People’s Choice Award – Ponoko 10-Day Design Challenge Voting

We’ve had an awesome response to our 10-Day Design Challenge – Games and Puzzles. But that’s made it so hard to choose a final group of 15 that our judges ended up with 17, and refused to cut it back. Below you can see pictures of each puzzle, and BELOW THE PICTURES is the voting panel. If you’re a Designer of one of the winners below, feel free to invite all your friends and family to vote for you. In our first Design Challenge there was a very lively discussion about the choice of winners. So for all of you with strong opinions this is your chance to make them heard.

Please note you can click on the images of each product to go to their individual showroom page for more detail. Some are obvious in how they work, but others are intricate and may need a closer look to understand. Please remember, clicking on the image is NOT A VOTE for the product, you need scroll down to the bottom of the post and make your choice in the poll located there. Good luck everyone!

1. zen the infinite puzzle


2. Portrait Puzzle


3. Ponoku Anyone


4. Marble Madness


5. Tessa


6. Underground Maze


7. Crane Mobile – 6mm


8. Pteradactyl – 9mm


9. Layer Puzzle


10. California County Puzzle


11. Match the Typeface


12. Build (h)and Share: Maze Maker


13. Grimly Dominoes


14. Erik & Styx Double-Sided Puzzle


15. Puzzle Box


16. InterlaceCircle


17. Gears


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Stefan van der Poel

The most inventive and fascinating puzzle.

marylin mcbride

hi scott . iam your moms next door neighbour.
i hope you will win. i will send this on to every one i know.



Hi Scott…your mom sent me the link I have grandkids would probably have a blast with the marble madness…Hugs gaydria

I voted for the Marble Madness .. What a wonderful design

helena donaldson

He is so smart, AND cute!!!

I’ve forwarded this design challenge to every student in the board of education I work for and asked them to look at the puzzles/games and pick the one they would buy if they wanted to buy a puzzle/game. The younger “people’s choice” vote.

While I am of course disappointed that mine wasn’t one of the selected designs, there are a lot of really interesting puzzles here and I’m looking forward to seeing how these all turn out.

In the mean time we are planning to order a copy of the Puzzle Dominoes, tweak the design and start playing and perfecting the rules. Then I suspect we will offer it for sale. One of the problems with a large puzzle like that with lots of pieces is the rather high cutting cost. I optimized it to have as many shared lines as possible but it is still expensive. So we will also make a double 7 version which will be a lot less expensive.

Thanks Ponoko for the opportunity. It was fun and it forced me to jump into the game.

Man, these community voting sessions are borderline pointless. The voting has almost absolutely nothing to do with the actual designs, but more with how many people you know and how annoying you can be to try and get your entire contact list to vote for you regardless of your idea. I say skip this type of voting and only have an unbiased 3rd party panel of judges. They might as well toss out the designs and just have the designers names there so your friends/ family have a much easier time casting their vote.


There are some great ideas in this list. However, I don’t think that #7 & #8 actually read the rules of the contest. Neither of these items match the category descriptions of puzzles and games. They are toys and should not really be considered a part of this contest.

Good luck to everyone!

mark hinnenkamp

hi scott iam a friend of your moms on line from iowa very nice design , i voted for marble madness goos luck

Hello Malstria, I find your comment interesting considering you can purchase “3D Puzzles” at any hobby shop that involve simply the assembly of the pieces in a box. The difference with my designs is that they provide a dual use in that you can actually PLAY with the end product. A GOOD puzzle doesn’t end with the assemblage of parts but rather what you do with the puzzle once it’s finished.

A puzzle can defined at its most basic level as a mental challenge, as for my designs, they are geared towards a younger age group then the others entered within this competition.

ps: we plan on having these (and many more) for sale once the competition is over – we are just optimizing designs at the moment.

It would appear that some people just can’t be happy with anything!!

For the first design challenge people complained about who was chosen. So….second time around the folks at Ponoko decide to add a voting component for “The People’s Choice Award” hoping THAT might make people happy. Not only that, instead of choosing 15 as they originally stated, instead they end up choosing 17 and people are STILL complaining??? We should be grateful that they hold these competitions at all!!

I am certain that when choosing the finalists, the staff at Ponoko tried to pick a broad range of items to illustrate what is possible using their service; to get people thinking and expand their horizons. No one can deny that this sort of thing gets people thinking and motivates great designs. You may not think the right ones got chosen but deal with it.

