Max Bill (1908-1994)
Max Bill is widely considered to be one of the most influential Swiss Designers. Excelling in numerous genres ranging from architecture to typography, there’s a lot to be learnt from Mr Bill.
Born in Winterthur, Switzerland Bill firstly trained as a Silversmith before enrolling at the illustrious Bauhaus in 1927, learning under Wassily Kadinsky, Paul Klee and Josef Albers, to name a few. Equipt with a range of skills learnt from his time at the Bauhaus, he returned to Zurich where he was involved in a number of exciting projects such as designing the Swiss Pavilion for the 1936 Milan Triennale.
Throughout his career, Bill frequently worked with typography, using many of his own typefaces in his poster and book designs as well as designing commercial logos—some of which are still used today. He had a unique understanding of design with a very mathematical approach, he is recorded as saying,
“I am of the opinion that it is possible to develop an art largely on the basis of mathematical thinking.”
Along with a number of other creatives including fellow Swiss Designer Max Huber, Max Bill was part of the Allianz group—a group of artists which formed in 1937 hosting exhibitions continuing into the 50s. They advocated ‘Konkrete Kunst’ (Concrete Art) theories which are implemented in much of Bill’s work, the purpose being there is a strong emphasis on abstraction within the work.
Given his eye for clean lines and geometric patterns, it’s no surprise that Bill turned his hand to Industrial Design too. Responsible for some of the first watch designs for Junghans, his designs are still used in their products today.
Later in his career alongside Inge Scholl and Otl Aicher, Bill set up the Ulm School of Design in Germany where he became the Director of the School, notably teaching Semiotics—the philosophical theory of signs and symbols. I imagine Bill would have been a pretty interesting teacher to have!
I’m deeply inspired by Max Bill’s phenomenal grasp of colour and composition. His drawings and sculptures have a unique sensibility with an overall minimalist style that can be seen mirrored in a lot of graphic design today. Max Bill’s sheer persistence is something to be marvelled, even after having an eye removed due to a tumour in 1977 he managed to design one of his most beautiful graphic series seven twins while in recovery. Above all I love Max Bill’s unwillingness to conform. He wasn’t confined by one single discipline but instead pursued many creative avenues, each of which informed his ability to create timeless design.
Who’s up next for #tbt? A living legend based out of New York City. Stay tuned!