Domino Artist Lily Hevesh Explains the Process of Building a Domino Set


A domino is a flat thumbsized, rectangular block with one or more sides bearing from one to six pips or dots. 28 such pieces make up a full set of dominoes. A set can be used to play a variety of games, in which the players try to knock over as many of the dominoes as possible by matching their ends and laying them down in lines and angular patterns.

Lily Hevesh began playing with her grandparents’ classic 28-piece set when she was 9. Her fascination with creating mindblowing domino setups grew, and Hevesh now works as a professional Domino Artist, making installations for films, TV shows, events, and even album launches. She follows a version of an engineering-design process when designing her sets, and she’s always searching for new ways to push the envelope with her work.

Despite their size, dominoes are more powerful than we think. A 1983 study by University of British Columbia physicist Lorne Whitehead found that an unmoving domino has enough potential energy to knock over objects about a thousand times its own size. Hevesh explains that dominoes have inertia, and it takes a lot of force to move them from their resting position. But when a domino is tipped over, much of its potential energy converts to kinetic energy that reaches the next domino in line and gives it the push it needs to fall.

As the dominoes slide against each other and against the surface they’re on, they also create friction that generates heat and sound. This is how the dominoes lose some of their potential energy, turning it into kinetic energy that travels from one domino to the next until the entire chain falls over. As each domino drops, its pips or spots hit the adjacent ones, which knocks them over as well. Hevesh describes how the process of creating a domino set is similar to building a tower: “The first piece that you lay down is the base, and then you build upon it with all of these other pieces.”

Domino’s began in 1962 when Tom Monaghan opened a small restaurant called The Original Domino’s in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The company grew quickly and became profitable by focusing on delivering pizza quickly to college students. It would later become the most popular pizza delivery service in the United States.

By the 1980s, the business was facing competition from rival chains that offered more options and a faster delivery time, as well as a slumping economy. In an attempt to stay competitive, the company began testing new methods for ordering pizzas, including texting and using devices like Amazon Echo. But the efforts didn’t have a dramatic impact, and by the early 2000s, Domino’s was in major trouble.

After losing millions of dollars in the 2000s, Domino’s refocused its strategy to return to profitability and invested heavily in technology. By 2013, Domino’s was the leading pizza delivery company in the United States, and it had more than 200 locations.