He 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 later developed a new design education approach integrating art and science. Bill served as the school's director from 1951 to 1956. Ulm is notable for its inclusion of semiotics, the philosophical theory of signs and symbols, as a field of study. Faculty and students included Tomas Maldonado, Josef Albers, Johannes Itten, John Lottes, Otl Aicher, Walter Zeischegg, and Peter Seitz.
Bill was the single most decisive influence on Swiss graphic design or the International Typographic Style, beginning in the 1950s with his theoretical writing and progressive work. He said, "It is possible to develop an art largely on the basis of mathematical thinking."
From 1967 to 1971, he was a professor at the Staatliche Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste in Hamburg and chair of environmental design. As a graphic designer, he fully and 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.
His powerful use of figure–ground relationships is never more evident than with his exhibition poster, designed in 1931, for the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Zurich, Switzerland. The poster's figure–ground is its primary compositional principle; its bright white figure is asymmetrically located and set against a muted-tone background. The pure geometry of the figure's inner circle is a powerful focal point further offset by the pure linear square containing information on the exhibition.