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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 June 2020

S. Kolarić*
Georgia Institute of Technology, United States of America
J. Beck
Milwaukee School of Engineering, United States of America
E. Stolterman
Indiana University, United States of America


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Hierarchies of knowledge represent a popular formalism for conceptualizing beliefs, justifications, and truth statements. To capitalize on the opportunity for formulating effective maps of design knowledge, this article introduces the hierarchical context–design development–high-level (CDH) model that stratifies different bodies of design-specific knowledge into ranked levels. We compare it with existing hierarchical models of knowledge, and describe its unique uses and benefits for both design research and design practice.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work.
The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press


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