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Rubik Riot: Erno's Rubik Cubes Continue To Inspire 30 Years Later

It's been over 30 years since Erno Rubik first came up with the idea for what is now world's most popular puzzle, the Rubik's Cube. But given the glut of items on the market, you'd think the item were designed only yesterday.

First, a little history:

above: a young Erno with his cube

The Cube as a puzzle, was invented in the spring of 1974, when the twenty-nine year old Hungarian Erno Rubik discovered it was not so easy to realign the colors to match on all six sides. He was not sure he would ever be able to return his invention to its original position. He theorized that by randomly twisting the Cube he would never be able to fix it in a lifetime, which later turns out to be more than correct. He began working out a solution, starting with aligning the eight corner cubes. He discovered certain sequences of moves for rearranging just a few cubes at a time. Within a month, he had the puzzle solved and well, the rest is history.

Following the success of the cube - which is said to have 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 possible configurations - Mr Rubik invented several other mechanical puzzles, including Rubik's Magic, Rubik's Clock and Rubik's Snake.

above: the classic and original rubik's cube, unsolved

The First Patent:
Rubik applied for his Hungarian patent in January 1975 and left his invention with a small toy making cooperative in Budapest. The patent approval finally came in early 1977 and the first Cubes appeared at the end of 1977 and were sold in the US in 1980. By this time, Erno Rubik was married.

Two other people applied for similar patents at about the same time as Rubik. Terutoshi Ishige applied a year after Rubik, for a Japanese patent on a very similar cube. An American, Larry Nichols, patented a cube before Rubik, held together with magnets. Nichols' toy was rejected by all toy companies, including the Ideal Toy Corporation, which later bought the rights to Rubik's Cube.

above: variants on the original

There is only 1 correct answer and 43 quintillion wrong ones for Rubik's Cube. God's algorithm is the answer that solves the puzzle in the least number of moves. One eighth of the world's population has laid hands on 'The Cube', making it the most popular puzzle in history.

above: Erno Rubik in a rare appearance at the 2007 Rubik's Cube World Championships in Budapest.

"I'm glad the cube is reaching new generations, who face it with fresh wonder, curiosity and enthusiasm" -- Erno Rubik, 2007

A nicely executed print campaign heralded the 25th anniversary of the classic puzzle:

All that said, the puzzle continues to inspire several other projects from novelty products and home furnishings to technological gadgets and fine art. Here are just a few of them.

Rubik's Cube Tables from Jellio:

buy them here.

The Rubik's Cube Alarm clock:

buy it here.

Converse® Rubik Chuck Taylors:

buy them here.

Rubik's Cube Handbag
Jean Charles de Castlebac created a fashionable purse based on the cube that appeared in his Fall 2008 runway show:

and Let's Fly knocked it off and it's available for only $18.00:

buy it here.

Rubik's Cube Salt and Pepper shakers:

buy them here

Rubik's Cube Keyring puzzle:

buy it here.

Rubik's Cube inspired USB hub:

buy it here.

Sports Teams Rubik cubes

Rubiks Cube cufflinks:

buy them here.

Geoffrey Parker's Luxe Rubik Cubes crafted of leather:

buy them here

Ruby Cube tables, a more sophisticated palette made with acrylic panels, inspired by the Rubik's Cube:

buy them here.

Serious Luxury Cubes:

Above: Diamond Cutter's Custom $2,500,000 Rubik’s Cube

“The world's most expensive toy” was fashioned by Fred Cuellar to commemorate the 15th Anniversary of the Rubik’s Cube. This full-size, fully working cube is covered with 185 carats of precious gems. It is valued at 2.5 million dollars.

Limited Edition Diamond Cutters Silver Cube:

This is a workable cube, contains 1.5 pounds of pure silver, with a Signed Certificate of Authenticity with Erno Rubiks signature on it. The above picture depicts the cube, the box and the $10,000 appraisal.

more images:

Not available for purchase.

Rubik's Cube Speaker:

This Japanese gizmo is not a puzzle but a speaker, just connect your MP3 player to it and watch the cube mesmerize you with the 27 or so odd designs as each square lights up in red/green/orange color. You will never get bored as the design patterns change according to the tempo of the music.

