Italian Design: Martinelli Luce, a very Italian example of Passion and Freedom in Design
- WTI Magazine #165 Jul 23, 2023
The Italian Design scene is characterized by the significant presence of an extremely peculiar type of company, which in other countries is found considerably more sporadically and marginally. We are talking about companies, usually of great prestige and limited size, strongly linked to a family strain, able to compete successfully in a market increasingly dominated by large groups.
To better understand the characteristics of this particular and interesting phenomenon, we place here under the magnifying glass Martinelli Luce, a company from Lucca, Tuscany, that produces lighting fixtures.
The company was founded in 1950 thanks to Elio Martinelli, one of the most relevant designers of the 1960s and 1970s in the field of lighting, whose baton was picked up by his daughter Emiliana, who today heads the company together with her son Marco Ghilarducci.
Last May Martinelli Luce also had the satisfaction of seeing itself included in the special Register of Historical Trademarks of National Interest, established at the Ministry of Business and Made in Italy to protect and enhance manufacturing excellence traditionally linked to the territory and active for at least fifty years.
The fine Tuscan company has over the years produced products of epoch-making significance, impervious to the passage of time, some of which are still in the catalog, decades after their launch.
This is the case of the Pipistrello lamp, designed in 1965 by Gae Aulenti, a very young designer at the time, who is still in great demand on the market today.
The same fate has befallen, for example, the Ruspa lamp (also by Gae Aulenti), Cobra (designed by Elio and Emiliana Martinelli), and Elica (by Brian Sironi), which was awarded the Compasso d'Oro.
Coming from such a prestigious and dating history, having such deep and established roots, of course does not mean ignoring the most current challenges of the Contemporary, such as that of Sustainability.
"Managing light is a process that requires so many variables: consumption is one of them and is increasingly important. Our company has always worked trying to make quality products, using the best raw materials assembled properly. That's how products are born that last over time. And this is also sustainability," Marco Ghilarducci said in a recent interview.
Italian companies of the type we are considering, taking Martinelli Luce as a school case, obviously face severe difficulties, arising from their limited size and from having to compete with usually much more structured groups, both organizationally and financially. These are well-known problems and have long been the subject of extensive debate.
Rather, the purpose of this talk is to ask what are the secret ingredients, the magic formulas, that enable these companies-despite the above-mentioned difficulties-to nevertheless remain alive, active and competitive in markets, both domestic and international.
My opinion is that the key words are basically two: Passion and Freedom.
The relative size of the company, the strong identification between company and family, the lack of complex hierarchical and organizational constraints, in other words, are all elements that enable these companies to function with a speed, elasticity and originality unimaginable for more structured groups.
I found confirmation to these convictions of mine in a recent interview by Emiliana Martinelli.
Said the designer and entrepreneur, "We also get together on Sundays to talk about work, during family lunches. It all started with my grandfather, and we hope the story will continue with our grandchildren. For now we are in the fourth generation. We do and undo as we please, without accounting to anyone. It's a great freedom that you have to be able to afford and probably have earned in the field."
The very small size of many Italian Design companies, often related to their family size, certainly determines - this is not to be glossed over at all - difficulties on the organizational and financial level, compared to competitors in other countries.
But it should not be underestimated that it is precisely the company's reduced structure and its strong interpenetration with the family aspect that allow it to function, in terms of Passion and Freedom, which is unique on a global scale.