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DTC Process & Partner Expectations


***Notice to students, parents, and project partners:  We will be following Northwestern and community COVID-19 safety guidelines***.

As a project partner with Design Thinking and Communication (DTC), you will collaborate with teams of first-year Northwestern Engineering students to solve a design problem.

In DTC, students learn design thinking, prototyping, and communication tools while solving real problems for real people. 

While DTC project work focuses more on the design process than the final product, many student teams are able to produce partially functional prototypes within eight weeks. 

DTC students meet with an end user for a project partner.

The Design Process

The DTC design process includes:


For clarification, the following list of commonly used terms are defined here :

DTC Partner Expectations

As a project partner, you will be expected to: 

Student & Partner Understandings Form

If your DTC project proposal is accepted, you will be given a hard copy of the Student & Partner Understandings form (PDF)  to sign. Please take a moment to read this form before submitting a project proposal so that you clearly understand what is expected of you as a partner.

DTC students conduct user testing.

DTC Project Timeline

At Northwestern, each term is ten weeks long. Please review this timeline to learn how your experience as a DTC project partner will unfold during a term. You will be provided with specific dates in advance. Generally, all meetings take roughly one hour. However, specific time requirements will be determined when your team contacts you. 

Initial Meeting – Week 2 of the term

You meet the team and they ask you questions about your design problem. We do prefer you meet your student team in person but we are flexible to other meeting methods, such as Zoom. 

User Observation – Week 3 of the term

You connect the team with the person or people they are designing the solution for. The team observes these individuals and observes the design problem in action. The team will travel off campus to observe. Teams must observe the users of the solution at least once. 

User Testing – Week 6 of the term

By now, the team will have a design idea. They will bring it to you and the end users for user testing and user feedback. Teams must test their solution on the individuals who will use the solution at least once. 

Final Presentation – Week 10 of the term

In the fall and winter terms, the final presentations take place at the DTC Project Fair on a Saturday at the end of the term. You will be notified of the date in advance. In the spring term, the presentations take place during the final exam period of the class (students will confirm the date and time with you in advance).


Submit a Project Proposal

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