The concept of a dominant design has taken on a quasi-paradigmatic status in analyses of the link between technological and industrial dynamics. A review of the empirical literature reveals a variety of interpretations about some aspects of the phenomenon such as its underlying causal mechanisms and its level of analysis. To stimulate further progress in empirical research on dominant designs, we advocate a standardization of terminology by conceptualizing products as complex artifacts that evolve in the form of a nested hierarchy of technology cycles. Such a nested complex system perspective provides both unambiguous definitions of dominant designs (stable core components that can be stable interfaces) and inclusion of multiple levels of analysis (system, subsystems, components). We introduce the concept of an operational principle and offer a systematic definition of core and peripheral subsystems based on the concept of pleiotropy. We also discuss how the proposed terminological standardization can stimulate cumulative research on dominant designs.