The Art of Dominoes


Dominoes are small rectangular blocks of rigid material used as gaming objects. They feature a line in the middle to divide them visually into two squares, called ends. Each end is marked with a value, which can range from six pips to none or blank. The player scores points by laying dominoes end to end and touching the exposed ends (i.e., one’s touch two’s, five’s touch four’s) until a player has accumulated the required number of points, or the score limit is reached. The game can be played with one or more players, and the player who reaches the target score in a given number of rounds wins.

The word “domino” is also a figurative expression in English, suggesting that the outcome of a single event can cause other events to occur in a similar manner. This concept is known as the domino effect. Examples of domino effects include the destabilization of the Allende regime in Chile and the collapse of the infamous Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Lily Hevesh started collecting dominoes at the age of 9. She loved the feeling of setting up a line and flicking the first domino, watching it fall—one by one. She soon realized that she could create mind-blowing domino setups on a larger scale, and she started posting videos of her work online. Her YouTube channel, Hevesh5, now has more than 2 million subscribers.

Hevesh follows a version of the engineering-design process when creating her elaborate domino layouts. First, she considers the theme or purpose of the installation. Then, she brainstorms images or words that would relate to it. Finally, she uses the logical progression of dominoes to map out her design.

Dominoes have been in use since the mid-18th century. They appeared in Italy, Austria, southern Germany, and France before becoming a fad in England toward the end of that period. The name “domino” does not appear before that time, although it may refer to the game or to a type of hooded garment worn at masquerades.

A domino can be laid so that all of its open ends are connected to other dominoes in the same direction, or it can be placed cross-ways with another tile. In most games, additional tiles can be placed only against the long side of a double, but rules vary among games.

As each domino falls, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy, which allows it to push the next domino over. This energy continues traveling from one domino to the next—until all of the pieces are in place, and the desired result is achieved.