Visual impairment affects over 285 million people worldwide and has a major impact on an individual's quality of life. Tissue engineering has the potential to increase the quality of life for many of these patients by preventing vision loss or restoring vision using cell-based therapies. However, these strategies will require an understanding of the microenvironmental factors that influence cell behavior. The eye is a well-organized organ whose structural complexity is essential for proper function. Interactions between ocular cells and their highly ordered extracellular matrix are necessary for maintaining key tissue properties including corneal transparency and retinal lamination. Therefore, it is not surprising that culturing these cells in vitro on traditional flat substrates result in irregular morphology. Instead, topographically patterned biomaterials better mimic native extracellular matrix and have been shown to elicit in vivo-like morphology and gene expression which is essential for tissue engineering. Herein we review multiple methods for producing well-controlled topography and discuss optimal biomaterial scaffold design for cells of the cornea, retina, and lens. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part B: Appl Biomater, 101B: 1571–1584, 2013.