How Domino Artists Create Spectacular Displays


A domino is a small rectangular tile bearing from one to six pips or dots. There are 28 unique tiles in a standard domino set. The word “domino” is derived from the Latin word dominum, meaning “flip.” In a game of domino, players take turns placing tiles on a flat surface until all the tiles are in place. When the last domino is positioned, it is “slided” into contact with other dominoes to cause them to fall over. The resulting chain reaction can create spectacular displays that are enjoyed by millions of people around the world.

Domino artists create incredible designs that use physics to bring the pieces together. The art is as simple or complex as the artist chooses – straight lines, curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, and 3D structures such as towers and pyramids.

Hevesh began her domino collection at age 9. When she was 10, she started posting videos of her creations online and grew to become a professional domino artist. She has created massive domino setups for movies, TV shows and events such as an album launch for pop star Katy Perry. Her largest installations can take several nail-biting minutes for the entire domino line to fall. Hevesh explains that when she stands a domino upright, it has potential energy, which is the energy it has stored based on its position. When the first domino falls, this energy is converted to kinetic energy, which causes the next domino to fall.

When Hevesh starts a new domino design, she begins by sketching the layout on paper. She then calculates how many dominoes she will need to complete the project. She also considers the speed at which she wants the dominoes to fall and whether she will use a straight or curved line.

Once she has her plan in mind, Hevesh carefully places each domino in the desired location. When she is happy with the placement, she starts to slide it into contact with other dominoes. The movement of the dominoes produces friction, which in turn generates heat and sound. These vibrations can make a domino’s pips or dots vibrate, which in turn triggers the rest of the dominoes to fall.

Most domino games involve scoring points by laying tiles end to end so that the exposed ends match (i.e., a one’s touch two’s or a three’s touch four’s). Other games are blocking or duplicate card games. Still others are used to circumvent religious proscriptions against playing cards.

A domino’s name and game were both introduced to Europe by French prisoners toward the end of the 18th century. The word domino earlier denoted a long hooded cloak worn over a priest’s surplice during carnival season or at a masquerade. Unlike Western dominoes, Chinese sets do not include blank faces and instead use the 21 results of throwing two six-sided dice.