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DTC Process & Partner Expectations


*** Notice to students, parents, and project partners, the nature of the Design Thinking & Communication program has been altered to meet the University’s COVID-19 safety precautions. The information below may not accurately define the experience for the ’20-’21 academic year. We are dedicated to providing an educational and thoughtful experience for all parties involved.

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:

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.

Initial Meeting – Week 2 of the term

You meet the team and they ask you questions about your design problem. In fall and winter terms, this meeting must be on campus. In the spring term, students can meet clients at a convenient location. 

User Observation – Week 3 of the term

You connect the team with the end users for the project. The team observes the end users and observes the design problem in action. The team will travel off campus to observe the end users.

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. 

Final Presentation – Week 10 of the term

In the fall and winter terms, the final presentations take place at Design Expo 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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