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Design Innovation

Design innovation empowers Northwestern students to imagine a new future.

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It all starts with
PEOPLE.

We teach design innovators to apply a human-centered approach to problem-solving and expand the research frontiers of design. Discover our range of programs featuring hands-on, interdisciplinary projects that solve real problems for real people.

Design Innovation is about
mindset, process, and tools.

Mindset

Mindset: Design innovation is serious play. Adopt a designer's mindset: let go of fear of failure and have a solution-focused attitude. You'll be better able to take risks and design what's next.

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Mindset
Process

Process: The design innovation process involves some version of these steps: identify, ideate, and iterate. The goal: allowing you to design with the end user always first in your mind.

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Process
Tools

Tools: There’s no big prize for correctly solving the wrong problem. Tools like user observation help you understand the people you’re designing for and build empathy for their situation.

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Tools

Human-Centered Design Projects

At both the graduate and undergraduate level, our students work on projects that produce tangible results and improve the lives of people around the world. Our team-based approach to education encourages students to use design thinking together to solve complex, authentic problems in product, interaction, service, and business design.

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The Alligator Tail

The Alligator Tail

A V-shaped aluminum rail that hooks onto the axle of a wheelchair.

New wheelchair users risk falling backward while learning how to perform a wheelie, a critical skill for navigating in a wheelchair.

While The Alligator Tail is attached, the user will be safely caught if they tip back beyond their point of balance.

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inControl

inControl

A video game controller designed for patients who have hemiplegia, or paralysis on one of the body.

A recreational therapist observed that patients with hemiplegia have trouble playing video games with a traditional controller designed for two hands.

A team of Northwestern Engineering students designed a controller to solve this problem by mapping both joysticks to the user’s functioning hand.

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Optik

Optik

Optik, an all-in-one case for biweekly contact lens wearers.

Biweekly contact lens users often find it difficult to remember to change their contacts on time.

Students designed Optik, a product that includes a reservoir pre-filled with two weeks worth of contact solution.

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Who we work with

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James Kubik
James Kubik

James Kubik

MaDE '14

"So much of Segal Design Institute is about how design and engineering go hand in hand in a very practical sense. You’re doing both engineering and design at the same time in the same class and that’s the beauty of the MaDE program."
See James' startup venture

Haoqi Zhang
Haoqi Zhang

Haoqi Zhang

Breed Junior Chair of Design

"Design arguments are the reasons why a design may work. You need to build a language for thinking about how to argue for an idea and explain why it is the right move."
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Amelia Fish
Amelia Fish

Amelia Fish

EDI '16 & Senior User Experience Designer, 3M

"Coming to the design team [at 3M] with several years of engineering experience was a huge advantage. I was able to better relate to the people I worked with on the technical and business teams than a traditional designer might."
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Manogna Lekkalapudi
Manogna Lekkalapudi

Manogna Lekkalapudi

MMM '19

"[The MMM Program] adds an extra dimension of empathetic and user-centered perspective to your management skills, bringing together both the EQ and the IQ elements of analytical thinking."
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Wendy Roldan
Wendy Roldan

Wendy Roldan

Segal Design Certificate '17

"With the mentorship I received at Segal Design Institute and Delta Lab, I have discovered my passion for research at the intersection of design thinking, manufacturing, and engineering."
See Wendy Roldan's project

What we teach

The interdisciplinary academic programs at the Segal Design Institute provide undergraduate and graduate students with collaborative training at the forefront of innovation and human-centered design.

Explore our opportunities to find a program that best fits your goals.

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Undergraduate Study

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Whether you're looking to take a single design course or earn your bachelor's degree or certificate in design, Segal provides a wide range of exciting opportunities for undergraduates.

Master's Graduate Study

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Discover the right program to position yourself for the next step in your career in industry, research, or academia.

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PhD Graduate Study

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PhD students at Segal work in the Design Cluster, an interdisciplinary doctoral cluster program jointly sponsored by Segal, the McCormick School of Engineering, and The Graduate School at Northwestern.

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Executive Education

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The Segal Design Institute has partnered with the Kellogg School of Management to offer two dynamic programs for mid- to senior-level executives‚ created to catalyze innovation through design thinking.

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WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF

Design Innovation

Design innovation creates value using design-centric tools and frameworks such as empathy, visualization, prototyping, and iteration. By acquiring design innovation skills, we are prepared to find and frame problems, identify opportunities, and innovate across a variety of spaces. We are ready to bring our ideas to life.
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