Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to suggest that translating a design theory (DT) into practice (e.g. creating an instance design artifact (IDA)) is hardly straight-forward and requires substantial creativity. Specifically the authors suggest that adopting a DT embodies a creativity passdown effect in which the creative thinking of a team of design theorist(s) inherent in DT invokes a creative mind of a team of artifact instance designer(s) in creating an IDA. In this study, the authors empirically investigate the creativity passdown effect through an action case in which a DT (DT nexus) was applied in creating an IDA (multi-outsourcing decision-making tool). Design/methodology/approach – The case methodology applied here is described as an action case. An action case is a hybrid research approach that combines action research and interpretive case approaches. It combines intervention and interpretation in order to achieve both change and understanding. It is a form of soft field experiment with less emphasis on iteration and learning and more on trial and making. The approach is holistic in philosophy, and prediction is not emphasized. The intervention in the case was that of an instance designer team introducing a previously published DT as a basis for creating an IDA. Findings – The experience in the action case suggests that using a DT in creating an IDA may encourage design thinking, and in certain way increase its power and practical relevance by fostering the creative mind of instance designers. Indeed, DTs provide a scientific basis for dealing with an instance problem, and this evokes the creativity mind of instance designers. Without such a scientific basis, it is a lot more challenging for instance artifact designers to deal with instance problems. Research limitations/implications – This study contributes to the literature concerning design science research, as it challenges the notion that adopting scientific design knowledge limits creativity inherent in creating IDA by illustrating creative elements involved in adopting DT as a basis for creating IDAs. Practical implications – This study offers implications to practice, as it provides new insights regarding how DT can be used in instance design activities. Originality/value – A report of this research previously appeared as a conference paper. However, the attached journal version has been completely rewritten to additionally contribute to the literature concerning design science research beyond the conference version. More specifically, in this version, the authors conceptualize adopting a DT to build an IDA as a theoretical basis, and the authors challenge the notion that adopting scientific design knowledge limits creativity inherent in creating IDA by illustrating creative elements involved in executing DT as a basis for creating IDAs.