The cultural aspects of product design are considered here in terms of significance and meaning. Industrial design, from its early Modernistic roots to the present, is briefly discussed in order to consider its positive and negative impacts, and the application of the principles of sustainability to the field is described. Development of the discipline, to embrace and articulate ethical, spiritual and environmental sensibilities is considered as a way of overcoming the instrumental and often vacuous nature of much contemporary product design. Re-establishing a sense of connection, in process and product, is suggested as a way of creating more environmental, socially responsible and meaningful objects. 'Meaning' itself is also described, and differentiated from 'acquired significance', in order to consider a more insightful and mature approach to the design of 'the material'.