The Art of Domino Installations


A domino is a small, thumbsized, rectangular block with one or both ends bearing from one to six dots, called pips. 28 such dominoes form a complete set. The pips distinguish a domino from similar blocks, which may be used in other games and are sometimes referred to as bones, cards, men, or pieces. Dominoes are typically made of wood or plastic, although they may be made from other rigid materials such as metal, stone, or ceramic clay. A set of dominoes can be played by placing the pieces in a line or an angular pattern, then “flicking” the first piece, which then triggers the rest of the chain to fall.

In physics, the term domino is also applied to an actual series of collisions or to causal linkages within complex systems such as global finance or politics. A mechanical version of the domino effect is exploited in Rube Goldberg machines, which are a type of engineering puzzle.

Physicist Stephen Morris explains that standing a domino upright, against the force of gravity, gives it potential energy (energy based on its position). When the domino is flicked, much of that potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, the energy of motion, and some of that energy is transmitted to the next domino in the line, which provides the push it needs to topple. The process continues until the last domino falls.

When Lily Hevesh was 9 years old, her grandparents gave her a classic set of dominoes, and she loved setting them up in lines and angular patterns and flicking the first piece, which then caused the whole chain to fall. She continued her passion for creating mind-blowing domino installations as she grew older, and now Hevesh is a professional domino artist with more than 2 million YouTube subscribers. She has created a wide variety of domino setups for movies, TV shows, and events, including an album launch for Katy Perry.

Hevesh has developed a system for designing her domino sets, which she describes as an engineering-design process. She starts by considering the theme or purpose of the installation and brainstorming images or words that might be appropriate. She then sketches out the layout on paper.

In her videos, Hevesh explains her thought process as she creates her domino setups. She explains how she sets up the pieces to achieve her vision, and she talks about the challenges that come with designing an intricate structure. She says that she considers how a domino will appear when it is completed, as well as the flow of the piece and its color scheme.

Dominoes can be purchased at most toy stores, and some grocery stores sell them as part of a collection of puzzle toys and games. In addition to the traditional plastic dominoes, there are sets made from natural, often more expensive materials such as silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory, or dark hardwoods like ebony. Some people even create their own dominoes, using polymer clay or cardboard templates.