Interest in how to support the design work of university teachers has led to research and development initiatives that include technology-based design-support tools, online repositories, and technical specifications. Despite these initiatives, remarkably little is known about the design work that university teachers actually do. This paper presents findings from a qualitative study that investigated the design processes of 30 teachers from 16 Australian universities. The results show design as a top-down iterative process, beginning with a broad framework to which detail is added through cycles of elaboration. Design extends over the period before, while, and after a unit is taught, demonstrating the dynamic nature of design and highlighting the importance of reflection in teachers' design practice. We present a descriptive model of the design process, which we relate to conceptualizations of higher education teaching and learning, and compare with the characteristics of general design and instructional design. We also suggest directions for future research and development.