Design Theory

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Design theory


Alternate name(s)

Design Research, Design Science

Main dependent construct(s)/factor(s)

Main independent construct(s)/factor(s)

Concise description of theory

Design theory involves examining and evaluating design as a concept. A number of scholars in information systems research have examined and evaluated the concept of design.  The focus of design in information systems is on design of IT artifacts. There are differing opinions about what constitutes design for information technology artifacts. Walls et al. (1992) specify two major components of IT design theories: a product component and a development process component. Each draws upon kernel theories (usually taken from the natural or social sciences) in specifying prescriptive hypotheses that enable designers to evaluate whether the product and its development process satisfy the design theory. Goldkuhl (2004) specifies a need for multiple grounding of design theories in external theories, reference theories, value theories, etc. Markus et al. (2002) take a more practical view of design theories, using these theories to explain the means– ends relationship as a practical, prescriptively causal mechanism to justify design components.

Diagram/schematic of theory


Source: Hevner, A., March, S. T., Park, J., & Ram, S. (2004). Design science in information systems research. MIS quarterly, 28(1), 75-105.

Originating author(s)

Seminal articles

Weber, R. (1987). Toward a theory of artifacts: a paradigmatic base for information systems research. Journal of Information Systems, 1(2), 3-19.

Walls, J. G., Widmeyer, G. R., & El Sawy, O. A. (1992). Building an information system design theory for vigilant EIS. Information systems research, 3(1), 36-59.

March, S. T., & Smith, G. F. (1995). Design and natural science research on information technology. Decision support systems, 15(4), 251-266.

Simon, H. A. (1996). The sciences of the artificial (Vol. 136). MIT press.

Markus, M. L., Majchrzak, A., & Gasser, L. (2002). A design theory for systems that support emergent knowledge processes. Mis Quarterly, 179-212.

Hevner, A., March, S. T., Park, J., & Ram, S. (2004). Design science in information systems research. MIS quarterly, 28(1), 75-105.

Gregor, S., & Jones, D. (2007). The anatomy of a design theory. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 8(5), 312-335.

Peffers, K., Tuunanen, T., Rothenberger, M. A., & Chatterjee, S. (2007). A design science research methodology for information systems research. Journal of management information systems, 24(3), 45-77.

Originating area


Level of analysis

Design of an IS artifact

IS articles that use the theory

Germonprez, M., Hovorka, D., & Gal, U. (2011). Secondary design: A case of behavioral design science research. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 12(10). Retrieved from

Germonprez, M., Kendall, J. E., Kendall, K. E., Mathiassen, L., Young, B., & Warner, B. (2016). A theory of responsive design: A field study of corporate engagement with open source communities. Information Systems Research, 28(1), 64–83.

Links from this theory to other theories

External links

Original Contributor(s)

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