Domino is a small, rectangular game piece that features 0 to 6 dots. In the popular game of domino, players set up a line of these pieces and then knock them over one at a time—a chain reaction that can ultimately result in thousands of pieces falling over in a stunning display. This use of dominoes inspired the phrase, “domino effect,” which refers to a series of events that begins with one simple action and then results in many more.
Hevesh began playing with dominoes as a kid, using her grandparents’ classic 28-piece set. She loved stacking them in a straight or curved line, flicking the first one, and watching the entire arrangement fall. Now, she is a professional domino artist who creates mind-blowing setups for movies, TV shows, and events—including a recent album launch by pop star Katy Perry. She has even helped to set the Guinness record for the most dominoes toppled in a circular arrangement. Her largest installations can take several nail-biting minutes to fall, but once they do, they’re a sight to behold.
While the art of domino creation is often based on luck, it can also be influenced by science. Physicists have learned that the power of a domino depends on its height, and that taller dominoes can knock over more pieces than shorter ones. They’ve also found that a domino’s shape can influence its force of impact, as well as the direction of its fall.
This knowledge can help aspiring domino artists improve their designs. Hevesh says she starts by thinking about the purpose of an installation, and then brainstorms ideas to inspire her work. She makes test versions of each part of the design, and then films them in slow motion to check for any errors that could derail her plan. She then connects the sections together to create a larger arrangement.
For Domino’s, a strong emphasis on customer feedback has also been key to success. When the company was struggling, CEO David Brandon knew it needed to change things up. He instituted new policies such as a more relaxed dress code and spoke directly with employees to see what they wanted the company to do differently. Domino’s has also worked to spice up its image, and has introduced new ways for customers to order pizza, including through emoji and voice commands.
While some changes may seem minor at the time, they can have big effects over the long term. A study published in 2012 by researchers at Northwestern University, for example, found that when people ate less fat during their sedentary leisure time, they also decreased their overall daily fat intake. In other words, the same principle that applies to dominoes can be applied to our own lives: one change can lead to a cascade of positive effects.