We inhabit "a world drowning in objects" says Deyan Sudjic, director of London's Design Museum, in his book The Language of Things.
In a column to launch his tenure at the museum, Sudjic also railed against the fetishisation of pretty, useless "design", in particular the Philippe Starck Louis Ghost chair.
But design for purpose, design that changes the world, and improves live is out there. Sudjic and the James Dyson awards are champions of it.
A device that turns air into water, bringing deserts to life, won the 2011 year's James Dyson award. Not a pretty plastic chair , not some adorable objet.
The Airdrop irrigation device by Edward Linacre from Melbourne, Australia took out the top prize of US $14,000, while his university, Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology, also received $14,000.
To choose the Airdrop, judges waded through more than 500 worthy entries from designers in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, UK and USA. Two international runners-up were also chosen, both of whom will received $3,000.
They may not all have been winners, but the products share a certain commonality: they are all simple designs that solve real-world problems.
An air massager for people with arthritis and a low cost water pump for those with difficulty accessing clean water where on the shortlist.
In his blog on Huffington Post UK, Dyson asked government to support him in finding future innovators.
He wrote: "D&T (Design and Technology) should be valued by its long-term contribution to the economy, not by expense of teaching it. It teaches prized skills, relevant to business and industry; the launch pad for the next generation of Edisons, Brunels and Whittles. D&T needs inspiring teachers and healthy government funding but this investment will produce good yield."
Like a Dyson vaccuum, beautiful design that innovates to solve real problems could then be less of a rarity, and we could stop swooning over plastic chairs.