by Max Bill

FORM

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Design shapes the way we live; from everyday household objects to the layout of the city we live in, we are confronted with design on a daily basis. Good design, both in terms of aesthetic and function, is therefore paramount in shaping our lives.

Max Bill, the architect and designer, reflects on good design in relationship to form in his 1953 book aptly titled, FORM. Bill explains that form has become an intrinsic part of art and that it is used as a comparative quality often to define beauty. Form also differs by nature and function relating to the purpose of an object and how it is used in contemporary society. Over the course of 168 pages, Bill provides an illustrated selection of objects, from hairbrushes to electrical lines and from projectors to furniture, to explain his theory of good design and form.

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Short succinct essays, with tiles such as “From Making to Faking” and “Education and Design” (in German, English and French), accompany the many images used by Bill to illustrate his ideas. Wide ranging and well thought out, this book presents a compelling argument for good and lasting, though always relevant, design.

When Bill writes, “Good design in an article is always a direct reflection of the purpose and quality of that article; good design, being honest design, never serves to popularize some purely passing craze or whim of fashion,” I think about and am saddened by our present day society that favors disposable design (clothing styles that only last a season, printers that are cheaper to throw away than to have fixed, etc.). Though Bill does suggest design should remain contemporary, the works featured in this publication – now more than half a century old – remain timeless and entirely appropriate for today.

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My favorite aspect of this book is the short captions Bill has provided for each of the objects he has elected to present in this book. For a deer-shaped toy by A. Vitali, Bill writes, “This toy roe-deer is so admirable delineated that it is really a perfect little piece of sculpture. The graining of the wood emphasizes its formal expression, which is not only aesthetically right but also adapted to the size of a child’s hand.”

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Through exploration of form in all of its carnations, Bill provides a clear description of good design.