design systems design

Fifteen variations on a single theme

70 years ago the multi-talented German Max Bill made “Fifteen variations on a single theme”. The artwork is based on an equilateral triangle where the last side is used to make up a square, that makes up a pentagon, that makes up a hexagon, and so on. Jean-Pierre Hébert coined this shape Metagon – a regular, open, possibly infinite polygonal line developed in two or more dimensions following a serial rule of expansion.

Inspired by the work of Max Bill, Jean-Pierre Hérbert made his version, “One hundred views of a single theme”, and in that relation he also collected his predecessors work. Here’s an extraction:

Max Bill produced his series “Fifteen variations on a single theme” from mind, rule, compass, and traditional drawing instruments.

The theme:


Images from

“as there exist within these narrow and clearly defined limits such a large number of variations, the fact that a single theme – that is to say a single fundamental idea – leads to fifteen very different developments can be considered the proof that concrete art holds an infinite number of possibilities. such constructions are developed only on the basis of their given conditions and without any arbitrary attempt to modify them for reasons of proportion. with this method once the basic theme has been chosen – whether it be simple or complex – an infinite number of very different developments can be evolved according to individual inclination and temperament.”
Max Bill, Zurich November 1938

More info and descriptions.

The original works are lithographs 30.5 x 32 cm, made between 1935 – 1938, if you by any chance get over them, hold them or please tell us:)


One response

  1. I have a copy of the original that i am prepared to sell.

    October 27, 2011 at 4:53 pm

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