Since the Software Engineering Institute has launched the Capability Maturity Model almost twenty years ago, hundreds of maturity models have been proposed by researchers and practitioners across multiple application domains. With process orientation being a central paradigm of organizational design and continuous process improvement taking top positions on CIO agendas, maturity models are also prospering in business process management. Although the application of maturity models is increasing in quantity and breadth, the concept of maturity models is frequently subject to criticism. Indeed, numerous shortcomings have been disclosed referring to both maturity models as design products and the process of maturity model design. Whereas research has already substantiated the design process, there is no holistic understanding of the principles of form and function – that is, the design principles – maturity models should meet. We therefore propose a pragmatic, yet well-founded framework of general design principles justified by existing literature and grouped according to typical purposes of use. The framework is demonstrated using an exemplary set of maturity models related to business process management. We finally give a brief outlook on implications and topics for further research.