The stringent emissions legislation has necessitated advances in the catalytic converter system comprising the substrate, washcoat technology, catalyst formulation and packaging design. These advances are focused on reducing light-off emissions at lower temperature or shorter time, increasing FTP efficiency, reducing back pressure and meeting the mechanical and thermal durability requirements over 100,000 vehicle miles. This paper reviews the role of cordierite ceramic substrate and how its design can help meet the stringent emissions legislation. In particular, it compares the effect of cell geometry and size on performance parameters like geometric surface area, open frontal area, hydraulic diameter, thermal mass, heat transfer factor, mechanical integrity factor and thermal integrity factor - all of which have a bearing on emissions, back pressure and durability. The properties of advanced cell configurations like hexagon are compared with those of standard square cell. Their relative trade-offs should help arrive at a rational basis for optimizing the cell configuration for advanced catalyst supports.