Max Bill and Die Gute Form

I was recently looking through some of the books and ephemera purchased from Irving Oaklander, bookseller, who passed away on August 8 (see post here). The treasures were not so much the big-ticket items but the smaller documents of design that are easily lost or forgotten. If you dug long and far enough, the gold was in his stacks. This small catalog from 1957 by Max Bill (whose diminutive byline exemplifies his typographic minimalism) titled “Die gute Form” (Good Design) was produced for Schweizer Mustermesse in Basel (MUBA), an international trade show (Mustermessse) of watches and jewelry, and Zentralvorstand des Schweizerischen Werkbundes (The Swiss Werkbund) (SWB), a venerable creative design group representing many fields.

Bill (1908–1994), who practiced graphic, industrial, architectural, and product design, sets down often strict dicta about what is good design, which for him is synonymous with timeless design—especially seen in his own work (which included, but not shown here, watches and clocks). He designed the booklet with the same close attention to economical form as his products. Bill was considered the most important influence on Swiss graphic design because of his critical and theoretical writing and distinctive (and sometimes timeless) work.