Four Criteria for Design Theories

Peter Hodges, Stan Ruecker, Celso Scaletsky, Jaime Rivera, Roberto Faller, Amanda Geppert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The goal of this paper is to demonstrate that the adoption of the four criteria we outline will strengthen future design theories and encourage existing design theories to expand or reconfigure in useful directions. We propose four criteria for design theory creation and evaluation. These are (1) the theory should have substantial design applications, and be applicable to any topic; (2) the theory should use propositions—if-then language—as a way of describing, explaining, and predicting actual and existing aspects of designing; (3) where appropriate, a new theory should accept and adopt propositions and language contained in other design theories; and (4) the theory should accommodate, or at least acknowledge, generative activity. We are not proposing a new general design theory—this paper outlines a strong approach to studying and building theory. Please also note that this essay does not pretend to exhaust a topic that has been discussed for at least the last 50 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-74
Number of pages10
JournalShe Ji
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Design research
  • Design theory
  • Generative activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Education

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