Ken Cato speaks at Queensland College of Art

Published:  August 16, 2010
Ken Cato speaks at Queensland College of Art

The graduating students of Griffith University’s Queensland College of Art were treated to a visit from design royalty last week. Iconic Australian designer Ken Cato took a rare break from his busy schedule to speak to students, staff, alumni and invited guests at the QCA Gold Coast and South Bank campuses.

Ken showed a small sample of work from his forty years plus in the design industry and talked us through several case studies including his beautiful branding of the airline ‘Air India’, due for launch next week.

Ken addressed several controversial topics, including his disappointment at the practise of free pitching within the design industry and he urged the designers in the room to refuse to free pitch so that we didn’t become like advertising agencies and architects having to engage in competitions for their work.

Ken Cato

He also discussed the state of design education in this country and how he felt the courses and contact hours were not enough, especially when compared with the full-time four-year undergraduate degree that he experienced many decades ago—I couldn’t agree more.

Much of Ken’s presentation engaged with cross-cultural design and he talked about his recent projects in India, Tijuana and Uruguay as ways of injecting freshness into his design.

In closing, he discussed his annual AGIdeas conference that is held in Melbourne every year and has been growing for the last 10 years in stature, and he declared it one of the best design conferences in the world.

In a very generous gesture, Griffith Enterprise and the QCA offered to send two students to spend a week at the conference next year and Ken agreed to let them spend a day in his studio during their visit.

Ken Cato

When asked about the future of design, he said that ‘technology has stripped us of the skill set that made us different. The real skill lies in the ability to think differently and solve problems … we have to be better thinkers, smarter thinkers’.

Wise words indeed—winning student from the Gold Coast, Chris Bouffler summed up the experience best when he said “It was an incredible experience, sitting in a room full of like-minded people listening to one of Australia’s most iconic graphic designers discuss in detail the process behind his work and his opinion on what it takes to be a designer. The calibre of his work was inspiring. It changed the way I view design and the industry I am stepping into.”

The Gold Coast event was held at the Sheraton Mirage resort and students working in the Liveworm Gold Coast creative incubator produced the promotional material for both events.

Photos by Camille Santiago

3 Responses

  1. I agree, “free pitching” should be abolished and short of a national body supporting designers in this regard it is left up to all of us, individually, to say no.

    By condoning “free pitching”, we are in essence enabling other industries to under value our design process and skills while producing work for nothing on the off chance of gaining a contract.

  2. cut and paste

    Ken Cato


    Liam Neeson

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