And as for the voting…..they are still using judges. Voting is just for the “People’s Choice Award”. I think they are brilliant really. How many new people have now heard of Ponoko? It’s advertising for them.

The gang @ Ponoko have consistently shown that they listen, and care about their users. They are trying to build a community AND a successful business. I would like to congratulate them for their efforts and hope they don’t get frustrated by these few complainers that won’t be happy no matter what they do.

So… the Puzzle Box is mine so I would obviously like for my design to win this. If mine doesn’t win, I think the next best designs in my opinion are the “Zen Infinite Puzzle” (I could totally see this sitting on my coffee table if I didn’t have cats that would steal the pieces…), the “Layer Puzzle” (This would definitely classify as an executive puzzle and would look nice sitting on a desk.), and the Underground maze (The gear concept in it is very cool and I would love to see one that is manufactured to see how it moved.).

I’m a puzzle nut and I could totally consider buying puzzles like these if I saw them in a store.

Jon, I am very impressed with the toys you have created. They are very creative and fit together nicely. I am kind of confused as to the puzzle aspect of them, though. You don’t elaborate on what needs to be solved in the description of either item (or in the description any of the other intricate wooden toys you entered.) If the puzzle is a matter of putting them together, you should mention that in the description. I saw the videos on your website and they spoil this kind of puzzle by showing the exact assembly.

I agree with Bock.


Lieve Jeroen,

Wij hebben natuurlijk ook een stem uitgebracht voor jou.
Wat weer een prachtig stukje werk!
We zijn apetrots.
dikke kus Martin Liesbet Alan en Aron.

Hi Leo, the biggest challenge, no matter your age group, is developing the mental capacity to imagine how something that is 2D can become functional within a 3D environment. The animations simply help re-enforce this idea in my opinion and are a fantastic sales tool to boot (I wish there was a way of putting them up on Ponoko)! It’s always up to the end user whether to follow my step-by-step guides / animations or not after purchasing the plans/pieces.

My designs where originally geared towards woodworkers but thanks to Ponoko, I can soon enter a far larger marketplace for those not blessed with tools. This is where the puzzle aspect of my designs can now take shape. I have a lot of work still left to do converting all my designs to follow Ponoko’s parameters. Rest assured Leo, I will be heavily revising my own site and information on Ponoko once I am done over the next few weeks to include their “puzzle” aspect.


Hi Jon, imagining how something 2D can become functional within a 3D environment is a challenge for the designer, really. Ikea makes all kinds of furniture and the like that comes flat-packed and require instructions but I wouldn’t really consider them puzzles. Another angle on what you describe is similar to Legos. Mind you, I have lots of Legos and I think that they are a great thinking activity, but they toys and building tools by definition. Again, I am not trying to make any less of the toys you created. I am just trying to figure out how they fit into the puzzle arena. (Maybe this is a puzzle for me…?)

Hi Dave,
Since it’s pretty obvious you were replying to me, I’ll first say that I completely agree with you in that this is great advertising for Ponoko and it does inspire new ideas and creativity. I think Ponoko is great and a brilliant business idea, but I fail to see the reason for this type of voting that is supposed to be based on idea and design, when in reality it’s not–and everyone knows that. As a professional product designer as my career, I strive to make beautiful and successful products based on the product itself, not me standing at the entrance to the store and telling customers to go buy them. A good product should sell itself.

Leo, ANY type of mental challenge whether perceived or real is a puzzle… figuring out how to get from the local bus station to your home is as much a puzzle as a crossword yet one would be considered orientation while the other a game. My designs could be considered a toy, entertainment, puzzle or even firewood depending on the person who receives them. This neither adds nor takes away from what they are, designs worthy of being nominated 😉

ps: I agree with Bock, a good product sells itself but HOW a person perceives the end-use of a product is up to the consumer, not the designer (puzzle or otherwise).

Just wanted to give a shout-out to the Layer Puzzle. I think it’s beautiful and challenging. (I have nothing to do with who gets nominated btw.) I would buy it!


As David points out the voting is only for one part of the awards. There is judging for the others. So surely it’s best of both worlds?

If anyone’s really concerned about missing out on the voting award then should go stick up posters, tell their neighbors, friends, spam everyone in their address book, whoever, however. Good on them.