It has three built in tunes and can be powered via the AC adapter or batteries. The light patterns are so attractive that you wont mind putting it on your car's dashboard too. Weighing 150g, the Megahouse illuminated speaker system in Rubik's Cube design will be available by late October for approximately 5,250 Yen ($43).

Rubik's Cube Cake by eden cakes:

The above cake feeds over 100 people and is one of the best looking Rubik's Cube cakes I've ever seen. learn more about it here

The Rubik's Lamp by Eric Pautz (found on the behance network):

Rubik's lamp is an innovative project based on the popular toy from the eighties. Much like the original Rubik's cube, the lamp is composed of 26 smaller cube-like pieces, whose interlocking shapes fit onto each other. Currently looking for producers.


RUBIKCUBISM - an exhibition by French artist Invader featuring mosaics, video installation, and both small and large-scale sculptures. In 2005, Six Space gallery in Los Angeles hosted his first US exhibit.

Below are some of his editions:
Rubik Bonnie & Clyde:

Rubik Soup and Rubik KISS:

Rubik Manson:

Rubik Ingres (after Ingres' Odalisque):

See many more pieces created with Rubik's Cubes by the french artist on his website.
Invader's Rubik Cubism site.

Another Cube artist is Toronto-born Robert Mckinnon, an electrician by trade and artist by passion, shown below:

Mckinnon starts with a pre-existing photo or image, blows it up in Photoshop and creates a heavily-pixelated image, then rearranges each individual cube to match them all to that image. Creating a Rubik's Cube mosaic is actually not as hard as it sounds, Mckinnon told Torontoist: all you need to be able to complete a piece like his Mona Lisa (shown below) or Ray Charles (shown below) is "solve only one face of the cube." The rest is "time [and] patience," he says. Time and patience—and a few hundred cubes, a few hundred bucks, and one strong easel.

His Mona Lisa, above, is made of 315 cubes and stands about four feet tall by three feet wide, took twelve hours to make, weighs eighty pounds, and cost $400 in materials—most of it dollar store Rubik's Cubes. (Ray Charles, a little smaller, weighs and cost a little less, as it took only 266 cubes.)

above: McKinnon's Frankenstein

McKinnon doesn't have a website, but if you want to commission some work, you can email him at nightly23@hotmail.com.

Inspired by the Cube, Patricia Truesdale made a wool hook rug:

Taking the cubes and creating 3D sculptures of them is Hana Bizek. You can see those here and read about the mathematical theory behind them.

The counter at the Jean Charles de Castelbajac store in London. Designed by Castelbajac and architect Christian Ghion, the installation is the only one of its kind in the world:

Guerilla public art in Sydney, Australia:

At the Disney Pop Resort:

Images in Advertising:

and in pop culture:

Graffiti found in Madrid:

Rubik's Cube Alphabet:

Hee Yong Shin's beautful MP3 player prototype:

Wall stickers:

above: designed by zeptiror.com

I know there are tons of DIY Rubick's inspired items on craft sites and blogs as well as loads of flickr sets of Rubik-like items that I didn't include in this post, but that's because I'm sharing with you either actual mass produced items available for purchase or what I felt was gallery quality fine art inspired by the brightly colored puzzle. I'm certain I have left some wonderful examples out, so I hope you'll forgive me for that.

Relevant Links:

Rubik's Cube on Wikipedia

DIY Rubik's Cubes
Custom Printed Rubik's Cubes
More Custom Rubik's Cubes

Incredible explorations and variations of the puzzle

How to make the above Rubik's Cube Cake

For the more serious Cubers:

The World Cube Association
Rubik Cube World Record Holders
Lube the Cube


The Financial Puzzle said...

Wow... great (and thorough) post on the cube! We almost used a takeoff on the cube for our corporate graphic... now I'm wondering if we should have!

Thanks for the post.

WendyB said...

Awesome post. You really did your research! I love the "paintings." But what really grabbed my attention was the first bejeweled cube -- one of my gem wholesalers has a faded poster of that in his office that I always wind up staring at.

Miss In Action said...

Wow, after reader through all of that and seeing those beautiful pictures it makes me wanna pick up a rubix cube now! Good post!

Mr. Peacock said...

Rubik's Cube always drove me nuts...
but was an amazing story...
The artwork is cool too!

korean fashion said...

Anyone has the formula to play this cube?

fashion accessories

C'mon people, it's only a dollar.
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