How to Design a Domino Installation

Domino, a small tile marked with an arrangement of spots or dots, is the basis for an entertaining and educational game played by many millions of people. Like playing cards, dominoes are used to score points by laying tiles end to end so that the pips on one side match those of the other. Then, the player places a tile to each matching end of the chain – and if those ends total a multiple of five, the player is awarded that number of points.

The first domino to fall in a line of these tiled “bones” is called the spinner, and when the next player lays a domino adjacent to it, the chain develops a snake-line shape until all the pieces have been played. In most domino games, the only tiles that can be placed are those with matching pips on all four sides. Other kinds of dominoes, known as doubles, may be placed in certain ways to form a more complex pattern.

A domino player can set up a line of dominoes in straight or curved lines, grids that create pictures when they fall, 3-D structures such as towers and pyramids, and other arrangements that will take on a theme or purpose. To do this, she needs to use her creativity and a version of the engineering-design process.

Hevesh, who has a YouTube channel with more than 2 million subscribers, says she starts by thinking about the theme or purpose of an installation she wants to build. She then brainstorms the images or words she would like to use in an arrangement and calculates how many dominoes she will need for her design.

Then, she goes through a series of test runs with each individual section of the dominoes to make sure they will all work together. She will even draw arrows on paper to show the direction in which she would like each piece of the setup to fall.

Once she has a final blueprint, Hevesh begins assembling the pieces. For her largest creations, she must wait for several nail-biting minutes to see if the entire arrangement will come together as planned.

Hevesh has worked on projects involving more than 300,000 dominoes and helped set a Guinness World Record for the most dominoes in a circular layout. She says her greatest challenge is ensuring that all the sections of her mind-blowing domino projects will be able to fall according to the laws of physics.

The name domino derives from the Latin for “fall of a large number.” The word appeared in English in the early 18th century, but it did not become a fad until the mid-1800s. During this time, the game spread quickly across Europe, with variations developing in different countries. By the 1860s, it was an established game throughout England and France. It is not clear how the game reached China. However, it is believed that it was brought to the country by French prisoners-of-war during the 1860s.