How a Domino Artist Creates Spectacular Domino Structures

Domino is a tile game where players build long chains of dominoes by placing one domino at the end of a line of existing tiles. The ends of the exposed dominoes must match (one’s touching one’s, two’s touching two’s or the exposed dots must total a multiple of five). A chain is scored when all of the exposed ends show a number.

Domino can be used for both strategic and tactical games of skill and chance. There are many different rules of domino and many games that can be played with them. Some involve blocking the opponents’ movements, others require that each player take a turn in a specified sequence, and still others have more abstract scoring goals.

Hevesh started playing with dominoes when she was 9 years old, and by age 10 she had a 28-piece set. She loved setting up the pieces in curved or straight lines and flicking the first one to start the dominoes falling, and she soon began posting her creations online. By now, Hevesh has more than 2 million YouTube subscribers and creates spectacular domino setups for movies, TV shows and events like a recent album launch for pop star Katy Perry.

When Hevesh starts a new project, she tests each section separately to ensure it works correctly before putting the pieces together. She also films each process to slow down and analyze the movement of each domino, making precise corrections when needed. This level of precision allows her to create stunningly complex structures that are as much art as they are games of chance and skill.

She often uses the same numbered dominoes as children’s toys, but for more elaborate projects she prefers to use a variety of shapes, colors and sizes of dominoes that aren’t available in kids’ sets. She has built domino tracks, 3D structures and even a domino maze that can be explored by visitors to her museum in Santa Monica, California.

The biggest challenge when creating a new domino structure is finding the right spot to put it, but Hevesh says that is also part of the fun. She usually places a big piece at the starting point of her design, then builds around it with smaller ones that will support it. “If you have the perfect spot, the rest just falls into place,” she says.

Before Hevesh knocks over a thousand individual dominoes, she spends time testing each one to make sure it will hold up and fall the way she wants. She says the secret is to use friction—by slipping each domino against another or against a surface. This generates heat and makes the dominoes vibrate. As they move, the friction transforms some of their potential energy into sound and heat, allowing them to push over other dominoes. Just as this small amount of energy can tip over large dominoes, so too can a small shift in a person’s behavior lead to larger changes in their lives.