Before establishing his own firm, Ken Cato graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 1966 and worked in a variety of environments, including a direct mail house, a design studio, and briefly in advertising, until 1970, when he co-founded Cato Hibberd Design in Australia with Terry Hibberd.
From this modest beginning, Cato's rising trajectory has seen its share of partners and iterations. In the mid-1970s it became Cato Hibberd Hornblow Hawksbury Design; Hornblow and Hawksbury left in the late 1970s, leaving Cato and Hibberd as partners until 1982, when Hibberd retired. The business then became Ken Cato Design Company, followed by just Cato Design and, in 2003, Cato Purnell Partners. This list is not meant to confuse but rather to point out the collaborative and enterprising attitude that has defined the firm, now a global network of offices with nearly 100 employees across Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Mexico, Dubai, Indonesia, and Singapore.
Each office operates under the Cato Partners umbrella but runs independently and is often defined by local partnerships, like Cato Saca Partners in Mexico and Consulus Cato Partners
in Singapore. Through its international scope, Cato Partners has worked on a remarkable number of global brands, producing identity work, environmental graphics, and packaging
that resembles the work of a boutique design firm rather than that of a design conglomerate. As head of one of the most visible firms in Australia, Cato has played a significant role in
bringing attention to the design community there, most notably by conceiving the first AGIdeas, the student conference hosted by the Alliance Grphique Internationale (AGI), in 1991, when their congress was held in Australia; he was also president of AGI from 1997 to 2000.
Gomez-Palacio, Bryony. Graphic Design Referenced. Beverly: Rockport Publishers, 2009. Print.