A domino is a flat, thumb-sized rectangular block with a blank or slightly patterned one side and an arrangement of dots, called pips, on the other. 28 such pieces make up a complete set of dominoes. A domino is used in various games by matching its ends with the open end of another domino, laying them down in lines or angular patterns. When the first domino falls, it initiates a chain reaction of dominoes falling one after the other until the last one remains standing. The energy transmitted from one to the next domino is analogous to a nerve impulse traveling down an axon.

Dominoes are made of many materials and come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Traditional domino sets are made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl or MOP), ivory and ebony with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on them. Other types of dominoes are made of other natural materials, such as marble, granite and soapstone; of metal, such as brass and pewter; or of ceramic clay, glass or crystal. Some contemporary sets are made of a mixture of different natural or synthetic materials, such as wood and a type of resin, giving them an organic appearance.

Most dominoes are marked with an identification pattern on only one side, leaving the other side blank. This side of the tile may be decorated, stamped, inscribed or etched with numbers, letters, designs or symbols. The number of pips on the domino is often associated with its name or with the game in which it is played. The pips are usually arranged in three rows of six or nine, but the dominoes can be marked in other ways.

In most domino games, players draw one or more tiles from a stock and play them by placing them in the line of play, adding to a previous tile or playing it to an open end of a previously laid tile. If a player cannot place a tile, they pass their turn. When a tile is played to a double, the two matching sides must touch fully or it must be placed cross-ways to the other dominoes in the line of play.

Some domino games have very strict rules governing how the line of play is constructed, and other games are less rigid. In the latter, there is more variation in the way that a dominoes are grouped, with some being played lengthwise, and others being played across the line.

In creating her mind-blowing domino setups, Hevesh uses a version of the engineering design process that starts with considering the theme or purpose of the installation and brainstorming images that might relate to it. From there, she decides how she will build the structure and then breaks it down into smaller tasks that can be accomplished during a day. She ranks the tasks according to their impact, ensuring that the most important task receives her full attention until it is completed.