until Rubik licensed it to Ideal Toys in New York in 1979, which rebranded it the
Rubik’s Cube before sales began internationally in 1980. More than 350 million
cubes have been sold since. Rubik, who today has a design studio in Hungary,
created an education foundation with some of the profits from the cube, and
the device remains a favorite of math teachers.
“It’s a three-dimensional experience that uses color, universal to all cul-
tures,” said Khoi Vo, Allied ASID, chair of the Interior Design department at
the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). “Fundamentally, Rubik’s Cube
challenges the user to solve a unique problem by implementing a series of solu-
tions that incorporates the design process. One must first assess the situation,
understand the problem, and deploy a series of strategies that results in jug-
gling several different spatial moves to create visual harmony.”
The allure of that challenge has made the Rubik’s Cube more than a com-
mercial success. Instantly recognizable around the globe, the Rubik’s Cube
has achieved cultural icon status. It has inspired competitions
and clubs and countless creative attempts to set records for solv-
ing the puzzle.
The cube even has an international regulatory body for
competitions: the World Cube Association. The 2015 World Rubik’s
Cube Championship, held July 17–19 in São Paulo, Brazil, was won
by 19-year-old Feliks Zemdegs from Australia. His winning time
of 5.695 seconds didn’t quite match that of the current world
record holder, Collin Burns, an American who solved the puzzle
in 5. 25 seconds this spring. Pretty impressive considering that in
addition to the one correct configuration, there are an estimated
43 quintillion — yes, quintillion — wrong configurations. It took
Rubik more than a month to solve the puzzle his first time. (The
fastest robot time on record is 3.253 seconds.)
Guinness World Records has 31 entries involving the cube,
from the most people solving Rubik’s cubes simultaneously ( 3,248,
The most Rubik’s Cubes solved underwater in a single breath is five (in case
you were wondering), achieved last year by Anthony Brooks in 1 minute and 18
seconds at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J., which mounted an
exhibit honoring the cube’s 40th anniversary.
The most Rubik’s Cubes solved while running a marathon is 175, by Shane
White at a 2012 marathon in Savannah, Ga. White finished the race in just
under five hours.
SCAD’s Vo remembers being frustrated watching his older brother solve
the cube with relative ease. “Looking back, I think the interior designer in me
was overthinking it,” Vo said.
Apparently, the cube is the kind of puzzle that a designer just can’t resist.
“Rubik’s Cube has universal appeal because it’s fundamentally about solving a problem using your hands, configuring a fundamental shape of a cube, and
relating it to a color palette,” Vo continued. “These problems transcend time
and appeal to the designer in all of us.”
Reagan Walker is a writer, editor, and nonprofit professional based in Washington, D.C.
Her work has appeared in the atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Tennessean, Saveur, and
various nonprofit publications.
The allure of
Cube more than
around the globe,
the Rubik’s Cube
3. rubik and hamlet? as Hamlet
held the skull of Yorick and
contemplated how the humble
jester was linked in death to
great men, Rubik might be
contemplating how this humble
wooden prototype links him to a
kind of commercial and artistic
greatness. and it all began in an
interior design class.
4. still puzzling after all these years.
In 1986, the New York Times said
the cube had been “retired to
the attic, the garbage heap and,
with a bow to its elegance and
ingeniousness, to the permanent
collection of the Museum of
Modern art.” The Times was wrong
about everything except MoMa.