Design theories provide theoretical foundation for design and can lead to insights that improve the practice of design. From a theoretical perspective, existing design theories have some major limitations that limit the insights that can be gained and restrict their applicability in practice. These limitations include the treatment of uncertainty and the lack of interaction of concerns regarding the designed artifact and the design process. In this paper, a new design theory is introduced that explicitly includes uncertainty considerations and enables quantitative tradeoffs between the utility of the product and the process. This new theory is inspired by decision theory and expands upon the traditional product-centric perspective of decision-based design; the new theory is therefore termed Rational Design Theory (RDT). RDT combines a decision-theory-inspired descriptive model of artifact design decisions with a normative perspective for design process decisions. This theory provides new insights into the process of design that can inspire improved design methods. Furthermore, RDT provides a quantitative framework for comparing the relative performance of different design processes.

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