How to Create Intricate Domino Setups for Events and Movies

Dominoes are one of those toys that never really go out of style. They’re simple enough that you can play with them alone, but intricate and detailed enough to impress friends. They’re also a good reminder of the domino effect—that a change in one behavior can cause a chain reaction that affects other behaviors as well.

Lily Hevesh’s grandparents had a 28-pack of the classic dominoes when she was 9 years old, and she loved setting them up in straight or curved lines and flicking them to make them fall. Now 20, Hevesh has become a professional domino artist with more than 2 million YouTube subscribers and creates mind-blowing setups for events and movies.

While many people know how to play the most common domino games, they may not realize that domino is actually a game system that can be used to build all sorts of structures. In fact, it’s even possible to use the domino system to solve problems in science and technology.

A domino is a rectangular tile with a number of dots (or pips) on each half-face. The pips vary in color and number, from six on the top to none or blank on the bottom. The value of a domino is determined by the sum of the pips on each face. Normally, dominoes have two open ends that can be connected to other tiles. Those ends are called the long and short sides of the domino, although there are some exceptions to this rule.

In most games, dominoes are matched with one another by matching their values. For example, a domino with three pips on one half and five on the other has a total value of 13 because it matches a domino with four pips on each end, which has a value of 10. The dominoes are then connected to each other either vertically or horizontally, depending on the rules of the game.

Hevesh’s process for creating a domino setup is a lot like how an engineer would approach a problem. She begins by considering the theme or purpose of the installation. From there, she brainstorms images or words that might be related to the installation. Finally, she creates a blueprint—or a diagram of the layout—of what she wants to build.

Dominoes are typically twice as long as they are wide, making them easier to re-stack after use. However, some designers have found ways to build them in other shapes, such as squares and hearts.

Nick’s grandmother had a small workshop in her garage, and he wanted to try to make his own dominoes in that space. He didn’t have any instructions, but he did have the tools necessary to build something impressive—a drill press, radial arm saw, scroll saw, belt sander, and welder crowded the cramped workspace.

As he began working, he realized that if he followed his own Domino’s “Domino’s Way” principles—listen to employees and customers, take action on feedback, and make changes quickly—he could address some of the company’s biggest complaints. And in the process, he might just revitalize an old toy and introduce it to a new generation of fans.