Max Bill was born in Winterthur, Switzerland, training as a silversmith at the nearby Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich. In 1927, Bill took up studies at the infamous Bauhaus in Dessau, where he was taught by the likes of Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Oskar Schlemmer.
Returning to Zurich, Bill became a prime mover behind the Allianz group of Swiss artists and in 1944 became a professor at the city’s school of arts. Wanting to continue the style of Modernist design education started at the Bauhaus, in 1952 Bill, Inge Aicher-Scholl and Otl Aicher founded the Ulm School of Design, Germany, with Bill as principal and head of the department for architecture and product form.
Despite its closure in 1968, the Ulm school had a major impact on design education in Western Europe, with students including such notable designers as Tom's Maldonado, John Lottes, Walter Zeischegg, and Peter Seitz.
While teaching at Ulm, Bill was also casting a decisive influence on graphic design through his theoretical writing and progressive work. As an industrial designer, Bill’s work was characterized by its clarity of design and precise proportions, such as his design ‘Ulmer Hocker’ from 1954, a stool that can also be used as a shelf element or a side table.
From 1967 to 1971 Bill became a member of the Swiss National Council, before moving on to become professor at the Staatliche Hochschule fr Bildende Knste in Hamburg where he taught environmental design. In 1973 he became an associate member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Science, Literature and Fine Art in Brussels, and in 1976 a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts.
Much celebrated within his lifetime, Max Bill spent much of the 1980s installing large-scale sculptures while also traveling across Europe and the United States to install retrospectives of his work.