Aerospace engineer, the founder and president of Artemide Group was at the helm of the famous lighting company since 1960, not only as an entrepreneur but also as a designer

«Ernesto Gismondi, an aerospace engineer, founded Artemide 60 years ago, together with his friend architect Sergio Mazza. More than a producer of décor lamps, Artemide set out to convey an idea of ​​lighting, or rather a business idea based on innovation and on design quality, conceived to transmit the cultural revolution of 1960s in lighting projects, involving architects whoin those years were designing houses and buildings. The firm's collaboration with Vico Magistretti, Gae Aulenti, the BBPR, Enzo Mari, Gio Ponti, Mario Bellini, Mario Botta, Ettore Sottsass, Michele de Lucchi led to the creation of some of the most famous icons of Italian design. “We designed around the iconic electralc object: the light bulb”, Gismondi has often said. The form took place around the light source; from the skillful combination of functional and technological exploration, invention and aesthetics, came products and systems that make the needs of life in the home, spaces and works of architecture become their central focus» writes Gilda Bojardi from Interni September 2020.

Ernesto Gismondi leaves an indelible mark in the history of Italian design for his commitment to research and innovation in the field of light.

Born in Sanremo in 1931, Gismondi graduated in Aeronautical Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano in 1957; two years later he graduated in Missile Engineering from the Higher School of Engineering in Rome. From the early 1960s he dedicated himself to the design and production of lighting fixtures, founding Artemide S.a.s. with the designer Sergio Mazza, from which the Artemide Group will develop. He established himself as a designer: in addition to designing various products for the company, in 1980 he was one of the creators of Memphis, the avant-garde movement that determined a profound evolution of the design sector in Italy and in the world.

Under his leadership, the Artemide Group has seen its market share grow over the years and its international presence increased, becoming one of the main operators in the design lighting sector, a role that has earned it important awards such as the Compasso d'Oro for Lifetime Achievement (1994) and the European Design Prize (1997).

From 1964 to 1984 he was associate professor of Missile Engines at the Politecnico di Milano. He was vice president of ADI – Associazione per il Disegno Industriale  and has held numerous positions in Assolombarda, Federmeccanica, Confindustria, the Autonomous Fiera di Milano and at the Ministry for University and Research. He was also a member of the Scientific Didactic Committee of the I.S.I.A. (Higher Institute for Artistic Industries / Industrial design) of Florence, with the appointment of the Ministry of Public Education, the College of Arbitrators of Cosmit (organizing committee of the Salone del Mobile in Milan) and the CNEL, upon designation by the Presidency of the Republic. He has chaired and participated in numerous seminars, in Italy and abroad, on design and its developments and on energy saving applied to lighting.

In 2017 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Salone del Mobile.Milano award for the sense of contemporaneity, for the innate talent in knowing how to develop continuous formal solutions that at the same time combine a state of lightness with the ability to evoke a near future”, reads the motivation (read here). In 2008 he was awarded the Ernst & Young Award “The Entrepreneur of the Year 2008” for the Innovation category, in addition to the prestigious appointment as Cavaliere del Lavoro conferred by the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano. In 2009 he received the Ernst & Young Award “Entrepreneur of the Year 2009” in the Comunication category.

In 2018 he won the Compasso d'Oro for his career with the following jury motivation: “Aerospace engineer, university professor and entrepreneur, in short: a man of multifaceted genius. Founder of Artemide, he immediately uses design processes as a distinctive factor and in this long path he encourages and enhances collaborations with the national and international design world. A coherent example of how the design project can be a concrete strategic lever of cultural and economic growth, it has always worked so that Italian design could be a virtuous example at an international level”. The same year, the innovative Discovery suspension he designed was also awarded the Compasso d’Oro (read here).

The Mayor of Milan Beppe Sala remembers him like this on facebook “With the death of Ernesto Gismondi, we lose one of the protagonists of that world of design that made Milan great. He himself, an aerospace engineer, has said several times that he had chosen Milan attracted by its great vitality in the 1960s. But it is to people like Ernesto Gismondi that we owe the development of Milanese design as a synonym of Italian Life Style all over the world. We will have to follow his lesson very carefully, already in the firm hands of his beloved Carlotta, in order to resume the path of our new development in the coming years”.

“Ernesto Gismondi, a great innovator and friend, left us. He illuminated the world with Artemide, was the first to use plastic to make furniture, raced head-on in the seas of politics and entrepreneurship, opened new horizons in design. I will miss his anti-rhetorical genius” writes Stefano Boeri on twitter.

(text by Claudia Foresti)

Read also the in-depth analysis on the website by Interni May 2020