The production of design space refers to the activity of an individual or a group of individuals considering alternatives and possibilities for a design brief. Design studies often consider constraints to be a major determinant of design space, yet this paper introduces the notion of contradiction to underscore a dialectical determination of design space. The intention here is to characterise the production of design space as a socio-material rather than a cognitive process. This is accomplished through an in-depth look at a medical imaging centre project and an experiment with design students about the same project. In comparison to the original project, the students' activity reproduced the same contradictions faced by practitioners.