Title: Founder and President
Company: Illuminating Concepts
Year started: 1981
Industry: Lighting and multimedia design
Offices: Farmington Hills MI
Activity: Lighting systems for architectural, retail and environmental uses.
Annual Revenue: $20–30 million
Attended: Wayne State University
Degree: B.A., English, 1970
Company website: illuminatingconcepts.com
“You have to continually grow your business or it will decline.”
Detroit native Ron Harwood is the creative, driving force behind Illuminating Concepts, a multimillion-dollar company offering lighting design and implementation for architectural, retail and entertainment uses. Harwood founded the company in 1981 as an architectural and retail lighting company, with Walt Disney Co. being one of its first notable clients. The company eventually added sound and projection capability, and later developed the ability to integrate media for a full immersion experience.
Today, IC’s IMediamorFX system allows the company to monitor and be in contact with each of its projects no matter where they are in the world while providing its customers with worry-free operation. Harwood has set his company apart from its competitors by continually innovating and bringing to market unique concepts in lighting and multimedia design.
“Cultural diversity is a blessing—there aren’t a lot of campuses like WSU with diversity at such a visceral level.”
Harwood has had a lifelong passion for blues, ragtime and jazz, and was a musician early in his career before becoming a manager and concert promoter while working in the family business as an electrician. He handled all those jobs while earning his degree in English at Wayne State University. It was during the theater and road shows that Harwood first became interested in lighting design. His liberal arts education gave him critical thinking, speaking and presentation skills, along with an appreciation for his Detroit roots. Growing up and attending school in Detroit exposed Harwood to the music that’s still a significant part of his life and to a diverse group of people and cultures that has benefitted him as he expanded IC into global markets.
WSU helped him view the world through a much wider lens. It wasn’t enough to see the world only as an electrician since he needed to speak the language of the architects, small business owners, corporate CEOs and global customers with whom he would be doing business. In 1999, his love for the city’s iconic music inspired him to found “American Music Research Foundation,” a non-profit foundation devoted to the promotion, documentation and preservation of American music.
Harwood fully appreciates the enormous role Detroit’s music has played in his life and his business. His next big project, Intellistreets, is designed to help Detroit —and many other cities around the world—reimagine and relight itself by rebuilding the city’s lighting infrastructure. Intellistreets incorporates safety, information and entertainment through the use of lighting, audio, video and sensors that can detect and warn of emergency situations.