larger community. One group is the designers and the engineers who use KiCad to build their boards and projects, and the other group is going to be all the other industries that surround us that benefit from KiCad’s existence and want to have a greater say in how the community develops, because it’s a part of their success for KiCad to be successful.”

[00:21:53] “The hardest thing we have to do in KiCad is pay people to do work.”


  • [00:31:53] Richard’s spotlight is the AudioMoth.
  • [00:32:11] Seth’s spotlight is wxWidgets.