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Northwestern University

DTC Project Partnerships

Design Thinking & Communication (DTC) Project Partnerships

Let Northwestern students take on diverse problems — big or small, individual or collective — and create practical ways to make people’s lives better.

What is DTC?

Design Thinking & Communication (DTC) is a course taken by all first-year Northwestern Engineering students that combines design thinking with professional communication, uniting Segal students and community members to tackle complex challenges through design projects. DTC is co-taught by faculty at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Cook Family Writing Program.

Segal students use a human-centered design mindset, process, and tools to understand your problem, iterate, prototype, and communicate the final result.

How Does This Work?

What do you want to achieve? What problem is getting in your way? We’ll work with you to figure out how to make a project based on that challenge. This is the collaborative problem-solving nature of DTC.

Project partners commit to 5 to 10 hours of collaboration over ten weeks, during which they’ll meet with their student teams multiple times to review progress and give feedback.

Ultimately, following the final presentation, you’ll receive a semi-functional proof of concept that can be used to address your challenge or need and a detailed report that contains their research and findings from throughout the design process. Students may use physical mockups or digital concepts – such as CAD models, digital prototypes, app simulators, or video presentations – to convey their design ideas.

Understand our expectations and process in depth

What Makes a Good DTC Project?

It's important for a DTC project proposal to focus on what you want to achieve and not how you want to achieve it. The goal is to allow students the opportunity to explore multiple potential solutions. For example, a good project proposal might state: "I need help removing snow from my roof in the winter."

A vital part of the process requires frequent checkins to answer student questions, test their initial ideas, and provide your feedback. These checkins can involve you and other people who will be impacted by the design such as a client, customer, friend, or coworker.

Things We’d Love to Talk to You About

If you have a problem in mind, but you’re not sure if it will in fit into our Project Partnership program, reach out to us! We’d love to discuss ways to connect you with our students.

Types of Past Projects

Students have tackled a variety of projects that challenge them to diagnose design problems and find solutions. Some require multiple attempts over years, but many leverage student creativity, enthusiasm, and unique perspectives to offer practical ways to make things easier, such as preventing wheelchair tipping or enhancing the breadfruit drying process in the Caribbean and Africa.

Explore more DTC projects

Ready to Work with Us?

Submit a project proposal

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