Many information system design situations today include users, designers, and developers who, with their own unique group and individual perspectives, need to interact so that they can come to a working understanding of how the information system being developed will coexist with and ideally support patterns of work activities, social groups, and personal beliefs. In these situations, design is fundamentally an interactive process that requires communication among users, designers, and developers. However, communication among these groups is often difficult although of paramount importance to design outcomes. Through a qualitative analysis of a house, expert system, and telecommunications network architecture and management system design situations, a descriptive model of design that characterizes communication among users, designers, and developers as they create an artifact was developed. The model describes design phases, roles, themes, and intergroup communication networks as they evolve throughout the design process and characterizes design as a process of ''contested collaboration.'' It is a first step towards a predictive design model that suggests strategies which may help participants interact more effectively and ultimately improve the quality of design outcomes and the design process.