This paper discusses the idea that current approaches to product design and manufacturing, developed largely during the early years of the twentieth century, are reaching the end of their tenure: to a great extent they are no longer environmentally conscionable nor socially beneficial. The endless design and production of 'variations on a theme' in the consumer product sectors, for the purposes of market stimulation and company profit, must be revisited if our material productions are to be meaningful, responsible and of value. When an end-game is reached - where the moves are infinite but without meaning - it becomes necessary to start anew. The direction suggested here is a culmination of several years of experimental or 'academic' design research that attempts to give physical expression to functional objects in ways that adhere more closely to sustainable principles. The examples presented reverse conventional hierarchies in design in order to stabilize form and moderate change - but still embrace progress. These experimental designs suggest a direction for defining functional objects that provides an alternative to the barrage of often trivial and unnecessary permutations that comprise much contemporary product design. These objects, while functional, may not be entirely pragmatic, but it is hoped that they will provide food for thought.