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Making Children Learn vs Making Children Learners

We Revisit a Blog With Lessons We Can Learn About Moving Beyond Design Thinking to Design Feeling

In 2017, I wrote that current trends in pedagogy risked turning learning into the ‘dour, lifeless, externally and utilitarian driven, individual (not individualised) pursuit of something that lies ahead’.

Seven years later it seems as if the writing is starting to appear on the wall (again) for reductive behaviourist approaches to children and young people as we realise (again) that humans are emotional creatures with drives and needs that can be recognised, not subjugated, in our classrooms.

Design Feeling

Back then I reproduced (with permission) a section of a blog about 'Design Feeling' from an expert named Chase Buckley and encouraged educators to replace the word ‘design’ with ‘pedagogy’ or 'teaching'.

And I asked a number of questions including whether we are making learning happen at the expense of making learners happen?

As the tide starts to turn (again), see what you think now when you read the following from the perspective of the teacher who knows there is more to teaching than following a strict ‘What works’ agenda and more to an education than remembering things. Lots of things.


Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. Design Thinking draws upon logic, strategy, and systemic reasoning to explore possibilities of what could be — and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user.

The problem with design thinking is that it relies almost entirely on thinking. Rooted in analytical reasoning, logic, ontologies and systems — design thinking is a 'left-brain' endeavor. It may have the word “design” in its title, but don’t be fooled —this cult-like methodology is little more than a trick used by engineers to sound creative.

Extraordinary Sameness

Design Thinking has led us to a world of depressing homogeneity.

It is no wonder that the “designs” of today are so homogeneous and dull; the prevalence of design-thinking, with its strict adherence to reason, has resulted in a generation of products that are fuelled entirely by logic but completely devoid of passion. Everything has become templatized. What we end up with is a world full of generic forms, lifeless products, and soulless “innovations”.

Design Thinking is responsible for the extraordinary “sameness” of every single web design.

Everything has become templatized. What we end up with is a world full of generic forms, lifeless products, and soulless “innovations”.

Think Less, Feel More

But the monotony that pervades the world of technology and design may be nearing its end. As technology becomes more and more commoditized and undifferentiated, thanks to the soulless handiwork of design-thinking, companies are looking for new methodologies to innovate and distinguish their products. Many, including visionaries like IDEAO's Tim Brown and InVision's Clark Valberg, are realizing that they should be thinking less, and feeling a whole lot more.

Design Feeling calls for a return to what is natural and intuitive. It is a movement that puts humanity back into design. It is about feeling problems out, not analyzing them. Its about sensing solutions, not testing them. And, unlike the wretched processes of design-thinking, design feeling is rooted in impulse, spontaneity, desire, passion, feeling, imagination, and indulgence. It represents creativity at its core. Design is not a process. Its an art.


In an exclusive interview I had with Tim Brown, IDEO’s CEO famous for bringing design-thinking to the masses, Tim confessed that Design-Thinking has led to the hideous state of design that we are burdened with today. After providing Tim with one-on-one lessons on the virtues of design-feeling, he confessed to me, “so much of my life has been wasted prostrating myself before the false idol of design-thinking…I should have been thinking so much less, and feeling so much more..”

Design Feeling is already being used by the world’s most bleeding-edge game changers, and soon enough, if you want to keep your job, you’ll be using it too.


Such an article reminds me of the famous words of the Danish Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr when he protested to his students:

'No, no, you're not thinking. You're just being logical' [ITL]

To find out more about booking Ian Gilbert for your school, college or organisation call us on 01267 211432 or drop us an email on

About the author

Ian Gilbert

Ian Gilbert is an award-winning writer, editor, speaker, innovator and the founder of Independent Thinking. He has lived and worked in Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia and is privileged to have such a global view of education and education systems.

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