Touch the Valley

Building from the ubiquitous jigsaw puzzle as inspiration, we build topographic puzzle pieces with high contouring textile. It is a fun learning tool for the visually impared/blind to better understand our environment through the act of putting together the undulating topographic puzzle.


Product Design
3D Topographic Puzzle
2023 - Ongoing
Design Development 
Vincent Yee Foo Lai, Douglas Min Yi Lee, Bryant Nguyen
Victor Lee (Videographer), Tszho Ho (Technical Consultant)

What if the visually-impared or blind community can learn the makeup of our physical world through play? What if there is an opportunity to build a puzzle for these communities to play and feel our majestic world we live in? We developed a highly contoured 3D topographic puzzle for the visually impaired to navigate through our physical world with their sense of touch. It is a bite size way to regain our sense of touch a piece at a time through play. From the moment you receive the box, you can touch and identify the puzzle's information in braille and debossed alphabets.

The topographic puzzle is made up of highly precise contours that flows seamlessly across every puzzle piece. The elevation of the topography is marked by zigzag texture on every side of the puzzle piece to allow users to feel and mentally count the elevation to connect the pieces. This high contour tactility together with the piece’s elevation enables the user to connect adjacent pieces one by one. For this prototype, we use the Yosemite valley as a testing bed because it possesses high elevation differences for better contouring textile.

The aim of this product is to encourage you to primarily rely on touch to navigate throughout the game.

From the moment you receive the box, you can touch and identify the puzzle’s information in braille and debossed alphabets.

Opening sequence of the packaging

This topographic puzzle aims to reimagine the today’s braille system by translating our intuitive experience with our landscape into a form of a puzzle. We want to foster a closer relationship between mother nature and our human touch through play one piece at a time.

The puzzle's universal grid keeps all pieces systematically oriented and organized. Connection notches help to connect adjacent puzzle pieces more intuitively. They also represent geographical cardinal directions. In addition, elevational grooves amplify the puzzle pieces' height differences. Lastly, embedded magnets provide prompt haptic feedback when the right pieces are connected.

Through user engagement and taking the feedback from the sessions, these features aim to minimize the cognitive load of playing the puzzle 
as well as enhancing its playability.

Different materials and textures were also experimented with - such as casting the puzzle in silicone rubber, spray painting various aggregates to emulate certain textures in nature (e.g. rock, sand, grass, etc.). We also tested with different tactile patterns to abstract and represent natural elements such as trees, rock formations, snow and more.

Project clip from Lexus Design Awards