Reed, a graphic designer who has crafted pared-down logos for the likes of Hillary Clinton and dozens of companies, wears a Tibor Kalman-designed M&Co Bodoni watch and has designed a concept timepiece for Anicorn, which is to say, he very much considers himself a modernist at heart. The hardest thing about getting minimalism right, he notes, is that there’s very little room for error. Eliminating what Reed calls “visual pollution” requires a keen eye for the basics of design like proportions and negative space. “There’s a relationship between everything on the face,” he says. “Everything should be in harmony.” He was drawn to Kalman’s Bedoni watch for its clarity and efficiency. “There’s nothing on this watch that shouldn’t be there,” he says. “There are minutes, there are hours, there are two hands, and then the name of the company – and one could argue maybe that’s not even that important.”

For much of the Western world, modernism has become shorthand for “good” design. Its stoic influence is passed from generation to generation of design students, who learn that the design cannon centers around a mostly white, mostly male perspective whose work champions reduction. This ideology cuts across mediums – from graphic design to architecture to furniture design. A spare aesthetic can be a signifier of value. In book design, for example, negative space is quite literally more expensive to produce. “This is the concept of luxury margin,” says Joe Doucet, a designer known for his modern take on everything from chairs to playing cards. Doucet explains that extra room on the edge of the printed page allows readers to hold onto the book without covering the text with their thumbs. “Cheap pulp novels printed text right up to the edge.”