Doctoral education in design has been expanding considerably since the mid 1990s and is now globally a lively part of many design schools. In this article we unpack what it is that constitutes, and is specific to, a doctorate in design. We offer a mapping of current international approaches, models and formats of the PhD in design. The design PhD is a site of considerable material, cultural and discursive innovation in terms of its genres, concern with design materials and communicability to interdisciplinary and professional audiences. This article presents one of few such analyses of the doctorate in design by addressing matters of its socio-cultural and economic location and interplays between practice and critical analysis. We argue for an open, unfolding mode of understanding the emergent character, discursive innovation and multimodal qualities of a wider knowledge materialisation of the PhD in design.