Upcoming Courses

go to course
Emotional Design: How to make products people will love
go to course
UI Design Patterns for Successful Software
87% booked. Starts in 8 days

Featured chapter

Marc Hassenzahl explains the fascinating concept of User Experience and Experience Design. Commentaries by Don Norman, Eric Reiss, Mark Blythe, and Whitney Hess

User Experience and Experience Design !


Our Latest Books

The Social Design of Technical Systems: Building technologies for communities. 2nd Edition
by Brian Whitworth and Adnan Ahmad
start reading
Gamification at Work: Designing Engaging Business Software
by Janaki Mythily Kumar and Mario Herger
start reading
The Social Design of Technical Systems: Building technologies for communities
by Brian Whitworth and Adnan Ahmad
start reading
The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction, 2nd Ed.
by Mads Soegaard and Rikke Friis Dam
start reading

Tradition and transcendence

In the HCI or interaction design community the expression "the dialectics between tradition and transcendence" is often used. The phrase was coined by Pelle Ehn in his PhD thesis (1988), and captures the idea that the tension between tradition and transcendence is fundamental to design. The tension is to be understood in terms of the designer's role being somewhere in the space between extending and improving the present design context (to root the design in the present tradition) and exploring, and eventually reifying ("thingifying"), possible future worlds by transcending, going beyond, or breaking the boundaries of the existing tradition, ideas, and conceptions of the design context. In an interview in Rogers et al. (2002), Terry Winograd explains:

"[...] people work and live in certain ways already, and they understand how to adapt that within a small range, but they don't have an understanding or a feel for what it would mean to make a radical change, for example, to change their way of doing business on the Internet before it was around, or to change their way of writing from pen and paper when word processors weren't around. I think what the designer is trying to do is to envision things for users that the users can't yet envision. The hard part is not fixing little problems, but designing things that are both innovative and that work." (Rogers et al. 2002: p. 71, as cited by Jonas Lowgren on BoxesAndArrows.com).

Thus, to design is among other things to envision and reify possible futures, where the users as well as the technology are different from today. Not necessarily a mere augmentation of the present state of affairs.


Join our community and advance:




Join our community!

User-contributed notes

Give us your opinion! Do you have any comments/additions
that you would like other visitors to see?

comment You (your email) say: Oct 25th, 2014
Oct 25
Add a thoughtful commentary or note to this page ! 

will be spam-protected
How many?
= e.g. "6"
User ExperienceBy submitting you agree to the Site Terms


 what's this?

Ehn, Pelle (1988): Work-Oriented Design of Computer Artifacts. Stockholm, Arbetslivscentrum

Preece, Jennifer J., Rogers, Yvonne and Sharp, Helen (2002): Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction. John Wiley and Sons