I voted for a design from someone I do not know and will probably never meet. It’s cool to think they’ve spent their time and energy on something which is now here for me to see and give them some ‘support’.

If others did the same then that must have some effect on balancing the whole ‘whoever has the most friends wins’ view? They weren’t standing anywhere telling me to buy anything. I liked their idea and execution of their design so I clicked a button, then I made a cup of coffee…

I agree with indigo! but I hope I get one for free Jeroen!

Hawmij, good for you! We need more people like you.

As a professional puzzle designer (e.g., crosswords in New York Times and many other publications and go to for my new puzzle book) and semi-pro game designer, I’m surprised at some of the choices in the top 17 and I’m also surprised at some omissions. It looks to me like the judges valued diversity of laser cutting techniques over quality of puzzles and games.

I agree about the voting — it does seem strange, especially when you read some of the early comments above, where the commenters don’t even seem to know what this blog is. And the final designs aren’t even posted yet. Why open the voting now? Although I have favorites already, I’ll wait to vote.

I started writing a longer response here and then realized I should just blog about it and put a link here, so I wrote about my three entries, and commented on the finalists as well as some non-finalists that I liked. Some comments are negative, but I think they’re all respectful. And, yes, I realize that by critiquing, I’m opening myself up to criticism. But I do welcome any feedback on my own designs. To read the post, go to

In any event, like badweasel plans to do with his binary dominoes, I’m planning to make up some WIM sets on Ponoko. I had been thinking of trying to produce a run of the game for a while, but it didn’t seem practical. The cost per set is higher here, but I don’t have to make up 100 or 1000. Ponoko’s contest pushed me to take it to the next step and I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn out. And, even though none of my designs made it to the finals, that’s still an OK outcome.

Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in WIM or Puzzle Coasters.

Jon, I understand that in the loosest sense of the term, almost anything can be construed as a puzzle, but unless I take the greatest liberty with the term “Puzzle”, I am unable to determine what needs to be solved with your items.

Hi Scott. It’s Tim’s sister, Sherri. Good luck with the contest. Hope you win.

Hmm, can I switch my image? Now that I have the printed copy, I can make a nice picture that’s not just a screen-capped image of the program I used to generate my puzzle.

That image, btw, was taken at 11:57pm on the night of the deadline. Ah, such memories of college 😉

-Kate, creator of the last-place Gear puzzle.

Hi Kate,

You should be able to update the pictures for your puzzle.

You’re not last place. They are in chronological order, I believe. =]

Has anyone recieved their entry for assembly yet?

I haven’t heard anything and the 30th is coming pretty quick!! Marble Madness has 56 pieces!! :-O

Scott, we’re sending an email out today/tomo letting everyone know their tracking number and everything else they need to properly enter the invitational stage.

Kate, I’ve emailed you so you just need to get back to me with a new picture and we can replace it for you.

I received both my plans a few days ago, will be posting an update shortly with pictures. I also released a puzzle system for sale on Ponoko that wasn’t complete on time for this contest but if you are interested in a puzzle within a puzzle all kept together by a piece of string, check-out this link.


As the designer of the gear puzzle, I can guarantee that it does move, even when all the gears are in sequence. When I get home, I’ll make a video for Youtube.

The only issue: it’s not meshing as nicely as I like. Kids, remember to always increase your outlines to compensate for the laser’s width. I keep forgetting that lesson.

Tina en Jan

nr. 9, the layer-puzzle(puzzle- and esthetic quality in one). We hope you win, Jeroen

“Kids, remember to always increase your outlines to compensate for the laser’s width.”

🙂 Made me snigger.

I’m sure that that will one day be a common phrase in school. – Like remembering to look before crossing the road.

Good luck all.

Now that (almost) everybody has posted their final versions, I’ve put up a second blog post with comments on the final puzzles and my personal choices for best puzzles.

I look forward to finding-out who are the winners of this contest! Roy, I changed the name of my Pterodactyl (instead of Pteradactyl) after reading your blog article a week ago but for some reason, Ponoko is linking to some hidden design page that I do not have access to – you can see off the showroom the correct one.

Flightsofideas, you have a interesting evaluation, I would have liked to have seen your cube puzzle though – it would have been neat but I guess you ran out of time to produce it. 10 days sure isn’t a lot of time and I look forward to the next contest when I have 10 days to really produce something absolutely amazing.


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