With a background in economics and finance, Carlo Guglielmi once might have seemed an unlikely successor to architect and designer Gio Ponti as president and CEO of FontanaArte. Since assuming the post in 1979, however, Guglielmi has grown FontanaArte from boutique to bold leader among international lighting manufacturers, without betraying Ponti's design legacy. His careful stewardship of the company Ponti founded in 1932 and his advocacy of intellectual property have led to prominent roles as a founding member of Altagamma, the trade association of Italian luxury companies, and president of Indicam, an Italian institute that fights counterfeiting. In October 2008, Guglielmi added yet another item to his impressive résumé—president of Cosmit, the company responsible for organizing the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, aka the Milan Furniture Fair.
What intrigues you about lighting? The change in light from day to night and the role of shadows. Their ability to be complementary and integrate into a space is unlike any other aspect of lighting.
Do you consider FontanaArte a lighting company or a design company? To just design for the sake of design is not enough. It's about coupling innovation with research and elegance. It's about creating products that are intelligent.
How does FontanaArte maintain its traditions while continuing to grow? We are always searching for innovation, whether that be new light sources or materials. We are always interested in involving well-known designers, but we are also committed to working with emerging talent—if they are passionate and ready to search for details. Then the result will be a product that is beyond fashion.
How can the lighting industry tackle the global financial crisis? We need the courage to be ourselves—to create our market. The culture of “making” leads to a culture of “creating.” Without this, there is no foundation for cultivating any kind of a market.
Is there an issue the lighting industry needs to address more directly? Protecting intellectual property. Counterfeiting represents 9 percent of all gross products worldwide. Theft of intelligence impacts everyone, and not only jeopardizes our economic system but our cultural legacy as well.
What message do you want to convey at this year's Salone and Euroluce? To rediscover optimism and a passion for work. You have to ask yourself each day: Have I done something positive and creative?