A modern take on Japanese Joinery that invites the visually impaired into the world of assembly.

TimelineFebruary - May , 2020
University ProjectIndividual Project
Mentored byGionata Gatto
ProcessConceptualization - Research - Rendering - Structural Analysis

Project Brief

The goal for this project was to develop a joinery system for a set of PVC pipes, giving it structural stability and finding different avenues for its use apart for its usual plumbing applications.

The Challenge

Ever since the 12th Century Japanese Joineries have been used in various constructions to provide a simple yet sturdy build. The most interesting aspect of these joineries is its ethos of "No screw, No glue" construction. The challenge with this project was to find a method of use these qualities of Japanese Joineries to offer the experience of assembly for the visually Impaired.


This phase of the project was quite crucial as it involved exploring the multiple forms and techniques used to design and manufacture Japanese Joints, to eventually choose the type of joint to take further.

Simultaneously, looking into new manufacturing techniques to produce Japanese joineries led to the use of 3D printing. This offered a versatility and accuracy in shaping the joints which would have been difficult to achieve through wood.


By the end of the research phase there was a clear winner for the type of joint to work with forward and it was the Castle Joints also known as Shiro Joineries.

The Shiro joint is a 3 part system, which once interlocked provides a robust construction that stretches into all three axes. Adopting Shiro joints also meant it was much easier to 3D print as it is a form that requires no-supports.

Additionally, various rounds of ideation were going on to develop a form that could communicate the process of assembly. The idea was to implement signifiers within the form to tell an order of assembling the 3 parts of the joinery.


Cipher is a new take on Japanese Joinery aimed at inviting the visually impaired into the world of assembly.

Cipher is able to achieve this by re-working the form of the Shiro joinery to signify the order of assembly by using a system of identifiers. The first signifier is the variable fillets on the 3 parts of the joinery. For instance, the first piece has only one fillet and three sharper edges, the second part has two fillets and 2 sharper edges and so on. This change in form between the three parts, differentiates each part and simultaneously gives an idea of order in which to assemble them.

In addition to the fillet system, a difference in the color of the edges provides a point of contrast that the visually impaired can easily pick on. This provides another touchpoint for the users to form an idea of order and assist assembly.

Possibilities of Cipher

The process of assembly provides a sense of satisfaction like no other, but is unfortunately not being experienced by a large part of our society. One of the greatest successes of a company like IKEA is the fact that its customers are equally a part of the furniture that surrounds them through the DIY culture that it spreads.

Cipher aims to impart this same sensation of accomplishment and satisfaction to the visually impaired community as it is an opportunity to empower them and make them an equal part of the process.


A modern take on Japanese Joinery that invites the visually impaired into the world of assembly.