The Swiss Grid System — and the Dutch Total Grid (Max Bill)

Max Bill


Max Bill (1908–1994), was born in Winterthur, Switzerland. An architect, painter, typographer, industrial designer, engineer, sculptor, educator, and graphic designer, Bill was initially a student at the Kunstgewerbeschule and apprenticed as a silversmith before beginning his studies in 1927 at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany, with teachers such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Oskar Schlemmer. Bill permanently settled in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1929, and in 1937 became involved with a group of Swiss artists and designers named the Allianz. The Allianz group advocated the concrete theories of art and design and included Max Huber, Leo Leuppi, and Richard Paul Lohse.

In 1950, Max Bill and Otl Aicher founded the Ulm School of Design (Hochschule fur Gestaltung-HfG Ulm) in Ulm, Germany, a design school initially created in the tradition of the Bauhaus and that is notable for its inclusion of semiotics, the philosophical theory of signs and symbols, as a field of study. Bill was of the view that “It is possible to develop an art largely on the basis of mathematical thinking.” Over, the 1967-71 period, Bill taught at the Staatliche Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste in Hamburg where he was the chair of environmental design. As a graphic designer, he enthusiastically embraced the tenets and philosophical views of this modernist movement. The majority of his graphic work is based solely on cohesive visual principles of organization and composed of purist forms—modular grids, san serif typography, asymmetric compositions, linear spatial divisions, mathematical progressions, and dynamic figure–ground relationships.



Simultaneous Constructions, 1945-51


Three Groups, 1947


Construction in Black, 1939


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